Common Ground Board of Directors Meeting Minutes: August 30, 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 Agenda

August 30, 2021

Notes taken by Errol Saunders


Meeting Recording: 

Board Members Present: Monica Maccera Filppu (ex officio), Joseph Melendez (ex officio), Bob Parker, Julius Stone, Terri Snell (ex officio), Beth Klingher, Alexis Smith, Deloris Vaughan, Charlie Negaro, Errol Saunders, Carly Osborne, Gioia Connell

Staff Persons Present: Deborah Greig, Rebecca Holcombe, Kimball Cartwright

  • Welcome 
      1. Bob called the meeting to order at 5:35pm. 
  • Public Comment (5:35) (two minutes per person for a total time limit of 30 minutes, or by email; see instructions below) Sign up for Public Participation HERE
      1. Bob asked for public comment and seeing none, he moved to the next item on the agenda .
  • Business Requiring Approval (5:37)  
      1. June 28th and 29th Board Minutes
        1. Beth moved to approve the minutes from June 28. Charlie seconded. 
        2. The minutes passed unanimously, Errol, Julius, Gioia, and Alexis abstained as they were not present at the previous meeting. 
        3. Charlie moved to approve the minutes from June 29. Deloris seconded the motion, 
        4. The minutes passed unanimously with Errol, Julius, Gioia, and Alexis abstained as they were not present at the previous 
      2. Governance Committee
        1. The Governance Committee requests that the Board vote to approve Common Ground High School teacher, Joseph Melendez, as ex officio voting member of the Board through June 2022.
          1. Errol moved to approve Joseph Melendez joining the Board as the ex officio member. Beth seconded. 
          2. Joseph introduced himself to the Board and Monica and Bob mentioned how excited they are that Joseph is joining. 
          3. The motion to approve Joseph Melendez joining the Board as the ex officio member passed unanimously. 
      3. SY 2021-2022 calendar with date correction for Yom Kippur which was captured incorrectly on previous draft.
        1. Beth moved to approve the date correction on the SY 2021-2022 calendar. Charlie seconded. 
        2. The date correction was approved unanimously. 
  • Invoices Needing Approval (~5:47)
      1. Gopher $6,514.34, Gym Equipment
      2. Corporate Systems Consulting $19,125.00, Schoolwide chromebooks, new 3 year leases
      3. Corporate Systems Consulting $5000.00, Chromebooks, old leases (years 2-4 of preexisting 4 year leases)
      4. Corporate Systems Consulting $5,722.00, NHEP Staff Laptop Replacements
      5. Kendall Hunt Publishing $6,887.28, Math textbooks
      6. Academy Furniture $5,221.99, Springside Office Modular Furniture
      7. WB Mason $26,131.86, New High School classroom furniture & cafeteria
      8. Gioia moved to approve all the invoices needing approval. Errol seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.
      1. Monica explained that today was the first day with everyone on campus and that they hosted a welcome back breakfast today. She also announced that Monique Frasier made the decision to leave Common Ground in order to pursue other professional opportunities. 
      2. Monica explained our leadership transitions. 
      3. All new and internal hires that were made this year were done using the new equitable hiring processes that the School Committee has been working on. 
      4. Monica explained that we will be seeing state assessment data midweek. It is currently embargoed but Board members should be on the lookout for it. 
      5. Monica explained some of the operational challenges that the organization is encountering. They are enumerated in her report. 
      6. Questions
        1. Errol asked about whether they will be alerting students about the freezer’s impact on variety. 
          1. Monica said she did not know but will check with Operation Staff about it. 
        2. Charlie asked whether there were organizations that brought together charter schools to pool benefit purchases.
          1. Monica explained that there are Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs) and we take advantage of those.
          2. However, because of our high utilization rates no other PEOs want us. 
        3. Charlie asked whether or not the benefits at Common Ground are comparable to New Haven Public Schools.
          1. Monica explained that that question is hard to answer because there is no one New Haven Public School plan to compare with
        4. Joseph Melendez asked about whether that was going to need to redo all of their benefits elections. The answer is yes, but all of the options will be the same, and that will enable everyone to choose the same options without increasing costs. 
  • Governance Committee Report (6:07) (Bob)
      1. The Governance committee did not meet over the summer, but corresponded by email to discuss and endorse Joseph Melendez as ex officio member. The Board Chairs held a new Board member orientation on July 27th.
  • School Committee Report (6:13) (Monica)
      1. The School Committee met on August 24th to discuss updates to the staff and student handbooks. The School Committee asks the Board to approve the SY 2021-2022 Student Handbook. The staff handbook will require revisions in December 2021 to comply with new Federal Medical Leave Act (FMLA) regulations.
        1. Errol moved that we approve the SY 2021-2022 Student handbook. Joseph seconded. 
        2. The SY 2021-2022 Student Handbook passed unanimously. 
  • Audit Committee (6:21) (Deloris)
      1. The Board has formed an Audit committee led by Deloris Vaughan that will oversee our current audit and initiate a search for a new Audit firm for FY 22.
      2. Deloris explained the makeup of (Liz Cox, Betsy Sneath, Deloris Vaughan) and purpose of the audit committee. 
        1. The primary purpose of the committee was to search for a new auditor for the organization because the current auditor has worked for the organization longer than is recommended. 
        2. Furthermore, the committee has received several recommendations for prospective auditors and are exploring those recommendations in a preliminary fashion. The committee is planning to meet again in early October to look at options for prospective auditors for FY 2021-2022.
        3. The current audit (FY 2020 – 2021) is in process and the expectation is that that audit will be finalized and approved by December 31, 2021. 
  • Finance Committee Report (6:27) (Monica and Beth)
      1. The Finance Committee met on August 23rd to review current financials, progress towards final FY 21 numbers, changes needed to staff benefits and to discuss investment opportunities with the Community Foundation. 
      2. Monica explained that the organization will be changing approaches to fully funding benefits with catastrophic event insurance. However, even with this change, we will need to increase premiums by 20% this year. Staff will be able to maintain their current plans and there is flexibility about choosing plans to maintain employees’ current costs. 
        1. Charlie asked what the anniversary date is for the insurance and about our capacity to do an in-house wellness program. 
          1. Monica replied that she was working towards an October 1 transition and that we have some capacity. 
      3. Beth explained that the finance committee decided to operate two investment funds with the Community Foundation. 
        1. The first fund for reserve funds starting with $100,000 but will do more research about the organization’s cashflow needs are before we decide on a larger number. 
        2. Second fund will be a legacy or planned giving fund at a minimum of $10,000. 
        3. Both funds have some restrictions (30-60 day window before one can take money out) but 
        4. Charlie was generally in favor of these moves and recommends that we make sure to get the structure of that second fund correct so as to understand the regulations that would be required of us to invest into it. He cautioned that the Community Foundation will tend to be very conservative so we should make sure to structure things so we have more flexibility if we want to.
      4. Beth also explained that we will be looking at Budget vs. Actuals in the October meeting. 
  • Development Committee Report (6:49)
      1. Board Development Opportunities and the Development “Arc of the Year”
      2. Development Committee August Report to the Board
      3. Charlie reminded us that the ongoing project of the development committee was to make sure that we are paying comparable wages and benefits to New Haven Public Schools. 
        1. He described a porch meeting in Woodmont assembled by Audrey and Kimball and that they will be looking at other ways to put together small groups to bring people into our fundraising efforts. 
        2. Charlie reminds us that it is very important to have 100% Board giving when Kimball goes out to fundraise. 
        3. Charlie also mentioned that Kimball will be giving an “Art of the Ask” workshop in September. 
      4. Kimball point 
        1. Errol mentioned that bringing folx to campus is a great way to get donors excited and Joseph reminded us that Open Farm Saturdays are back. 
  • New Business (6:59)
      1. Hearing no new business, Bob moved on to the next agenda item. 
  • Executive Session
      1. Hearing no new need for an Executive Session, Bob moved on to the next asking for a motion to adjourn. 
  • Adjourn (7:00)
    1. Charlie moved to adjourn. Deloris seconded. The meeting was adjourned at 7:00pm. 

Next Meeting: Monday, September 27th, 2021

Public Comment: 

In order to comply with adjusted Connecticut Open Meeting laws, any member of the public wishing to participate in the meeting must sign up on the Public Participation Sign-up Document. Sign-ups for Public Participation will open at 5 pm on the last business day before the meeting (Friday, August 27th) and will close at 5:00 pm on the day of the meeting (Monday, August 30th). Public Participation is limited to 2 minutes per person up to 30 total minutes. Anyone wishing to make a statement to the Board can also submit testimony in writing to  by 5:30 pm on the day of the meeting. All submitted documents will be included in the publicly shared meeting minutes.


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