Wil Okabe has edged out Paul Daugherty in the race to be president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, unofficial election results show.

With roughly 2,700 out of 13,000 union members casting ballots April 9-27, the vote was 52 percent to 48 percent in favor of the incumbent, according to the results posted on Daugherty’s Facebook page Sunday.

“I knew that the best chance we had to move HSTA in a different direction was if a majority of teachers voted,” Daugherty said in an interview. “I am disappointed in our teachers’ lack of participation in selecting their leadership. As role models of civic responsibility for our students, I feel that we have a duty to vote. Didn’t happen.”

Okabe will start his second — and final — three-year term July 8. He will be leading the teachers union through a tumultuous time for education in the Aloha State. A long-standing contract dispute persists on multiple fronts and Hawaii remains at high risk of losing millions of federal education dollars.

The election results were tabulated Saturday, but HSTA leaders have yet to release any details.

Okabe said in an email Monday that an announcement would be made after the board certifies the results, but he didn’t indicate when that might happen.

Former HSTA Executive Director Joan Husted said the board used to vote on the results the same day. She was unsure why the certification process would be delayed a week.

As for voter turnout, Husted said participation is traditionally low for HSTA elections. Union leaders have discussed ways to boost it over the years, but without much success.

“Maybe there’s too much going on,” Husted said, adding that “association business usually takes a back burner” during busy times in the education world.

And busy it is.

While the two candidates for president had their differences, both are long-time union guys who have been directly involved in the ongoing contract negotiations with the state.

Teachers have worked since July under a contract imposed by the Gov. Neil Abercrombie. Negotiations to reach a mutually agreed upon settlement have stutter-stepped over the past year.

The HSTA board on Tuesday decided to hold a re-vote on a January contract proposal that teachers shot down. But the governor says that offer is off the table.

The Attorney General’s Office has said the January contract is no longer legally binding since the union submitted a new proposal in February and the governor offered a settlement in March. Plus, there are timeliness issues in the contract that might require it to be updated.

Union leaders are holding a series of informational sessions around the state to go over the details of the re-vote on the contract. Teachers have already expressed concern over what a “no” vote might mean, such as an authorization to strike.

Improving communication between HSTA management and its members is one of the primary reasons Daugherty said he ran for president. The union has been hit-and-miss in explaining current happenings to teachers.

On the one hand, HSTA has scheduled more than 40 meetings at schools around Hawaii to explain why the decision to vote again on the January contract was in members’ best interest. Discussions have been allowed to play out in threads on the union’s Facebook pages and other websites.

But when it came to the election, the union took a different approach. Okabe declined to comment for the record on why he was seeking another term. HSTA’s website didn’t even mention the election on its homepage. And the discussion on the union’s Facebook page was “censored,” to use one teacher’s description, because HSTA’s own guidelines ban talk about the election on the union’s social networking sites.

Union leaders have also been busy with their case against the state over the “last, best, final offer.” HSTA is expected to wrap up its side of the dispute before the Hawaii Labor Relations Board this week. It is unclear how this case will jive with the re-vote on the January contract, which is expected to be held after the informational sessions wrap up May 17.

As all that unfolds this month, school officials will be working to address outstanding concerns over Hawaii’s $75 million Race to the Top grant. The feds announced Friday that the state is improving, but part of the reason the U.S. Department of Education is leaving the high-risk status is the ongoing contract dispute and lack of a teacher evaluation system tied to student growth.

HSTA rallied its members last month to successfully defeat lawmakers’ attempts to legislate this type of performance management system. The Board of Education went ahead with policies to accomplish the same goal, but Hawaii is the only state receiving Race to the Top money that does not have in law an evaluation program tied to student growth.

As HSTA president, Okabe has maintained that the effort before the Legislature was an attempt to strip the union of its collective bargaining rights.

The split election results speak to a union whose members are divided on how they want to proceed. But with Okabe being re-elected, the course seems charted to maintain the status quo.

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