Ex-Laconia State School Bids Due July 18; Council Approves Khan Academy Contract

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Paula Tracy photo

Homeschooled children from the Upper Valley visited the Governor and Council meeting Wednesday.


CONCORD – The Executive Council heard that the state expects a July 18 deadline for those wishing to bid on purchase of the former Laconia State School and approved a $2.3 million sole source contract with Khan Academy for digital learning content for students and teachers.

Sheri Rockburn, assistant commissioner for the Department of Administrative Services, said there are five potential parties though no formal bids yet on acquisition of the more than 200 acres in the northern portion of the City of Laconia.

A deal with developer Robynne Alexander fell through and did not close. She offered $21.5 million for the property with plans to develop it for residential and commercial development but was not able to secure funding by the state deadline.

Rockburn said the council would be getting a briefing about the bids in August when they meet following the July 18 deadline.

Executive Councilor Ted Gatsas of Manchester, a Republican, who was critical of the way the Department handled the process with Alexander, asked if this would be a fairly timely and efficient process to get to a closing and Rockburn said that was the plan.


The council voted 3-1 to support the contract with Khan Academy with Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington, a Concord Democrat who is running for governor, opposed and Executive Councilor Janet Stevens of Rye, a Republican, abstaining from the vote.

The contract had been tabled at the May 15 meeting with counselors asking questions and expressing concerns while Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut said the timing was running out to roll out the contract with schools as the school year is about to end.

Executive Councilor Joe Kenney, R-Wakefield, said he had initial concern but the feedback he has received from educators in his district is that it would allow teachers to work with students and find various strengths and weaknesses to work on.

He said the company has a long track record of success. https://www.khanacademy.org/

Edelblut acknowledged this would be the first state level contract for the non-profit though it has school districts which are larger than the entire state.

Warmington said Microsoft had announced a contract with Khan Academy to offer this free nationwide to teachers but Edelblut said that was a marketing tool and an abbreviated portion of the software the state would receive with the contract.

He added the state is getting a good deal and estimated the cost of half the “rack rate” or retail cost for the access to the software and its supports.

Warmington asked about artificial intelligence and what guardrails there would be and what information may be garnered by Microsoft or others from New Hampshire.

He said the state would be pulling off, not passing through data.

There are “stop scrolling” guidelines for students at the Department of Education to inform them about safety risks on the internet.

The way this program works, he said, is an interaction between teachers and students simultaneously. It is passed to the teacher in a smart way to make good sense.


The director of the Office of Professional Licensure and Certification, Lindsey Courtney, was confirmed as a justice of the New Hampshire Circuit Court on a vote of 4-1 with Democrat District 2 Executive Warmington opposing. There was no discussion.

Gov. Chris Sununu is nominating Deanna E. Jurius of Meredith to replace her.

Also confirmed as a justice of the circuit court was John Katsirebas Jr. of Epsom.

Charles M. Arlinghaus of Canterbury has also been nominated by Sununu to serve another term as Commissioner of the Department of Administrative Services, a job he has held since 2017. His term would run through July 1, 2028.

There were some resignations accepted by the council including Peter H. Bornstein of Berlin as justice of the Superior Court.

Genevieve Aichele of Portsmouth was confirmed as artist laureate for the state.

Sununu also nominated Maureen Beauregard of Strafford to the University of New Hampshire System Board of Trustees.

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