Common Ground Board of Directors Meeting Minutes: April 25, 2022

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
April 25, 2022


Present: Bob Parker, Babz Rawls Ivy, Monica Maccera Filppu, Abigail Roth, Peter Ludwig, Joseph Melendez, Beth Klingher, Alexis Smith, Errol Saunders, Carly Osborne, Charles Negaro, Christopher Albert, Gioia Connell, Kyeen Andersson, Deloris Vaughn, Christopher Hayes

Staff: Elena Augusewicz, A’Lexus Williams, Amy Champagne, Audrey Nefores, Allison Hornak, Jessica Pressely, Ana Rosa, Becky VanTassel,  Betsy Sneath, Bev Greene, Carla Lia, Cherry Paquette Emmanuel, Christopher Cane, Clancy Emanuel, Crystal Fernandez, David Girard, Diane Litwin, Disha Patel, Dylan James, Emily Davies, Emily ENt, Emily Schmidt, Ericka TOney, Evan Green, , Healthier Neilson, Iris Jiminez, Jame Beller, Jane Dipalma, Jessica Pressley, Jesus Reyes, Joel Tolman, John Carney, Karen Climis, Kascia Williams, Keilly Solano, Keith Riley, Mark Loalbo, Mel Morales, Miriam, Morgan Larson, Nardo Cisija, Natalie Scheidt,, NUria Miller, Rachel Hayman, Ricky Dawson RIkki Brown, Sam Townsend, Sekou Koivogui, Sierra Dennehy, Stefan Christensen, Suzanne Crelin, Tara Cote, Tricia Heiser, Tim Casey, Tim Dutcher, Sylvia Brewster, Victor Rios, Win Vitkowsky, Aisha Mobley, Alison Hornak, Angel Marquis Kennedy,  Bo Bogush, Candi Fulcher, Mel Morales, Miriam Sheffield, Alexa Cervo, Jayda Adamo, Larry Dome, 

Public: Chelsea Granger, AB, Alex Eager, Alexander Kolokotronic, Alfia Ansari, Ali Fadhil. Ali, Ana Reyes, Andrew, Amani R, Anne Greene, Areyanna Morant, Andrew Pressley, Ashton, Artina COma, Brian Springsteen, Brittany, Bruce Crowder, Camille, Carolina, Charles Sindelar, Chelsea Farrell, COrey Morton, Dan Bianchini, Dan Jordan, Daniel Greene, Darlene Cazarin, Dawn H, Dayanara Chacon, Deborah, Deja, Desmones, Drre Goldsman-Kosmides, Katie Pynter, Elyvia, Emalee Ocasio, Emerson Zecene, Emma, Fatima Cecunjanin, Fiona, Hallena Bolden, Heather Kordula, Heather Kordula, Hiram, Izzi Geller, Jacob Hodson, Jennifer Quaye-Hudson, Jeremiah Godley, Jesse Delia, Joann, Jack, Jocelyn Miller Hayes, Jolene, Julia Farquharson, Julie Hajducky,  Kate Cebik, Kerry Ellington, Kristy Porter, Kyle Sirrianno, Larry Wilkins, LaTrel, Laurie Kennington, Leslie Blatteau, Leslie Pressley, Liliana McIntosh, Lucy Gellman, Luis, Marco Cenabre, Maria Barrios, Mark Firila, Maura Gingerich, Max Hamel, Maya McFadden, Meredith, Milo Danger, Missy Bernadel, Noah Evanko Weber, O, Pat Brown, Patric Fuquharson, Paul Hudson, Roxanne, Sam Shapland, Sarah Miller, Shana Hurley, Pat Brown, Shana Hurley, Shane, Sharon Brostrom, Suyane, Tamsyn Ambler, TW, Tyson, Eliana, Yulisa, WTNH, Yex Diaz, Zach Porter, Zoe Portman,  Angela, Ariana Shapiro, Ashley COnea, Artina COma, Ashton Killilea Gauthier, Brian Zahn, Chrysanthemum Desir, Corey Morton, Dale M, Jacob Hodson, Jayda Adamo, Jeffery Panettieri, Jocelyn Miller Hayes, Jolene, Julie Hajducky, Justin L., Karahn, Larry Wilkina, Laurie Kennington, Lee Cruz, Leslie Blatteau, Luca McCarthy, Marco Cenabre, Meghan Brooks, Omar F, Stephanie T, Raekwon, Emma Hausler, Aimee Bogush, Ghaith, Katie Jones, Maura Gingerich, Nika Zarazvand, Noah Evanko Weber, Brittany Perry, Marco Cenabre, Aaron Goode, Areyanna Morant


Bob called the meeting to order at 5:34

Joseph moved to enter into executive session, Babz Seconded the motion to move into executive session. This move was approved unanimously.

Executive Session to discuss attorney-client privileged communications regarding board function and legal responsibilities

Public Comment (6:16pm) (two minutes per person for a total time limit of 30 minutes, or by email; see instructions below) Sign up for Public Participation HERE

Stefan Christensen, Support Educator: Urged the board to vote “No” on the nonrenewal of nontenured teaching contracts that is being brought to the board for a vote

Win Vitkowsky, Teacher: Win presented a slide show of his history at the school, it is linked in the written testimonial page below. He is one of the teachers who received a non-renewal notice. He urged the board to vote “no” on the non-renewal of contracts being brought to the board. 

Allison Hornak, Teacher: Allison asked that attendees review their submitted testimonial and supporting documents. They are one of the teachers who received a non-renewal notice. They encouraged the board to vote “No” on the nonrenewal of nontenured teaching contracts.

Leonardo Cisija, Teacher: Nardo asked the board to vote “No” on the nonrenewal of nontenured teaching contracts that is being brought to the board for a vote. He is one of the teachers who received a non-renewal notice. 

Rikki Brown, Teacher: Rikki stands in solidarity with all teachers and asked the board to reconsider the non-renewal of contracts. She is one of the teachers who received a non-renewal notice. 

Mel Morales, Teacher: Mel encourages the board to collaborate with teachers and reconsider the non-renewal of contracts. He is one of the teachers who received a non-renewal notice. 

Tim Dutcher, Environmental Educator: Tim stands with high school teachers being affected by the restructuring plan And feels that the school should avoid a waive of cuts. 

Emily Schmidt, Teacher: Emily presented data on a poster to the board (can be seen in the zoom recording). She stated that she does not think cutting staff will allow us to follow through with an improvement plan for students. 

Hiram Rivera, former Environmental Leader in Residence at CGHS: Hiriam said that he stands with the teachers being laid off. He urged the board to vote “No” on the nonrenewal of nontenured teaching contracts.

Darlenne Cazarin, CGHS Alum: Darlenne had questions as to why staff were being laid off. She believes these staff are upholding the mission of the organization. She urged the board to reconsider issuing the non-renewable contracts. 

Yexandra Diaz, parent/collaborator: She is asking the board to rescind its decision to terminate these staff members. 

Jessica Pressley, Parent and Teacher: Jessica asked the board to vote “No” on the nonrenewal of nontenured teaching contracts.

Eliana, Tyson, and Yulisa, Common Ground Seniors: These individuals were no longer present at the meeting.

Leslie Blatteau, Community Member: Leslie felt that the cuts were related to union organizing, she does not think the board should vote to eliminate staff during a teaching shortage.

Sarah Tracy-Wanck, Former staff: Ceding her time to Stef Torres

Stef Torres: Stef finds it frustrating that Common Ground is getting rid of long time staff members. She encouraged the board to vote against eliminating these staff positions. 

Kerry Ellington, Former Staff member: Kerry stated that she is disheartened by the news of what’s happening at Common Ground. She feels these staff positions are critical to the learning environment. She encouraged the board to vote “No” on the nonrenewal of nontenured teaching contracts.

Inayah Sharif, CGHS Alum: This individual was no longer present at the meeting.

Laurie Kennington, Community Programs Parent: Laurie was ecstatic to hear that there was a union vote at Common Ground. She said it’s not too late to work with the union. She feels the staff cuts should be rescinded. 

Deamonte Godley, CGHS Alum: Deamonte does not think these positions should be cut.

Jesus Reyes, Assistant Manager of Facilities/Alum: Jesus finds the cuts to staff at CGHS disrespectful and shameful. 

A’Lexus Williams, Teacher: A’Lexus asked the board to vote “No” on the nonrenewal of nontenured teaching contracts.

Emerson Zecena, CGHS Alum: Emerson opposes the decision to terminate Common Ground employees. He asked that the board reconsider the nonrenewal of contracts. 

Christopher Cane, Environmental Educator, Community Programs and CGHS: Christopher is in solidarity with the teachers being terminated. He also felt slighted in the renegotiation of his own contact. Examples of his contracts are in the submitted testimony below. 

Keilly Solano, CGHS Alum and employee: This individual was no longer present at the meeting.

Rachel Haymann, CG social worker: This individual was no longer present at the meeting.

Drew & Ariana Goldsman-Kosmides, community programs parents: Ariana stands in solidarity with staff at common ground. 

Bob asked to move on to the next portion of the meeting and end public comment.

Joseph moved to extend the public comment for 15  minutes. Abigail seconded the motion to extend the public comment. The movement to extend public comments was unanimously approved

Jacob Hodsdon, CGHS Alum: Jacob is in solidarity with the teachers being terminated

Luis Luna, Community Member: Luis encouraged the board to reconsider the termination of CGHS employees

Jolene Ball, parent of CGHS student: Joelene stands with her daughter and other students who protested the termination of these staff members. 

Jesse Snyder, Former staff: Jesse urged the board to rescind the layoffs of CGHS staff members.

Jesse Delia, Former Staff: Jesse is concerned about anti-union sentiment. She feels there should be an open and transparent process around how these decisions are made. She asked that the board vote to hold off on making these decisions.  

Brian Springsteen, Former Staff & Community Member: Brian asks the asked the board to vote “No” on the nonrenewal of nontenured teaching contracts and support beloved staff members.

Sarah Tracy Wanek, Former Staff Member: TW believed restructuring at this time undermines the work of the union. She asked the board to vote “No” on the nonrenewal of nontenured teaching contracts.

Bob asked to move on to the next portion of the meeting and end public comment.

Joseph moved to extend public comment for the remaining names on the public comment list. Babz seconded this motion. The motion was approved unanimously.

Montreal Godley, Parent and Former Employee: She supports the student protest. She would like to see a more detailed budget. She asked the board to vote “No” on the nonrenewal of nontenured teaching contracts.

Derek Beckford: Derek is in support of the students protesting. 

Camille Ansley: Camille is asking the board to rescind this issue and reconsider terminating employees.

Bruce Crowder, parent of children’s programs:  Bruce is concerned about the impact of terminating teachers on students after a few already difficult years. 

Miranda Bailey-Russomano, alum and former staff member:  Miranda supports teachers and the work they do. She saw her college closed and is worried the same could happen to Common Ground. 

Evan Green, teacher: Ceded his time to other speakers

Emma Hausler, Alumn: Teachers make students what they are, she does not believe that they should remove the teachers

Alicea Vasquez, Alum:  Alicea stands with teachers and students who protested. She feels the teachers are what makes CGHS unique. 

Gigi Rivera, alumn: The teachers being removed are vital to common ground and she stands with teachers, parents, and students. 

Please click here for additional written testimony submitted by community members.

Business Requiring Approval (7:34)  

Invoices Needing Approval

Beth moved to approve both the invoices for Corporate Systems COnsulting and Cedar Structures, Babz seconded the approval of these invoices, the invoices were approved with Chris A. and Joseph abstaining 

  • Corporate Systems Consulting $8,990.00- 10 new staff laptops, $3600 of this will be reimbursed by the USAC Emergency Connectivity Fund Money that we were awarded earlier this year.
  • Cedar Structure’s $22,0000 with a deposit of $4,000- Custom cedar pavilion adjacent to Harvest Pavilion, payment will be held until we have a signed confirmation from the City of New Haven for CDBG Funds

Minutes of the March Board Meeting

Babz moved to approve the March board of directors minutes. Peter seconded the approval of the March board of directors minutes. Bob noted that there were some minor corrections made by Kyeen. The minutes were approved with the minor changes made. Abby, Deloris and Beth abstained from this vote because they were not present at the meeting.

Board Resolution for the CDBG application

Errol moved to approve this Board Resolution, Chris A. seconded the motion to approve the Board Resolution. The board resolution was approved unanimously. 

Executive Director Report (7:42) (Monica and Cherry)

Common Ground Budget Process: Monica shared a powerpoint about the budget process and where we are at in the budget process. 

SY 2022-2023 CGHS Program Presentation: Cherry shared a powerpoint presentation and addressed concerns of speakers. 

Receipt of and action on recommendations for nonrenewal of nontenured teaching contracts

Amy Champagne interrupted the report to ask the board to pause decision making. 

Monica made a recommendation to move forward with the non-renewal of the contracts for 4 teachers.

Babz made non-renewal motion:

I move that pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes Section 10-151, the Common Ground Board of Directors nonrenew the teaching contracts of Rikki Brown, Leonardo Cisija, Win Vitkowsky, and Alison Hornak at the end of the 2021-2022 school year as recommended by the Executive Director.

I further move that the Executive Director be directed to communicate this action of the Board in writing to those individuals and that the Executive Director be authorized to respond on behalf of the Board to any requests from the teacher or a representative on the teacher’s behalf for a statement regarding such action, for a hearing, and/or for other information pursuant to applicable provisions of Section 10-151.

I further move that the Executive Director be directed that any response to a request for a hearing, if a hearing is required by law, indicate that such hearing is to be before the Board or a subcommittee of the Board.

Beth seconded the non renewal motion. Joseph voted no, Abby voted no, Carly voted yes, Peter abstained, Beth voted yes, Babz voted yes, Alexis voted yes, Chris Hayes was absent at this time, Errol voted yes, Kyeen voted yes, Chris Albert voted No, Deloris abstained, Goia abstained, Charles voted yes, Bob voted yes. The motion to approve the non renewal of the contracts carries. 

Audit Committee (9:13) (Deloris)

The Audit Committee has not met this month as there is no need to meet this time of year.

Building Committee (9:13) (Bev) 

The building committee met on April 20th to discuss the proposal from Svigals to design an overflow parking lot off Springside Ave and determine next steps. The building committee has no asks of the board at this time and will meet again on May 18th to discuss further. Building Committee inquiries can be made to Bev Greene

Development Committee Report (9:14) (Dev Committee Member)

The Development Committee will meet next week to discuss the Great Give, happening May 4th. All board members should now be prepped and ready to reach out broadly to their networks to give. Aurora has created fundraising profiles for the Board, provided training, and is sending frequent reminders regarding outreach plans. We are on track towards our goal of 100% board participation. The Committee would also like to celebrate the outpouring of students, teachers and staff participating in Rock to Rock 2022!

Finance Committee Report (9:18) (Beth)

The Finance Committee met on April 20th to review budget vs actuals as of March 31st with projections for the EOY and discuss ongoing progress on the FY 23 budget.  Please direct questions to Treasurer 

Governance Committee Report (9:22) (Bob)

The April meeting of the Governance Committee was postponed to April 28th at 12:00 Noon. Questions can be directed to

School Committee Report (9:23) (Monica)

The School Committee did not meet in April as there were no agenda items. New Haven schools made a calendar change, we may need to convene to change that on our end. 

New Business (9:25)


Errol moved to adjourn the meeting, Charles seconded to move to adjourn. The meeting was adjourned unanimously at 9:26 PM.

Next Meeting: Monday, May 23rd

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, April 22nd) and will close at 5:00 pm on the day of the meeting (Monday, April 25th). 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 5:00 pm on the day of the meeting. All submitted documents will be included in the publicly shared meeting minutes.


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