Hawaii School Superintendent Christina Kishimoto received a favorable year-end evaluation from the state Board of Education, earning an overall rating of “effective,” the state Department of Education said in a news release Thursday.

Kishimoto was scored based on five professional standards and five priorities for the current school year that were agreed upon in advance by her and the board.

She also received an “effective” rating during  her mid-year assessment, when her original three-year contract was extended by one year.

“To achieve an ‘effective’ rating, Superintendent Kishimoto had to demonstrate performance that consistently met expectations and had to maintain effective results, satisfactory program outcomes and good relations with students, staff, and community members,” the seven-page assessment states.

DOE Superintendent Dr Christina Kishimoto during joint house/senate education hearing at the Capitol.
Superintendent Christina Kishimoto, second from left, was evaluated on such standards as leadership and community relations and equitable access to a quality education. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Kishimoto, who was hired at a starting $240,000 annual salary, is a veteran school administrator who previously led school districts in Gilbert, Arizona, and Hartford, Connecticut. She took the helm of Hawaii’s public schools in August 2017 and made visiting most, if not all, of the state’s 256 public DOE schools a priority in her first year on the job.

She also made some structural changes to central DOE leadership and has emphasized student voice and “school design” as the cornerstone of improving the public school experience. She oversees the nation’s 10th-largest school system, the only statewide one in the country, that includes about 22,000 employees, 13,700 teachers and 179,000 students.

The board praised the superintendent’s engagement with school leaders and community members, specifically citing her “focused strategies,” support for school-level decision-making,  her reorganization of the DOE, and development of a recent 10-year strategic plan initiative. 

The evaluation said she provides “hope and excitement” for the schools.

The board also cited Kishimoto’s “willingness to publicly defend the quality of the public school system against long-standing and unfair mischaracterizations.”

The evaluation said she exceeded her goal of increasing the percentage of special education students in the general education setting; ensured that every DOE school has a documented academic and financial plan; and has worked to establish professional development opportunities for English language learner teachers.

The assessment also includes mention of future initiatives, including a statewide school safety plan and a possible community “talk story” series.

Areas that remain challenging for the superintendent include personnel management and facilities, the board noted.

The board also said it had concerns with the retention portion of her five-year teacher recruitment and retention plan, especially regarding “how effective the plan will be in addressing these perennial issues,” the assessment states.

The nine voting members of the Board of Education are appointed by the governor and are in charge of hiring, renewing and evaluating the school chief.

Attached to Kishimoto’s year-end assessment, which just covers the last 10 months, was general feedback from certain “stakeholders,” whom Kishimoto had requested provide input on her performance, although that feedback doesn’t affect her overall rating.

Those stakeholders include principals, business leaders and Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard.

Most of the respondents “either agreed or strongly agreed that public education in Hawaii has improved over the last year.” It was unclear what characteristics they based their conclusions on.

The summary added that stakeholders felt the top three strategic priorities that should be identified for the next 10 years are college and career readiness, whole child development and teacher recruitment, retention and development.

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