A group of prominent — and outspoken — Hawaii educators has formed a new public-education think tank aimed at exploring ways to empower teachers, principals and parents in school reform.

At the helm of the Education Institute of Hawaii are retired principal Darrel Galera and University of Hawaii law professor Randy Roth, both of whom organized an effort back in June to overhaul and decentralize the Department of Education. They cited an independent survey conducted among 160 of the state’s 255 principals (excluding charter schools) in April that revealed great dissatisfaction with the central DOE administration.

The think tank hopes to conduct studies “that are independent, objective and nonpartisan, focusing on principles and practices of effectiveness.” It will also gather feedback from education stakeholders ranging from principals to parents through surveys and focus groups, as well as organize public forums.

McKinley High School journalism teacher Cindy Reves empty classroom

The new Education Institute of Hawaii wants to give on-the-ground stakeholders more of a say in the decisions that affect what happens in public school classrooms.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

“The Education Institute believes that any changes to the existing system should be research-based,” a press release says.

Other members of the institute’s Board of Directors include former Kaiser High School principal John Sosa, former Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano, former Hawaii State Teachers Association Executive Director Joan Husted and former UH Board of Regents Chairwoman Kitty Lagareta. (See below for the full list.)

To kickoff its research initiative, the institute is sending a 27-person delegation to observe the school systems in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Edmonton (Canada) in early October, when Hawaii’s teachers and students will be on break. According to the press release, these places have attempted to revamp their education departments in innovative ways.

“The traveling delegation will act as fact-finders and consider whether aspects of the visited systems might be worth considering for Hawaii,” the announcement says. “The traveling delegation will focus on efforts to achieve ‘school empowerment,’ which requires that school personnel have a greater say in instructional decisions and the deployment of resources to the classroom.  In an empowered school system, teachers and principals at each school, complex, or complex area are able to adjust to the needs of their students rather than adhere to one-size-fits-all instructional directives from the state office.”

(A list of the traveling delegates is included below.)

The trip is being funded by the Mamoru and Aiko Takitani Foundation, which traditionally has provided scholarships to public school students.

“Our board decided to try something out-of-the-box, specifically to look closely at the current Hawaii DOE system, a system which too often seems to work against the interests of principals, teachers and the children,” Michael Perry, local radio personality and Takitani Foundation board chairman, in a statement.

The education institute’s formation is in part the culmination of long-drawn-out clashes in the state’s public school system over reform efforts that many teachers and principals describe as well-intentioned but poorly implemented. These efforts include the DOE’s adoption of Common Core State Standards — a set of universal math and reading benchmarks being rolled out across the country — and the new teacher evaluation system that many educators have criticized as demoralizing and poorly designed.

“The Department of Education’s centralized bureaucracy has become dysfunctional, applying a one-size-fits-all, top-down management of schools across the state,” said Galera, who previously served as principal of Moanalua High School, in a statement. Galera will serve as the institute’s executive director.

“No individual in the current bureaucratic system wants bad outcomes for the children, but the system itself ends up shortchanging the students and frustrating the professionals,” said Roth, who will serve as the institute’s president and board chairman. “No other state has a governance structure that is similar to Hawaii’s. Only in Hawaii does the state office wield so much power over financial and instructional decisions.”

Education Institute of Hawaii Board of Directors:

  • Darrel Galera, retired principal; Education Institute executive director
  • Randall Roth, law professor; Education Institute president and board chairman
  • John Sosa, retired principal of Kaiser High School; former superintendent of Windward and Honolulu Districts; former superintendent of a school system in the state of Washington
  • Ben Cayetano, former Hawaii governor
  • Joan Husted, retired Hawaii State Teachers Association executive director
  • Kitty Lagareta, Communications Pacific CEO; former chair of the UH Board of Regents
  • Michael W. Perry, KSSK radio show personality; board chair of Takitani Foundation
  • Penelope Tom, executive director of the Hawaii Association of Secondary School Administrators; retired Kaimuki High School principal
  • RandiAnn Porras-Tang, president of Hawaii Association of Secondary School Administrators; retired principal of Waialua Middle and High Schools
  • Catherine Payne, retired principal of Farrington High School; former state Secondary Principal of the Year and national Milken Educator; chair of State Public Charter School Commission
  • Candy Suiso, Waianae High School teacher; Milken National Educator award winner; founder of Searider Productions
  • Ray L’Heureux, former assistant superintendent of Hawaii DOE
  • Pierce Myers, retired Lanai High and Elementary School principal
  • Marsha Alegre, retired Washington Middle School principal

Traveling Delegates:

  • Keith Amemiya, State Board of Education member; former executive director of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association
  • Amy Asselbaye, State Board of Education member; former chief of staff to Gov. Neil Abercrombie and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard; parent representative on school community council for Aina Haina Elementary where her three children attend school
  • Barbara Krieg, director of Human Resources for the Hawaii Department of Education; formerly director of Hawaii State Department of Human Resources Development; formerly shareholder/director of Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing law firm
  • Dale Castro, Mililani Waena Elementary School principal; former State Director of Curriculum and Instruction (Special Education, School Renewal & Redesign, and Focus Schools); Nationally Certified NAESP Principal Mentor; parent of child who attends public school
  • Bebi Davis, STEM Resource Teacher; 2005 National Milken Education Award Winner; 2009 Hawaii State Teacher of the Year; 2009 Yale University Educator Award
  • Joan Lewis, Kapolei High School teacher; Hawaii State Teachers Association vice president; 2013 NEA Foundation’s Excellence in Teaching Award and 2014 NEA Foundation Global Fellow; foster parent for eight years whose children attended public schools
  • Ray L’Heureux (also on Board of Directors)
  • Roberta Mayor, former principal at Waianae High School and Waipahu Intermediate; former superintendent of Oakland Unified School District; former California Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team; parent of two public school graduates
  • Derek Minakami, Kaneohe Elementary School principal; 2001 State Teacher of the Year, 2001 National Teacher of the Year finalist; parent of two children in public schools
  • Duwayne Abe, Salt Lake Elementary School principal; 2014 State Principal of the Year (Hawaii’s National Distinguished Principal); 2014 Masayuki Tokioka Excellence in School Leadership nominee
  • Michael Harano, Washington Middle School principal; Middle School Principals Forum chairperson; 2010 Hawaii State National Distinguished Principal; Washington Middle School 1st AVID National Demonstration School in Hawaii; parent of three public school graduates
  • Art Souza, Complex Area superintendent for Honokaa-Kealakehe-Kohala-Konawaena Area; former Honokaa High and at Waikoloa Elementary Schools principal
  • Lisa-Anne Tsuruda, Mililani High School teacher; 2009 National Milken Education Award Winner; 2010 Central District Outstanding Educator; National Milken Educators of Hawaii president
  • Donna Lum Kagawa, Complex Area superintendent for Farrington-Kaiser-Kalani area; former Jarrett Middle School and Hokulani Elementary School principal and head of DOE’s professional development and educational research institute
  • Charles Kagawa, former assistant superintendent, Office of School Facilities and Support Services; former School Business specialist; former acting administrative assistant to the superintendent
  • Jan Iwase, Hale Kula Elementary School principal; 2013 Central District Principal of the Year
  • Kitty Lagareta (also on Board of Directors)
  • Denise Murai, parent advocate; Parent Community Networking Center coordinator; nationally certified facilitator of Parent Project & Loving Solutions parenting program; parent of three public school graduates
  • Brendan Burns, Aina Haina Elementary School principal; 2008 National Blue Ribbon School and International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program Candidate School
  • Evangeline Casinas, Salt Lake Elementary School vice principal; 2009 National Board certified teacher; parent of three children in public school
  • Harry Davis, University of Hawaii Natural Science & Chemistry professor; past UH Faculty Senate chair; 2001 Recipient of UH Board of Regents Medal for Excellence in Teaching; parent of two public school graduates
  • Lynda Galera, Moanalua Elementary School principal; parent of a child in public school
  • Fred Murphy, Mililani High School principal; Hawaii High School Principals Forum chairperson
  • Steve Nakasato, Pearl Ridge Elementary School principal; former Curriculum, Instruction and Student Support state director; 2007 Central Oahu District Principal of the Year; Ed.D. Professional Educational Practice; parent of three children in public schools
  • Rick Paul, principal of Hana High and Elementary School; fomer DOE Committee on Weights member
  • Darrel Galera (also on Board of Directors)
  • Randy Roth (also on Board of Directors)

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