Common Ground Board of Directors- Minutes Sept. 2017

Board of Directors Meeting 9/18/17

Present: Melissa Spear, Jane Lee, Frank Mitchell, Wendy Battles, Michael Doolittle, Kerry Lord, Bob Parker, Beth Klingher, Claudia Merson, Babz Rawls Ivy, Monique Frasier

Staff: Elena Augusewicz, Joel Tolman, Kimball Cartwright, Rebecca Holcomb

Regrets: John Jessen, Betsy Sneath

Guests: n/a

Public Participation: n/a

Wendy called the meeting to order at 5:35

Business Requiring Approval:

Michael moved approval of the Minutes of the June 26, 2017 Board Meeting. Babz seconded

The following invoices were approved for payment:
Corporate Systems Consulting- $6,765.00 (year 3 of 3, 2015-2018)
Corporate Systems Consulting- $8,610.00 (year 2 of 3, 2016-2019)
Corporate Systems Consulting- $8,610.00 (year 1 of 3, 2017-2020)

The following bills were paid under a blanket resolution approving payment of commercial and health insurance invoices over $5000:
Great American Insurance Co.- CGHS, $6,679.00/month
ACSA- NHEP, approx. $7,000/month; CGHS, approx. $24,000/month

Board Resolution for CDBG 2017-2018 is considered.

Bob moves to approve, Kerry seconds

Approve revisions to Child Nutrition Programs “Authorized Signature Changes Form”
Liz and Bob to become the new authorized signers
Michael moves to approve, Monique seconds

Conflict of Interest Forms were handed out to all members of the board

Executive Director’s Report:

Melissa: Things are going really well, others can report on programs. There have been some security issues: moped vandalization, pilot break in, employees cars vandalized, student mopeds vandalized. How do we address this security issues and emergency response? Applying for the School Security Grant to get more cameras, two way radios, and helping with the bathroom construction.

Finance Report:

Jane: We are nearing the end of first quarter but we still don’t know state budget at this point. We will soon be closing last year’s financials. We have seen a deficit starting and will be working in the next few weeks to look at past actuals and what we look like now versus June when the original budget was approved.

Melissa: Some changes from the June budget; the State approved 200 seats for the school, originally we wanted 205. Looks like per pupil will be $1,100.00, we were hoping for more. We received an additional $30,000 for SPED costs from city of New Haven. Also, we received CEIO money which had some budget relief and pays for a student organizer and farm education coordinator. Rebecca added more Nature Year programming so that lead to an increase in net revenue.

Current $80,000 deficit for CGHS but $16,000.00 extra for NHEP. This is before we know what’s going on with the state budget. There is a big Barr foundation grant that has $300,000 split between 2 years for relief, waiting on that. Sent in all documentation for a construction audit in which there should be money coming back to be applied to this deficit. In waiting mode.

Finance committee is talking about 30% of students being considered IEP or 504s so that dept. needs more support, maybe we could use $15,000.00 to hire support. That position would be temporary with a year contract.

Another big change, applied for our $50,000.00 loan payment to be deferred to 7/28/18 but that still means $150,000 will be due next July. Hoping we will have money from audit to pay and charter facility grant (find out in June). Would like to pay that debt without taking anything out of operating expenses.

Programs Report:

Rebecca: Biggest camp year ever, 92 staff people, created a lot of jobs. This was the first time we had both buildings open and ready. It didn’t feel like camp and summer school overlapped at all, there was enough space for everyone. Unfortunately, there were two major accidents, one camper suffered bee stings, and a tree branch fell and hit a staff member. Everyone was OK. Working on improving response.

We just finished hiring for Nature Year, there was a huge applicant pool, great people, we hired a few folks and some returning staff. In response to some of this summers accidents one of the new teachers hired (Elaine) is an EMT. Cjet and Alexa are getting wilderness first aid training. We upped medical capacity and cut down a bunch of potentially hazardous trees. We want to stay more on top of tree pruning as much as we can.

NY has started, seedlings class has started, homeschool has started. Received emails from many class parents with great feedback. After School and Field trip programs start in Oct. when free bussing starts back up. There are 114 NY kids enrolled, about 18 here per day, schools from all over CT. Still have some parents sending kids in defiance of school and counted as truant. Some schools not taking action, some are pursuing all action against truancy. Hoping the State Board of Ed. will write some guidance or opinion, at least put something in writing.

Common Ground High School:

Liz: This year there was little hiring to do over the summer, we started the year off with a full staff. Also started with full student roster, we have 205 students. This year 29% of students have IEP or 504s (eligibility for support, this is not uncommon for students who need extra time testing, students who have been denied SPED or parents going a different route, a doctor must fill out qualifying paperwork. Depending on the level of disability the student may need accommodation. Includes; social, emotional, or physical disability). We are requesting additional resources. We do have a social work intern, Joe Lesiak 4 days a week, and a nurse 3 days a week.

There’s a new bell schedule, more classes, new classes, new students. A lot of adjustment going on, students now have 8 classes per week. Everyday looks very different, they are now starting to know their schedule. Actively working on our school improvement plan, setting goals for the year. There are three pillars: increased student engagement, student achievement, and inclusiveness. Strategies are to improve SST, use guidance as vehicle to increase engagement, older guidance groups help younger guidances, strategies around curriculum alignment work. The curriculum goal is for co-creation of the 9th grade core and now 10th grade core. Justice development work is to bring inclusion and restorative work together and promote engagement in both. Increase student engagement in the justice work, serving on committees, working with the new organizer.

Bob: How can we help bring students into the board meeting and maybe the training session?

Joel: Students from activist club and journalism club are coming together Wed. to discuss board membership. Jesse is promoting engagement

Liz: The person in the new organizer position will reach out to kids in that capacity
Claudia: This isn’t the most fun board, how do we get kids interested?
Melissa: There’s a meeting on the 26th that Cornell will be at, maybe it’s worth asking him to meet with students?

Monique: A 12th grade student is probably the best option, this type of meeting would have more weight to them

Babz: Will students get service hours or credit for serving? As they prepare for college there should be a pipeline for students to learn about board membership.

Melissa: We wanted to charge the students with creating the selective process.
Liz: The wed. meeting (mentioned by Joel) will start that discussion.


Melissa- Since Deb has been out Diane has been running the farm. Rebecca hired someone to cover field trips through October. Diane has recruited a lot of people to help her. She has been working hard to use all of the excess produce from the farm.

Development Report:

Kimball: Feast sold out as of last week. $27,000 in sponsorships, the goal is close to $70,000 (after auctions/AAB fund).

In part, there are issues predicting due to state funding. As for the 21st Century and CT state afterschool program: we probably won’t get both. The School security grant would be helpful.

We are barreling down toward the end of calendar year: Giving Tuesday is Nov. 28, one of our best online fundraising opportunities. Newman’s Own is doing a big match for its grantees, the is more competition than with their usual match. Oct. 5 is Happy Hour at Roia, hoping to kick off Giving Tuesday there. Instead of annual report and end of year ask at same time we are sending out the ask in Nov. and the annual report in Jan./Feb. We are also sending our donor newsletter out, focused more on how contributions directly affect our programs and students. We are also looking into the Community Foundation’s online giving day where they cover the fees. We should do a special gathering in January to celebrate the year and show our thanks. All of this lays groundwork to get us to a balanced budget despite state budget being so up in the air.

Melissa: I feel Kimball and Kate are at capacity, we may have to look at adding capacity in the future.

Business for Next Meeting:

Wendy: I am still waiting on info on the Board retreat from Isabell. We had a meeting a few weeks ago to jump start the process of new board members. Trying to get creative and reaching out to different people. Maybe a committee of people even if they aren’t ready for the board commitment. Our goal is to bring on several people this fall. I think we need more formal board terms. We also need new Parent and Teacher representatives. More to come on this next month.

New Business:

Joel: Bob has expressed interest in changing the dashboard structure to better suit the board’s needs. Please reach out to me (Joel) with input. I would also like to extend an invite to board members who have an interest in the upcoming Professional Development learning groups sessions in the fall and spring:
Tues, Oct 10, 12:30-2:30
Tues, Nov 21, 12:30-3:30 (Mix It Up Day — you’re welcome to join us for the day if you like!)
Tues, Jan 23 (full day – exact times TBD, but potentially afternoon and evening to accommodate family engagement)
Wed, Feb 14, 12:30-3:30
Tues, Apr 10, 12:30-3:30
Thurs, June 7 (full day — just a placeholder for our last session of the year, but this is our end of year Presentations of Learning & Leadership)

Wendy adjourned the meeting at 7:05

Next board meeting: October 23, 2017, 5:30pm


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