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Democratic loyalist is picked for Massachusetts higher education post


Gov. Deval Patrick on Wednesday appointed Democratic loyalist Fred Clark to be chairman of the state’s Board of Higher Education.

Clark, who has close ties to gubernatorial education adviser Dana Mohler-Faria, will fill the seat vacated by Stephen Tocco, a longtime Republican strategist who stepped down this year to become chairman of the University of Massachusetts board of trustees.

Clark, an Easton resident, served as district chief of staff to the late U.S. Rep. Joseph Moakley. He’s a former director of the Massachusetts State College Council of Presidents, and a former trustee of Bridgewater State College, whose president, Mohler-Faria, is Patrick’s top education adviser. As trustee, Clark voted to promote Mohler-Faria to president.

“Fred’s understanding of and commitment to the vision of a public education system that is built on a bedrock of coordination, cooperation and collaboration distinguish him as the right person to help usher in a new era of education improvement in the commonwealth,” Patrick said in a statement.

Patrick has outlined an ambitious plan for improving education. The Democratic governor envisions free education for every Massachusetts resident from age 3 through community college. He recently appointed an 18-member panel to draw up blueprints for the 10-year plan.

Clark, currently is vice president of Mirrione Realty Corp., said he “passionately” agrees with Patrick’s plan. He said among the board’s first priorities will be hiring a new chancellor. Patricia Plummer is interim chancellor and has indicated she isn’t interested in the post on a long-term basis.

Clark dismissed criticism that Patrick’s education plan has been slow moving.

“It takes time for a new governor to put his stake in the ground, to make changes,” Clark said. “That shouldn’t be something that is rushed.”

The governor has said he’s open to the idea of adding more seats to the board, to gain more control over the board, which oversees the University of Massachusetts system, nine state colleges and 15 community colleges with a combined budget of $1 billion.

The 11-member higher education board now has one vacancy. Patrick will make that appointment, and another member’s term expires this year. After that, his next appointment would be in 2008, then in 2010.

– Associated Press

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