Common Ground Board of Directors Minutes: Feb. 22, 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 Minutes

Feb. 22, 2021

Board Members Present: Babz Rawlz-Ivy (5:42), Bob Parker, Monica Maccera Filppu (ex officio, non-voting), Errol Saunders, Christopher Albert, Kyeen Andersson, Beth Klingher, Charlie Negaro, Peter Ludwig, Deloris Vaughn (5:39)

Staff Present: Elena Augusewicz, Bev Greene, Rebecca Holcombe, Kimball Cartwright, Deborah Greig

Bob called the meeting to order at 5:35


  • 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 called for public participation. Seeing none, he moved to the next item on the agenda.


  • Business Requiring Approval (5:36)  


      1. Jan. 25, 2021 Minutes 
        1. Errol moved Joel Tolman to the staff list. Kyeen moved to approve the minutes with copy edits. Charlie Negaro seconded this motion to approve with copy edits. The January minutes were approved with Peter abstaining because he was not present at the January 25th meeting.
      2. Invoices Needing Approval
        1. Thurston Foods $5362.57. 
          1. Charlie asked the relationship to this cost versus if we were in-person. Monica replied that we are at about half what we usually would have been. Bev Greene commented that 77 students are receiving bi-weekly food deliveries, consistent with our state requirement to provide meals to students when school is open. 
        2. Beth moved to approve this Thurston invoice and Charlie seconded this motion. The Thurston Foods invoice was approved unanimously



      1. Monica presented some mid-year data to the board. 
        1. Common Ground will be giving the SAT but, due to Covid-19, not all Juniors will be taking it in person. 
        2. The data in the Executive Director Report was submitted to the state. 
          1. Monica summarized that we have higher achievement in 11th and 12th grade which shows a positive trend and seeing strong growth in math at the 99th percentile compared to national averages. Additionally, the number of students who meet the college ready benchmark in Math has increased. 
          2. This was the first time that MAP (Measure of Academic Progress) testing was offered remotely and there was lower than normal MAP participation this fall. We struggled to get students to take it, so there is a big difference between row 5 and 17 comparing last year and this year. 
          3. We are seeing less growth in ELA in all grades.
        3. Monica also listed some of the big actions we committed to taking on this past year and we are on track with those goals despite changes we have made during the hybrid learning and remote settings.
      2. Kyeen congratulated Monica on the increase in attendance. She clarified that “writ” is a measurement tool of learning in this report. 
        1. Monica said that we are currently in a fully virtual mode of learning but we are starting to bring some students on campus for limited in-person experiences. So far, this is only on Wednesday and we will slowly increase numbers of students safely as the weeks go on. 
        2. Monica also noted that we are starting the process to create a return to in-person learning for the spring semester. We do not have a target date for starting this planning process. As long as the public health department recommends 6ft distancing between students we will not be able to have all students on campus all days of the week.  
      3. Errol had a question about the chronic absenteeism numbers in the Executive Director report: It appeared that daily attendance rates were high but then chronic absenteeism rates were also high. 
        1. Monica said that anyone who has missed 10+ days of school so far they would be considered chronically absent. Those rates should go down as we have more days of school and those missed days even out.


  • Governance Committee Report (5:54) (Bob)


      1. The Governance Committee met on 2/16 to discuss a Board member covenant and Board membership. Bob said that that covenant will be brought in front of the Board once we have a proposal written. It’s a document that explains some roles and responsibilities of the board as well as how we want our Board to govern. 


  • School Committee Report (5:55) (Monica)


      1. The School Committee began a series of meetings focused on hiring practices on February 8th and will continue to meet biweekly on Tuesdays until further notice. The School Committee is working on the hiring process for the new School Director and developing hiring practices to be used consistently for all roles at CGHS. This group is composed of both teaching/staff members and some board members. They have met once in early February and are meeting again tomorrow. 
      2. Chris wanted to celebrate all the people who organized CG’s online and distance learning, he said friends in other schools have described their experience as “a complete mess” but he does not feel that way about his experience at CGHS. 
      3. Charlie wanted to know if we have moved forward with the School Director hiring process. Monica said that the School Committee will be continuing to discuss this process more tomorrow and when a plan is devised it will be presented to the board. 


  • Finance Committee Report (5:57)


      1. Budget vs Actuals as of January 31, 2021
        1. Beth reported that our Budget vs. Actuals has not changed much from last month. We continue to slightly underspend and to have more revenues. 
        2. Charlie wanted to know if the $1.6 million cash on hand number included all of the PPP funds. Both Monica and Beth said that it does.
      2. Update on Budget Process and Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds: 
        1. Monica said we have started the budgeting process for 2022. She met with the Finance Committee today to discuss the process for keeping the Committee informed as the budgeting process moves forward. The goal is to have a draft budget to the Board for the May meeting; The finance committee will bring an overview of the budgeting process and context for it in April.
        2. Monica explained that ESSER funds are federal money being distributed to states for emergency Covid-19 relief. The first round of $69,000 funding was included in this year’s budget. We are receiving $308,000 in the second round of funding. This money is to mitigate the effects of learning loss over the course of the pandemic and will be spread across three years. There are still students who are not engaging despite the numerous supports already in place. We want to use this money to invest in staff and/or programs to make sure those students are not permanently negatively affected over the course of the pandemic. 
        3. Charlie wanted to know what expenses would be accrued to mitigate the negative affect. 
          1. Monica said we will be using it to support 6 week (versus 4 week) summer school, among other things. This will help to pay staff wages and programming for all these additional students participating in summer school for longer periods of time. 
        4. Errol wanted to know if we have an understanding for staff when they can expect contracts and salary numbers for next year. 
          1. Monica said that our current staff contracts expire June 30th. That is the formal answer but there are micro questions such as figuring out what to do about single year contracts that we engaged in due to Covid-19 and those folks will be made aware of those contract status by April. Since the proposed staff salary schedule was presented to the Board in May 2020, we will not know the impact of this year’s budget and if we can move forward with salary increases this year until April or May. 
      3. FY 2020 Audit 
        1. Beth asked for questions with regard to the audit. Kyeen asked a question about the Item 12 adjustment to the 2019 budget ($34,000 credit that was left off of the 2019 budget). Monica said that she would have to check with Betsy to know exactly what that is since it happened before Monica’s tenure. Beth believed this was a timing issue; they were not lost funds, just funds allocated to the incorrect school year. 
        2. Kyeen moved to approve the motion to approve the 2020 Audit. Errol seconded the motion to approve. The FY 2020 Audit was unanimously approved. 



      1. Charlie presented the report that Kimball sent out above. Kimball said that we have about $108,000 more expected to come in before June 30th. That includes Rock to Rock and The Great Give but not Feast. 
      2. Charlie said that leaves us $300,000 dollars short of our projections. Charlie recalled conversations with potential donors who expressed that they like and appreciate Common Ground but they don’t think that many people know about the organization. They also reinforced that we should get our message out to this select group of heavy givers. Charlie left those conversations feeling that we can get those higher numbers but need to find a different way to do so. 
      3. Charlie said that we have set a goal of $100,000 for Feast. Audrey has made some connections with folks in Fairfield County to help us and also gotten a great group of volunteers involved to help plan the event. We will need more volunteers to reach this fundraising goal. 
      4. Babz advocated that we expand the Board to increase the number of hands on deck and to expand our organizational connections. 
      5. Monica reminded the Board that we have increased our individual giving and gotten new donors thanks to the board involvement and our conversations with Ali Donovan. Our growth is limited until we add new board members who can open up our pool of connections. Some of these big donors that give to charter schools take longer and it may take a few years before we see a return on those relationships. If we continue to set these increased goals we must increase our pool of potential donors.  
      6. Errol said that when Charlie and Babz talk they are always reminding us that our goals are ambitious but we have to meet them. It may be helpful to have a report that compares fundraising years so that we see the increases year to year and not just the deficits. Errol appreciates the layout Kimball has provided with green versus red in the report.
      7. Monica said that last year we were at $198,000 at this point in the year and now it is $305,000.
      8. Kyeen said she would like to see even more than last year’s numbers. Then we can see how these long-term relationships trend over time. 
      9. Bob echoed the statements about expanding the Board. They are currently pursuing 5-6 leads for board members. If you have any other circles that may overlap and you have suggestions for a board member just let us know. 


  • New Business (6:25)


      1. Bob asked for new business. Seeing none, he moved on to considering Executive Session. 


  • Executive Session (6:25)


      1. The Board did not enter into Executive Session as neither Bob nor any other Board member saw reason to do so. Bob promised to send out a draft of the Board Covenant for review before it is discussed in Executive session at a future meeting. 


  • Adjourn (6:26)


    1. Babz moved to adjourn. Peter seconded. The motion to adjourn was passed unanimously.

Next Meeting: Monday, March 22, 2021 (5:30 pm)

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, February 19th) and will close at 5:00 pm on the day of the meeting (Monday, February 22nd). 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 the Board Secretary: 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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