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Dave Solomon's State House Dome: More audit fallout for community colleges

September 17. 2017 1:54AM

THERE'S MORE fallout from the recently released Legislative audit of the Community College System of New Hampshire, with Democratic Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky of Concord now joining the calls for further investigation.

At Wednesday's Executive Council breakfast, Volinksy announced that he plans to request a meeting with the chancellor of the system that operates the seven community colleges across the state.

"I have a responsibility to confirm trustees, so I think I have a direct responsibility through that to ensure that the system is running in an appropriate fashion," he said after the council adjourned, "as well as the fact that the largest campus is in my district in Concord. So I was really troubled by the management audit report."

The four-year performance audit released three weeks ago identified "several areas in need of improvement" that cover virtually every aspect of college operations, including administration, finance and information technology. The report also identified instances of bartering, conflicts of interest and "questionable spending."

Volinsky did some research of his own, and said he is further concerned about the system's success rate with students.

"I found the system to be successful with only 25 percent of the full-time students. If you look at their two-year program and see if they graduate or transfer within three years, only 25 percent are completing or transferring," he said. "That's awfully low for such an important entry point into higher education."

It's a safe bet that Volinsky will attract enough interest from fellow councilors to constitute a quorum when the meeting with the chancellor is arranged, meaning the date, time and place will have to be publicly posted, so stay tuned.

The Public Higher Education Study Committee, chaired by Republican state Sen. John Reagan, has already scheduled a public hearing on the audit for Tuesday at 10 a.m. in Room 103 of the Legislative Office Building.

Labor reps nominated

Gov. Chris Sununu has announced his choices to replace two longtime labor leaders on the Workers Compensation Appeals Board, but time will tell if his two nominees will allay the concerns of Democratic councilors and labor activists who criticized his refusal to reappoint longtime labor representatives Mark MacKenzie and Denis Parker to the board.

Democrat Chris Pappas said on Wednesday after the nominations were presented to the Executive Council that he would be doing some research before the vote to confirm in two weeks.

"I want to ask the advisory committee at the Compensation Appeals Board, what was their process, did they vet these candidates, did they have a recommendation?" he said.

The 33-member appeals board by law must have one third of its members drawn from organized labor. Sununu's nominations to replace Parker appears to come with the right credentials. Steven Soule of Manchester is the assistant business manager of IBEW Local 2320.

But the labor-related experience of his choice to replace MacKenzie is not so obvious. Timothy King has a lengthy career in law enforcement and is now a sergeant in the patrol Division for Concord police.

Mysterious discovery

State officials are looking into the discovery of what may be an old graveyard behind the complex of state office buildings at the Hugh J. Gallen Office Park on Pleasant Street, which once served as the sprawling campus of the state's old psychiatric hospital.

"A group of staff and external folks are investigating the possible existence of a historic cemetery site on the former state hospital grounds, a common practice in the late 19th and early 20th centuries," says DHHS spokesman Jake Leon. "They are investigating a location near the northeast corner of the campus and are yet to determine whether it was used as a cemetery."

Leather is leaving DOE

Paul Leather, deputy commissioner in the Department of Education, will be moving on as of Sept. 28, winding up 42 years in state government. Leather is widely acknowledged in the education community as the department's expert on performance assessment and accountability.

He's leaving to work with the Center for Innovation in Education at the University of Kentucky. Sununu's nominee to replace Leather, Christine Brennan, has been the principal of Beech Street Elementary School in Manchester since 2014.

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