Gov. Neil Abercrombie‘s first appointments to the Hawaii State Board of Education could be confirmed by summer, Senate Education Chairwoman Jill Tokuda said in a Twitter town hall meeting Friday.

Voters in November passed a constitutional amendment to replace the current elected board with one appointed by the governor, but there was no legislation attached outlining the makeup of the appointed board and how its members would be selected.

Tokuda is the first Hawaii lawmaker to hold a public town hall meeting on the popular social networking site. Eight people asked a total of 15 questions via Twitter. The event, centered on the process for appointing board of education members, drew 27 participants, with almost 36,000 followers collectively.

“From what we can tell, there were a number of people observing and not tweeting comments,” which made it difficult to calculate the number of actual viewers, Tokuda told Civil Beat.

The questions ranged from the philosophical (how will the appointed education board increase accountability?) to the concrete (how soon will appointees be installed?).

The senator’s hope that appointees will take their seats by summer depends on fast-tracking a bill through the Legislature that outlines the selection process.

Tokuda informed tweeters that she handed a draft of her bill proposal to Rep. Roy Takumi, who formerly chaired the House Education Committee, on Friday. The House of Representatives has still not organized its leadership team for the upcoming legislative session.

The draft proposes an 11-person board — one for each county, six at-large and one voting student member.

Tokuda said her proposal omits the screening committee included in last year’s proposal and vetoed by then-Gov. Linda Lingle. The screening committee was modeled after the selection process used for the University of Hawaii Board of Regents, which “has had issues,” Tokuda told Twitter user @gilkeithagaran. “If we want to get the best members on BOE, need to do it differently.”

Tokuda favors giving the governor power to make direct appointments that would then be confirmed by the state Senate.

She also said that board members should represent a broad swath of stakeholders — including students. She has been a longtime advocate for student member voting rights on the board of education.

For an hour, Tokuda engaged with the virtual town hall participants. She hopes the virtual town hall meeting will help people feel comfortable interacting with her and set an expectation that she responds to questions and concerns — even on Twitter.

About the Author