Gov. David Ige will be selecting a new chair for the state Board of Education after Don Horner announced plans on Tuesday to step down from the position later this month.

Horner, a former First Hawaiian Bank CEO, has served as chair of the BOE since 2011, and was the first to hold the post after the board switched from elected to appointed. He said he’ll remain on the board for now.

“It was never my goal to be a permanent chair,” Horner said. “I just think the timing is right.”

BOE Chair Don Horner listens to testimony about sex  education.  16 june 2015. photograph by Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Don Horner has served as chair of the BOE since 2011.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

This also gives Ige the opportunity to appoint his own chair, Horner said. The three new BOE members appointed by Ige this year began their terms at Tuesday’s BOE meeting.

Horner plans to step down at the next board meeting July 21. He plans to remain on the board for at least another year. He has two years left on his BOE term, and was also recently reappointed to another five year term on the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation Board of Directors.

“Don did a great job,” said state Rep. Roy Takumi. “When you look at the indicators, whether it’s student achievement or chronic absenteeism and so on, you see growth.”

Horner oversaw the BOE during a time of sweeping education changes in Hawaii, including the state’s Race to the Top grant, a new statewide performance evaluation system, the creation of a teacher evaluation system, and implementation of the Common Core State Standards.

Under Horner, the BOE established an audit committee, which brought to light problems with both DOE transportation and food services, state Rep. Takashi Ohno said. The DOE also created a new strategic plan during Horner’s tenure — the first of its kind for the department, Ohno said.

The audit committee was one of several achievements Horner highlighted in his last Board of Education Chair Report for the governor.

“We have outstanding teachers, educational leaders and students,” he wrote, and cited accomplishments such as “unprecedented growth in national assessment scores, more students are entering college, fewer are in need of college remediation, more are taking and passing Advanced Placement tests, more schools are getting accredited, the achievement gap has narrowed, and our school attendance numbers have shown steady improvements.”

Ohno said Horner’s departure is not necessarily cause for changes.

“”I think there are numbers to show there is progress,” he said. “But the next chair, the next iteration of policy in our state, I hope it isn’t topsy-turvy … I hope schools and principals and teachers can get more comfortable with what we have in place now.”

Horner continuing as a member is a good thing for the BOE, Takumi said.

“He brings a lot of institutional memory,” Takumi said, “and I think he will be a good partner for whoever the new chair is.”

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