DRAFT Board of Directors Minutes- May 24, 2021

PLEASE NOTE: In order to comply with adjusted CT Open Meeting laws, this Zoom meeting will be recorded and posted on the Common Ground website

New Haven Ecology Project

Board Meeting Minutes

May 24, 2021

ZOOM recording

Board Members: Bob Parker, Babz Rawls Ivy, Monica Maccera Filppu (ex officio), Charles Negaro, Errol Saunders, Christopher Albert, Kyeen Andersson, Terri Snell, Deloris Vaughn (at 6:11pm)

Staff: Deborah Grieg, Kimball Cartwright, Rebecca Holcombe, Elena Augusewicz, Betsy Sneath, Joel Tolman


  • Welcome 


      1. Bob called the meeting to order at 5:37. Seeing no public comment, he moved on to Business Requiring Approval. 


  • Business Requiring Approval (5:38) (Bob)


      1. April 26, 2021 Meeting Minutes
        1. Kyeen moved to approve the April 26th Minutes, Babz seconded the motion. The minutes were approved unanimously.


  • Invoices Needing Approval (5:40) (Bob)


      1. Thurston Foods $5428.45
      2. Academy Furniture and Supplies $13,009.30 for new furniture for Second Floor Farmhouse Office to be installed in June
      3. Edgility Consulting $11,510 for School Director Search Firm Phase 2.
      4. Babz moved to approve paying all three invoices and Charles seconded the motion. The motion to approve the invoices for Thurston Foods, Academy Furniture and Supplies, and Edgility Consulting were approved unanimously.


  • Executive Director Report (5:42) (Monica)


      1. Presentation of Draft 2021-2022 Budget
        1. Monica explained that this is the first presentation of the budget but we will not be voting on it today. 
        2. Monica explained that the priority of this budget is to support Common Ground in fulfilling its mission by continuing with planned investments in our People, our Place, and improving the academic program in Common Ground High School. 
        3. She stated that we have already initiated a process of high school redesign and we are continuing to think about how we fund and provide our students with social/emotional support and leadership opportunities. 
        4. She reminded us that the budget reflects our placement on an academic improvement plan from the state of CT as part of our Charter Renewal and does so while honoring the things that make Common Ground special and unique. We need staff whose job it is to develop curriculum and make sure those curriculums offer a high quality educational experience. 
        5. There is not a substantial increase in the number of positions, but we will continue with our salary raise plan.
        6. Regarding funding streams, Monica explained that Common Ground will be getting federal dollars from Covid-19 relief that will need to be spent down over the course of three years. Additionally, we are increasing our goals related to individual gift fundraising and there is a projected increase in per-pupil funding from the state. We are budgeting for increases in reimbursement for SPED services based on our numbers from the past year. 
        7. We are on track to having a surplus over the next two years despite the ambitious budget. Our facilities are in a better financial place than they were two years ago thanks to grant opportunities. 
        8. Monica asked for the Board to consider both the risks and opportunities of the proposed budget. In all likelihood, we will know our per-pupil from the state government by June 9. Rebecca will have more information about the needs of community programming over the next month.The hope is that by the end of June we will have a budget that the Board is comfortable voting on. 
        9. Charles asked Monica to explain the staffing cost increases in her presentation. Monica pulled up the draft budget and this month’s financial report to explain with more granular detail. Monica explained that the majority of increases in total salaries and people happened last year; we increased our capacity significantly last year and Monica is proposing that we maintain that for this year, not that we add new positions to it. The $270,00 increase from last year is really just the annual salary increase for existing staff. Monica is trying not to commit long term positions to federal relief dollars. The hope is that some of these temporary positions will then be phased into more permanent positions as people retire or leave.
        10. Kyeen explained that we’re maintaining our planned increases and some new positions from last year are being maintained. Kyeen also wanted to know about the cash reserves and commended Monica on being able to accomplish that. What is our ideal goal for a cash reserve? Monica said that our goal long term is to get to about a million dollars in cash reserved, the finance committee has spent a lot of time discussing that and what we should do with the cash we have. We have opportunities to use some of this cash now but some of the reasons we needed the cash reserves in the first place have since been covered in the past year with grant funding. 
        11. Charlie wanted to know if the need for expanded classroom space is included in this budget. Monica said that it is not currently included in this budget but we can look at that and add it before we approve the budget in June. Monica would like to have a conversation with the Ad-Hoc Building Committee that is reviewing classroom space to make a long term plan before committing to temporary space. Bob said that he thinks we need to prioritize a temporary plan for September and not rush into making a long term plan. Monica explained that we can’t currently fit our academic plan into the current space that we have in September. We’re maximizing every inch of our current space but even after doing that we need space to expand our math class offerings along with remedial and support classes. Bob committed to touching base with the Ad-Hoc Building committee tomorrow to plan a meeting to discuss these concerns.


  • Governance Committee Report (6:25) (Bob)


      1. The governance committee met on May 18th to review bylaws and plan for onboarding new Board members. We continue to talk about by-laws reform and Bob will get a draft of the proposed by-law changes out to the Board before the end of May.
      2. The governance committee also discusses the annual review of the Executive Director and there will be more information about that forthcoming.
      3. Charles was curious about where we stand with the new Board members. Bob said that the Board will discuss that during the Executive Session. 


  • School Committee Report (6:26) (Monica)


      1. The School Committee met on May 4th and May 18th to build hiring practices for CGHS positions and discuss possible staff and student handbook changes.


  • Finance Committee Report (6:27) (Bob)


      1. Budget vs. Actuals as of April 30, 2021
      2. Bob called our attention to the fact that we are over-earning and underspending. Bob announced that our PPP Loan has officially become a grant; it is now considered revenue and does not have to be paid back. 



      1. Charles said that we did well by increasing our individual giving which allows us to set an aggressive goal for an additional few hundred thousand dollars. Charles said that Kimball stresses that Board Members just doing a few little things can substantially impact our individual giving goals. 
      2. Charlie mentioned that we have Common Table, Feast from the Fields, and a third large event in Spring 2022 that Board Members can get involved with. Kimball said that there has been a 50% increase in gifts this year and it has given him the confidence to increase our goals for fundraising next year. He thinks this increase is related to an increase in Board member participation with Development. 
      3. Babz reminded everyone that our Board Commitment deadline is coming up and she encourages 100% Board giving. It bodes well for us in grant applications when we can show that we have 100% Board giving participation. We need every Board member to give what you can afford to support Common Ground. 
      4. Errol wanted to mention that most of the people who gave to his Great Give Campaign were people from out of town that he took on tours to see Common Grounds campus. It made it easier to ask those folks to support once they had been in awe of the space. 
      5. Bob registered for Common Table but was wondering if staff still needed volunteers for the event. Kimball explained that there is a circuit and that we will have people assigned to each station to talk up Common Ground. Having Board members along on the tour to engage with visitors will help connect people to the experience. Babz suggested that we should make sure Common Table visitors should get something they can take home after the event. 


  • New Business (6:45)


      1. No new business at this time


  • Executive Session (6:47)


      1. Charles moved to enter into Executive Session. Kyeen seconded the move to enter into Executive Session. The move to go into executive session was approved unanimously. 
      2. Charlie moved to leave Executive session. Babz seconded the motion. The Board returned from executive session at 6:57 and no votes were taken during that session.


  • Adjourn (6:57) 


    1. Babz moved to adjourn and Kyeen seconded. The motion passed unanimously and the Board was adjourned at 6:58.

Next Meeting:

Monday, June 28, 2021 (5:30 pm)



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