A longtime educator from the Big Island has been nominated to serve on the Hawaii Board of Education, Gov. David Ige’s office announced Friday.
Damien Kaimanaonalani Barcarse, the West Hawaii director of Kamehameha Schools, would replace Patricia Bergin, a former teacher and administrator from the Big Island whose three-year term expires June 30.
Barcarse, whose nomination is subject to Senate confirmation, is fluent in the Hawaiian language and knowledgeable about Hawaiian culture. He’s also a licensed captain with experience in Pacific and international voyaging who spent time on the Hokulea during legs of its worldwide voyage, including to Africa and the central Pacific area.
He said Friday he’s “very, very humbled” by the appointment. The all-volunteer, nine-member board sets policy for the public school system and is also charged with selecting and evaluating the school superintendent.
“It’s just really an opportunity to serve, and to make more the norm we’re encouraging our students to be the best they can be,” Barcarse said.
A resident of Kona, Barcarse, 48, is a product of the public school system. He attended Waiakeawaena Elementary, Waiakea Intermediate and Waiakea High School on the Hilo side of the Big Island.
The first in his family to complete college, Barcarse credits an educator in his youth with encouraging him to explore a high school-to-college enrichment program that took him to BYU Hawaii for a summer and instilled in him a desire to pursue higher education.
“I absolutely knew I could succeed,” he said. “It really told me how influential our educators are over our system. I had that one educator who took that special interest (in me) and provided me that opportunity.”
Barcarse received a bachelor’s degree in Hawaiian Studies and a master’s degree in Hawaiian Language and Literature from the University of Hawaii Hilo.
He taught ethnozoology and voyaging and navigation classes for the Hawaiian Studies division at UH Hilo before moving to Kamehameha Schools in 2013. He’s held a variety of positions there, including director of the Hawaiian Cultural-Based Education Department, senior project manager of the Aina-based Education Department, and education officer responsible for helping DOE-area complexes with the former Kahua teacher induction program, which helped teachers from the mainland unfamiliar with Hawaii learn different facets of the culture.
“That was a great example of a public-private partnership I’m hoping we can bring to the Department of Education,” Barcarse said of the Kahua program. “What I’d like to see is a program like that and others that fit specific community needs.”
Barcarse also moonlights on Sundays as a DJ and program producer for the Alana I Kai Hikina, Hawaiian language, for KWXX-FM.
He discussed his support of Early College programs that enable high-schoolers to receive credit for college coursework, more internship and mentorship opportunities from local businesses and a way to make it possible for students in rural areas to still participate in activities like after-school programs.
“Hawaii has some really deep problems as a community and economy,” he said, citing poverty as an example. “We need those solutions to come from within — to equip and prepare our children to be the leaders of the industries that aren’t there.”
“We’re all in this ship together, we’re all in this canoe together, and we need to work interdependently,” he said. “We don’t all need to be doing the same thing but we have to be working toward the same goal.”
Also on Friday, Ige reappointed Kenneth Uemura and Bruce Voss, both of whom joined the Board of Education in 2016.
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