Common Ground Board of Directors Meeting Minutes: Sept 18, 2023


This Meeting will be held by Zoom

September 18th, 2023

5:30 pm

Zoom Link

Present: Alexis Smith, Bob Parker, Monica Maccera Filppu, Liz Cox, Brian Kelahan, Jeff Carter, Kyeen Andersson. Shelly Hicks,  Gioia Connell, Peter Ludwig, Jenn Burke, Michelle Sepulveda

Staff: Elena Augusewicz, Joel Tolman, Rebecca Holcombe, Cherry Paquette Emmanuel, Audrey Nefores, Crystal Fernandez 


Alexis called the meeting to order at 5:39 pm

Public Comment (5:39) : N/A

Business Requiring Approval (5:39)

Minutes of the August 28th Board Meeting

Jeff moved to approve the August minutes, Peter seconded the motion to approve the August board minutes. The minutes were approved with three abstentions. 

Approval of Authorized Signature Change Form

In lieu of Betsy’s retirement in December, Bev will now be an authorized signer on the Connecticut State Department of Education School Health, Nutrition and Family Services forms. Monica will remain an authorized signer. 

 Bob moved to approve Bev as an authorized signer, Kyeen seconded the motion to approve Bev as an authorized signer. The motion to approve this change was unanimous. 

Invoices Needing Approval

Brian moved to approve the invoices listed below as stated, Shelly seconded the motion to approve both invoices. The invoices were approved unanimously. 

Zangari Cohen $19,234.63 August Services

PKF O’Connor Davies $15,000 Annual Audit

Executive Director Report (5:44pm) (Monica)

Monica presented the linked report. 

Cherry gave an update on high school staffing. Cherry said that there is currently only one opening for Art, and that the new Science teacher begins tomorrow. Candi’s new DEI role is helping to orient new staff and existing staff in the new school year. She’s helping them to learn about different parts of the organization and help them feel rooted in Common Ground. Kyeen said she would like to see a quarterly report on staff vacancies to get a better idea of when vacancies happen. 

Monica let the board know that we submitted our charter renewal report on Sept. 8 and encouraged the Board members to review that report to get a better understanding of what the state asks us for during renewal periods  and what the state of Common Ground High School is. 

Audrey thanked board members for their support during Feast from the Fields and the many ways people contributed and supported us. We surpassed our goal of $75,000.

Audit Committee (5:58pm) 

No meetings until Fall 2023: FY 23 Audit in progress

Development (Feast) Committee Report (5:58pm)  (Audrey)

There was no Development Committee meeting in September, but many meetings of the Feast committee for a successful Feast from the Fields. Thanks to everyone for making that possible. See ED report for a more detailed update.

Finance Committee Report (5:59pm) (Jeff)

The Finance committee met on September 14th  to review Budget vs Actuals as of August 30th and Invoices for approval. The Finance Committee will next meet on Thursday, September 21st.  For more info contact Jeff Carter.

Governance Committee Report (5:59pm) (Alexis)

The Governance Committee met on September 12th to discuss the following: (1) Ensure all board members were assigned to a committee; (2) ensure all committees had chairs or co-chairs; (3) discuss onboarding of newly appointed board members; and (4) discuss creating additional committees such as a “personnel committee” to enable the board to address issues that may not fit neatly into current committees.  The next meeting of the governance committee is on October 24th  For more info contact Alexis Smith.

School Committee Report (6:05pm) (Monica)

The School Committee met on September 13th to discuss their charter and priorities for the year as well as staff member concerns about Common Ground High School that have been brought to the board. 

Liz explained that they spent a lot of the recent meeting discussing an email from a staff member expressing grievances especially around staff attrition and that there’s a sense among staff that they are reaching out to the board and not being heard. Liz said this is very concerning in the face of charter renewal.

Shelly reiterated that we should make staff feel heard and create community and cohesion during the renewal time. If there’s a way for the board to do that, it’s important to do so before the public charter hearing.  

Brian would like to hear the history of how the board has handled staff concerns in the past. He would also like to get board support on the statement included below.  

Monica is in support of the statement that was drafted and wants very much for the staff to be heard and supported. She does think that the board, staff and administration need to work together to improve Common Ground and meet the needs of our students.

Bob thinks that it’s wise to have discussions first in executive session because it may include data that is not public, then we can present relevant information to the public. 

Jen added that from a teaching perspective it’s hard to meet students’ needs when there’s so many new staff, new guidance groups, new computer platforms for grading, and not having people in place for horizontal/vertical teams to work together. It’s hard to continue forward when introducing new people to new systems. 

Alexis suggested that the board enter into executive session to discuss the school committee’s proposed statement. 

Bob moved to enter into executive session, Jeff seconded the motion. 

The board returned from executive session at 7:17. 

Brian moved that the board approve the following statement from the school committee, Jeff seconded that motion. The move to approve the statement was unanimous.

  • Given the high volume of Common Ground High School staff turnover over the past two years, and given the numerous requests by staff for a response from the Board to identified concerns, the School Committee is recommending that the Board issue a statement indicating that:
  • The Board is similarly concerned and wants staff to know they are heard; 
  • The Board recognizes that there are a variety of issues that need addressing; 
  • The board is committed to gathering data and information needed to understand these complex issues as expeditiously as possible 
  • The Board is very committed to ensuring the long-term successful operation of the school. 
  • In the meantime, the Board is hoping that all of us committed to the success of the school can put frustrations, fears and grievances aside and remain focused on supporting our new and returning staff in making it a successful year for our students.

New Business 

Proposal to schedule a  Special Meeting of the Board before the October meeting to discuss and vote on Collective Bargaining Agreement with staff union.

Executive Session (7:18pm)

Shelly moved to enter into executive session for a second time, Peter seconded the motion to approve. The board went back into executive session at 7:18pm

The Board returned from Executive  Session at 7:46. No votes were taken in the Executive Session. 

Adjourn (7:49) Bob moved to adjourn the meeting. Peter seconded the motion. The motion was carried unanimously. 

Next Meeting: Special Meeting on October 2nd 

Public Comment: 

In order to comply with 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, September 15th ) and will close at 5:00 pm on the day of the meeting (Monday, September 18th) 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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