A Hawaii Board of Education member appointed last year by Gov. David Ige has resigned to apply for the role of state superintendent.

Ige issued a press release Monday announcing the resignation of Darrel Galera, a retired teacher and public school principal. Galera’s resignation comes a day before the board plans to vote on the superintendent’s job description, and less than five months after Ige named Galera to the board, which sets educational policy for the state.

But the announcement didn’t surprise observers who say Galera, who leads Ige’s educational task force created in response to the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, has long been rumored as a leading contender for the position that oversees the state Department of Education.

Darrel Galera gets sworn in as a member of the Board of Education on Oct. 17 at the governor’s office.

Courtesy of Governor's Office

“There is a kind of rightly or wrongly an assumption that the deck is stacked for Darryl,” said Jim Shon, director of the Hawaii Educational Policy Center at the University of Hawaii.

Galera is known for his support of empowering school principals, and Corey Rosenlee from the Hawaii State Teachers Association says that while the organization doesn’t have an official position on any of the candidates, they think that Galera has the right values for the job.

“We have felt that he has seen the destructive nature of teaching to the test and the testing culture,” he said. “The teachers reflected that he was a collaborator that wanted to make sure that teachers and schools were empowered.”

Still, Shon and Rep. Roy Takumi say Galera’s close relationship with the governor creates the impression that Galera will have a leg up over other applicants.

“Perception-wise, there are going to be people who say it’s a done deal,” said Takumi, who leads the House Education Committee. “When you connect the dots, I can see why people get that perception.”

Galera replaced former teacher Jim Williams on the Board of Education. Williams resigned in September after criticizing Ige for creating the ESSA task force, which Williams contended undermined the board and duplicated its duties.

“I was kind of surprised that (Galera) was appointed to the board because I thought that the agenda was for him to replace Superintendent Matayoshi,” Williams said. “He should never have been appointed if he wanted to apply for that.”

Galera said in a press release issued by the governor’s office that he decided to step down after much reflection, and added, “It is essential that the BOE’s search/selection committee be presented with as large a pool of experienced, qualified and committed applicants as possible, as it makes one of the most important decisions for the future of public education in Hawaii.”

Matayoshi’s contract is up in June. The board declined to renew her contract, with Ige saying at a recent conference that that the department needs “a change agent who is committed to exploring unconventional options in the quest to prepare our students for the future.”

A previous version of this story incorrectly said Ige declined to renew Matayoshi’s contract.

The board is planning to choose her successor within the next three months.

A three-person search committee has already been looking for eligible candidates with the help of an advisory committee made up of various stakeholders. Click here to read the timeline for the process.

Takumi says he hopes the process is “open, fair and transparent and people look at the applicants with an open mind.”

“It’s unfortunate that politics played a role in the dismissal of superintendent Matayoshi and it would be even more unfortunate if politics plays a role in the choice of superintendent,” Takumi said.

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