The superintendent is the CEO of the education department and is responsible for carrying out board and federal educational policies. The superintendent’s office also handles communications and oversees department operations.
Several divisions within the department cover the different aspects of public education in Hawaii:
Hawaii’s 256 public K-12 schools are distributed into 42 “complexes,” made up of a high school and its feeder schools. Complexes are grouped on a geographic basis into 15 complex areas, each of which is led by a complex area superintendent appointed by the department superintendent. The complex areas are distributed into seven geographic school districts, each of which is represented on the Hawaii State Board of Education.
The districts and complex areas are divided as follows:
Oahu (four districts, nine complex areas)
Hawaii (one district, three complex areas)
Maui/Molokai/Lanai (one district, two complexes)
Kauai/Niihau: (one district, one complex)
As of the 2010-2011 school year, the department employed a total of about 21,929 full-time employees.
Teachers: 56 percent
Education officers: 4 percent
“All other employees”: 40 percent
Analyzed another way:
Around 13,000 education department employees, or 59 percent, are directly involved in educating children on a daily basis at the school level:
About 5,003, or 23 percent, of the employees work in pure support positions at the school level. These include:
One percent of the department’s employees work in an “educational administration” position:
The superintendent and many who work in her office
The remaining 17 percent provide educational support at the school and complex levels:
Human services professionals
Bilingual and bicultural specialists
Mental health supervisors
The Department annually publishes a full directory of its personnel. The department no longer prints the directory, but it is available in digital form:
Because the department answers to the board of education and fulfills the responsibilities the board lays out for it, it is difficult to hold the department accountable for any student achievement shortfalls. However, the board can shift onto the department or superintendent the responsibility for ineffective policies. This structure drew criticism from three former Democratic governors in 2010 who thought the superintendent should be the department’s chief policymaker instead of answering to a board.