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Sununu to nominate Drew Cline to take chairman’s place on State Board of Ed



Monitor staff
Tuesday, April 18, 2017

After 10 years on the State Board of Education, its chairman, Tom Raffio, won’t be reappointed for another term.

Drew Cline, the former editorial page editor at the New Hampshire Union Leader, will be nominated to take his place at the Executive Council meeting on Wednesday.

“I just see Drew as a great resource, and we have tapped him to bring some outside perspective to the Board of Education and I think he’s going to do a great job,” Republican Gov. Chris Sununu said Tuesday.

Raffio, the CEO and president of Northeast Delta Dental, was first appointed to the board in 2007 by Gov. John Lynch and reappointed by Gov. Maggie Hassan, both Democrats. His term expired in January, and he said in an interview Tuesday that he expected to serve through the board’s next meeting in May while Cline is confirmed by the council.

Raffio said Sununu had told him in January he would consider keeping him on, and that he speculated at that time that he had a “50-50” chance of being reappointed.

Sununu called to give him the news this morning, he said, in a call that was “brief” and “cordial.”

“I totally recognize that it’s the governor’s call. But I think it’s a loss for education in New Hampshire,” he said.

“Given that it’s so complex, and that there’s so much going on. I could have been really helpful to the new commissioner” of education, Frank Edelblut, Raffio added.

Sununu’s decision to not reappoint Raffio drew the ire of Democrats on Tuesday, who called Raffio a respected, bipartisan actor. They pointed back to Sununu’s campaign promise to “gut” the state board, and suggested the governor could be trying to blunt resistance on the board to Edelblut in his new role.

Executive Councilor Chris Pappas, a Manchester Democrat, noted that Sununu had already made two new appointments to the state board since taking office. Board member Bill Duncan’s term expires next January, which will give Sununu the opportunity to appoint a majority of the members on the seven-member board.

“When you couple that with an ideologically driven commissioner who is trying to build up his powers at the department, I think that’s a pretty precarious situation for public education in our state,” Pappas said.

Edelblut and the board have clashed already. When he was nominated, the board sent the governor a letter detailing their concerns about his qualifications and 57 pages of public testimony. Last month, the board sharply rebuffed efforts to initiate a review of the state’s science standards. And when Edelblut pitched a plan to Republican legislators allowing him to restructure the Department of Education, he did so without first consulting the board.

But Raffio said Tuesday that he had been “working pretty effectively with the commissioner,” and that the two got along well.

“I was very much supportive of the new commissioner,” he said.

Sununu’s last appointments to the board were Kate Cassady of Littleton and Ann Lane of Durham.

(Allie Morris contributed to this report. Lola Duffort can be reached at 369-3321 or lduffort@cmonitor.com.)