New faces are expected to join the Hawaii Board of Education soon to replace three members whose terms expire Wednesday, but it’s not clear who will be filling at least one of those vacancies.

Board of Education members are gubernatorial appointments who must be confirmed by the state Senate. Last session, Gov. David Ige submitted two names for consideration for three-year terms beginning Thursday — Bill Arakaki, the retired complex area superintendent for the Kauai district, and BOE Chairwoman Catherine Payne, who has expressed willingness to stay in her post.

Arakaki was confirmed on April 22, but Payne’s nomination was pulled without explanation. That leaves two seats in limbo.

Public sit in a circle during a meet/greet with Board of Education board member Dwight Takeno and left, Chair Catherine Payne at Manoa Library.
BOE members Catherine Payne and Dwight Takeno both have terms ending Wednesday. Payne is willing to stay, but her renomination was pulled without explanation in April. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2018

“He did withdraw my nomination,” Payne said Tuesday. “Until there is a replacement for me, as with all boards and commissions, I will remain (in my position) until the governor makes a decision.”

The vacancies come at a critical time for the BOE, which is responsible for selecting a new Department of Education superintendent to replace Christina Kishimoto, who will step down when her term ends on July 30.

In April, Senate education chair Michelle Kidani issued a sharply worded statement, accusing the governor of circumventing her committee’s “advise and consent process” so he could “name an interim Board member of his choosing” by not submitting enough names for the number of soon-to-be vacancies on the board.

An interim member would be able to serve on the Board with full voting authority until the state Senate votes to confirm a new choice.

But Ige hasn’t even announced an interim appointment yet — outside those seats to be held by Arakaki and Payne, for the time being.

“Boards and Commissions says they’re still working on filling the vacancy. Nothing to announce yet,” Ige spokeswoman Jodi Leong said Tuesday via email.

In her April 9 statement, Kidani suggested that by sidestepping the public input process, the governor was setting up “potential interference in the selection of the next superintendent.”

The Board has selected an interim superintendent who will begin Aug. 1 — Waipahu High Principal Keith Hayashi — and plans to resume a lengthier and more expansive search for a permanent superintendent starting this fall.

The two board members stepping down are Maggie Cox, who has served two three-year terms, and Dwight Takeno, who served one term.

State lawmakers plan to return to the Capitol on July 6 to address issues like veto overrides and the budget.

The Board of Education meets next on July 15. A number of important issues must still be hammered out, including finalizing the process for selecting a new permanent superintendent and ironing out the pieces of the DOE’s plan for use of pandemic federal relief funds.

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