Hawaii’s Department of Education is about to be restructured, with a clearer division between academics and operations, and more decision-making by education leaders at the local level.

The department’s academics and operations will soon each have their own chief, Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi announced at a Board of Education retreat Saturday. Deputy Superintendent Ronn Nozoe will be responsible for overseeing academics, and the current assistant superintendent of school facilities and support services, Randy Moore, will take on a new role as the department’s first “senior assistant superintendent” in charge of operations. That encompasses everything from human resources to food services.

State law allows the superintendent to have only one “deputy,” Matayoshi said, explaining Moore’s new title. But for all intents and purposes, Moore and Nozoe are both now second in command.

Until now, the state superintendent has had 27 people reporting to her, Matayoshi said. Most of those will now be divided between Nozoe and Moore, freeing the superintendent up to do more strategic work.

Beginning as soon as January, each of the department’s five assistant superintendents will answer to one of the two, depending on their function.

The assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and student support, for example, will report to Nozoe. The assistant superintendent of fiscal services will report to Moore.

Another big change is that all 15 complex area superintendents also will report directly to Nozoe. Matayoshi said it is “incredible” that the department and board have never before tapped the expertise of what she considers the district’s “linchpin leaders.”

“You are really leading your communities and schools on this journey, this incredible work that we’re doing,” she said to the complex area superintendents, who were present at the retreat. “To me, it is increasingly evident that in order for us to balance the need for certain things to be standardized across the state and push things forward as rapidly as we need to, and yet retain that sense of community and understand unique aspects of neighborhoods and schools, the (complex area superintendents) are critical.”

Matayoshi said reorganization is not a new idea, but it never got done before because of resistance to change. A legislative bill last session even proposed dividing the department similarly, but it died in committee. But the new Board of Education has made a point not to micromanage the department, making it easier to effect the change without unnecessary legislation or drawn-out political battles.

The new structure is part of an attempt to streamline responsibilities and focus efforts on statewide student achievement goals that came with the state’s Race to the Top program and its commitment to adopt national Common Core academic standards, Matayoshi said.

She made a point to explain that the shakeup does not add staff, but uses existing staff in a more effective way.

Moore said he does not expect an increase in financial resources for the school system in the near future, so the department will be forced to change the way it does certain things.

“You have to do differently not just by doing new things, but also by stopping things you’re doing, and sometimes we don’t like that,” he said. “The only ones who like change are babies in wet diapers.”

Board of Education Chairman Don Horner said he can’t overemphasize the importance of this division of responsibilities. He said it’s part of a larger strategic vision to streamline the education system. The Legislature is planning an overhaul of state education law, the Board of Education is overhauling its policies, the superintendent is reorganizing her staff, in hopes that the increased efficiency will make a difference at the school and classroom levels.

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