Common Ground Board of Directors: August 16 Meeting Minutes

**For the full recording of this meeting please CLICK HERE**

New Haven Ecology Project

Board of Directors Special Meeting

August 16, 2020

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Board Members Present: 

Wendy Battles, Monica Maccera-Filppu, Babz Rawz-Ivy, Charles Negaro, Errol Saunders,  Brian Springsteen, Beth Klingher, Bob Parker, Kyeen Andersson, Michael Doolittle, Peter Ludwig, Deloris Vaughn, Terri Snell

Staff Members Present: 

Joel Tolman, Ana Rosa, Stefan Christensen, Allison Hornak, Emily Schmidt, Betsy Sneath, Jessica Pressley,  Melvin Morales, Ricky Dawson, Crystal Fernandez, Monique Frasier, Sharyn Lopez, Rosana Annoh, Iris Jimenez


  • Welcome (5:34pm)


      1. The meeting was called to order at 5:34pm by Wendy Battles.
      2. Bob gave some opening remarks apologizing for cutting off the conversation tonight. He suggested that we set a timer for 40 minutes about the Return to School Plan.
      3. Wendy introduced the conversation about the CGHS Return to School plan 


  • Board Comments on CGHS Return to School Plan (5:40pm – 7:13pm)


      1. Michael Doolittle – Michael spoke about the prospect of learning to coexist with the pandemic and is mindful about the Board’s main role is to hire the ED and to be mindful of how we make this decision. Michael highlighted that if we start online only, we will have to have this exact same conversation later. Ultimately, Michael came down in support of the plan.
      2. Beth Klingher – Beth spoke about how she thinks the best thing for students is to be in school and that we need to balance safety. She commented that if there is any time we can do it, it would be now. If we can start the students out on campus now, they will be in a much better position to go online later. Beth is supporting Monica’s plan. 
      3. Brian Springstein – Brian spoke about key takeaways from the plan: both teachers and students highlighted the necessity of staff agency, plan was designed without teacher input, due to socioeconomic and equity concerns “being able to opt out is still inequitable.” Brian highlighted that we should prioritize the long-term sustainability of the organization over short term reopening. Brian notes that masked, socially distant teaching will not build community as it was before. He highlighted other ways that the school might create community even if it remained distance learning only. Brian also highlighted that “Board members will have to live with the decision, teachers will have to live the decision.” 
      4. Kyeen Andersson – Kyeen spoke about occupying a middle ground, neither a hybrid plan nor a waiver. She lauded how the CGHS hybrid plan is an excellent one compared to other plans that she has seen, particularly in how it serves families and students. She expressed concerns that we do not have a clear understanding of the faculty and staff support for the plan and advocated for some more data collection to get a better understanding of what the faculty and staff willingness actually is. She asked some questions about the moderate, in-person support only plan and advocated that we might perhaps start with that aspect of the plan. She advocated for neither voting on the hybrid plan nor asking for a state waiver. 
      5. Babz Rawls-Ivy – Babz reiterated her position that she is not on the fence about this decision. She noted that there are forces we cannot control off-campus, but that we can control what happens on campus. She stressed that Black and Brown families are perfectly capable of making decisions about their health. She noted that the longer that students are out of school, the harder it will be for students to catch themselves back up. She also stressed that we can pivot from this decision whenever the facts necessitate it. 
      6. Peter Ludwig – Peter opened with how there aren’t any good decisions in this scenario. As far as the plan is concerned, he noted that this is a pretty good plan but wanted to know specific details about the implementation norms and data sources that we’d be relying upon. He will support the plan, although he is conflicted and understands that it is “just a piece of paper.” He supports the plan with a lot of conflict about its implications. 
      7. Bob Parker – Bob began by recognizing and acknowledging the risks involved in the plan. He commented that what was most compelling to him is the sense that the mental health of kids is deteriorating and that our institution helps students cope with the world. He is supporting the plan because, even with masks, it will help students develop a sense of belonging. 
      8. Charlie Negaro – Charlie reiterated that he supports the plan with great concern. He highlighted that he would like to have teachers engaged in an ongoing dialogue about this matter. 
      9. Deloris Vaughan – Deloris began by stating her core belief in choice and options and that that is a core part of being free. She continued that she does not believe that it is absolutely necessary for a student to be in a school building to learn. However, she does believe that the people who responded to the survey about whether or not they want to return to school have weighed the risks. She reiterated that African-americans care about the risks, the data, about their lives. She read the plan and thinks it is a strong plan, specifically in how it addresses different contingencies.
      10. Terri Snell – Terri began by stating her mixed emotions about kids going back. Terri also commended the teachers who are willing to come back to work and serve our students given the risks. She also noted that prolonging opening in a hybrid model does not actually solve the dilemmas that we are thinking about. She noted how few days students would be attending school even under the hybrid plan. She advocated for moving forward and reevaluating if necessary. 
      11. Errol Saunders – Errol reiterated his support for Monica’s hybrid plan. He recommitted to understandings of equity that forefront the voices of Black and Brown people and that he believes that Monica’s plan allows everyone a choice. He reiterated his belief that in-person teaching is better than remote teaching and that this is the time, when cases are low.
      12. Wendy Battles – Wendy reiterated that she believed that our students need to start off the year in a grounded way, making connections as they can. In our current situation today, I think this is our best way forward. She hoped that people would work forward to heal our community. 
      13. Kyeen Andersson – Kyeen asked for Monica to flesh out the moderate plan. Monica responded that the fall-back position is to work with staff to design ways that the school can collectively provide support for student needs under the emerging conditions. 
      14. Brian Springstein – Brian reminded us to treat everyone as operating from good intentions. He suggested that the only equitable option is for administration to plan as if the default for faculty were opt-out. 
      15. Kyeen Andersson – Kyeen reiterated that we ought to be concerned about the voices that we are not hearing. She advocated for making a plan that works for everyone by working with teachers and staff. 
      16. Babz Rawls-Ivy – Babz asked Monica to talk to the Board about how the plan was created to address any misinformation that might be out there about its development. Babz advocated for voting on this tonight to maximize the amount of time for implementation. 
        1. Monica replied that, while there are some lessons learned, there certainly was input and feedback from multiple stakeholders. She reminded everyone that every decision one makes deprioritizes something else. She explained that the plan as it is meets lots of the organization’s priorities. 
  • Business Requiring Approval (7:13pm – 7:37pm)


    1. CGHS Reopening Plan
      1. There was a long discussion about the proper wording and content of an appropriate motion.
      2. Bob moved that CGHS should not apply for a waiver to the state for an all-remote option. Babz seconded the motion. 
        1. Wendy Battles, Monica Maccera-Filppu, Babz Rawz-Ivy, Charles Negaro, Errol Saunders, Beth Klingher, Bob Parker, Kyeen Andersson, Michael Doolittle, Peter Ludwig, Deloris Vaughn, and Terri Snell voted in favor of the motion. Brian Springstein opposed. Motion passes. 
      3. Errol moved “The Board supports Monica Maccera-Filppu in implementing a hybrid plan that permits students to have in-person learning at Common Ground to start the year.” Babz seconded. 
        1. Wendy Battles, Monica Maccera-Filppu, Babz Rawz-Ivy, Charles Negaro, Errol Saunders, Beth Klingher, Bob Parker, Kyeen Andersson, Michael Doolittle, Peter Ludwig, Deloris Vaughn, and Terri Snell voted in favor of the motion. Brian Springstein opposed. Motion passes. 
  1. Meeting adjourned at 7:37pm . 
    1. Bob moved to adjourn. Kyeen seconds. Motion passes unanimously. 

Next Meeting:

Monday, August 24th, 5:30 – 7:00pm. 



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