Dozens Rally at CCSNH Trustees Meeting

SEA/SEIU Local 1984 member Scott Cracraft, a professor at Lakes Region Community College, leads chants as demonstrators march to the CCSNH Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday.

SEA/SEIU Local 1984 member Scott Cracraft, a professor at Lakes Region Community College, leads chants as demonstrators march to the CCSNH Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday.

News of layoffs at several CCSNH campuses caught the attention of many across the state over the last month. On Thursday morning, the uproar over the layoffs caught the attention of the CCSNH Board of Trustees.

A group of more than 50 marched to the Board of Trustees meeting on the campus of Lakes Region Community College to express outrage at layoffs, but also to call for CCSNH to work with employees to seek adequate state funding. The board provided time before the meeting for union members to address trustees. Wendy Parent, a member at Lakes Region Community College, and Mark McGrath, a member at Manchester Community College, addressed the trustees first.

“We’re here to voice our dissatisfaction with the direction CCSNH is going,” Parent said. “We’re so disappointed, frustrated and, frankly, angry that the community college system has laid off a record 60-plus employees in the last 12 months. This is unheard of. People are feeling devalued, scared and fearful that they might be next.”

The crowd listens as Rep. Tim Robertson addresses the CCSNH Board of Trustees.

The crowd listens as Rep. Tim Robertson addresses the CCSNH Board of Trustees.

“We are concerned that we are heading down the path of becoming the Walmart of New Hampshire’s education,” McGrath added. “Is that what we want to be?”

McGrath expressed disappointment that CCSNH hasn’t done more work with employees to find cost savings and come up with creative ways to increase enrollment.

“We want to help,” he said. “We don’t want to see our coworkers laid off and losing their livelihoods.”

McGrath noted that members have reached out to legislators, and in some cases testified at the State house, in support of better funding for CCSNH. Dave Pollak was one of those members; he was laid off last month.

“I’ve given my heart and soul to this business,” Pollak said. “I love coming here, I love coming into my classes and working with my students.”

Another member who was laid off, Emily Elliot, drove down from White Mountains Community College. She told the trustees that there needed to be more of a focus on the impact of the layoffs.

“When we compromise education and dismantle services, I feel there’s a great impact on our college community, our communities at large and our students,” Elliot said. “I don’t think that’s being considered.”

Paul Allard, a student at Lakes Region Community College, read a letter he wrote to college administration after hearing of the layoffs. Allard said he started college at Lakes Region before transferring to UNH, but the experience in Dover wasn’t what he was looking for. He came back to Lakes Region this spring and was accepted into the nursing program. On his first day back, he said, “I felt like I’d come home.” The connections he’d forged with professors in his previous two years at the college were still strong. He said he owed much to those people, who he considered mentors and friends.

“Today, I’m capable of succeeding because of the professors that I’ve had,” Allard said. “I’ve become aware that my ability to succeed in an environment that is structured to benefit students — the only reason i attend LRCC — is being threatened. In my eyes, this is beyond unacceptable.”

Before the group marched to the meeting, SEA/SEIU Local 1984 President Rich Gulla addressed those gathered, and First Vice President Ken Roos read a letter of support written by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

We’d like to thank all who turned out, including retired state employees, full-time and part-time CCSNH faculty and staff, Plymouth State part-time faculty, numerous SEA/SEIU Local 1984 directors, union staff, Executive Branch employees and concerned citizens who turned out to express dissatisfaction with the direction CCSNH is going.

Only time will tell if the trustees will take the message to heart, but on Thursday morning they heard it loud and clear.

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