The department recently came under fire for its handling of funding for capital improvement projects.
The Hawaii Department of Education has a new official responsible for overseeing campus facilities as it struggles to handle millions of dollars in capital improvement project funds.
Audrey Hidano was appointed as interim assistant superintendent of the Office of Facilities and Operations last week, according to DOE’s website. Before joining the DOE earlier this year, Hidano served as deputy comptroller for the state Department of Accounting and General Services as well as deputy director of the Department of Transportation and the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.
She was also co-founder of Hidano Construction Inc., which specialized in residential projects before it dissolved in 2016.
In her new role, Hidano will be responsible for overseeing the maintenance and construction of campus facilities, as well as school meals, transportation and security.
Hidano’s appointment comes less than three weeks after Randall Tanaka left the same role shortly after the department publicized its failure to spend $465 million in CIP funds. The DOE said Tanaka’s departure was a personnel issue and declined to provide additional details.
Tanaka served as assistant superintendent for nearly four years, and had a salary range of $160,000 to $190,000 in the 2024 fiscal year. Department spokeswoman Krislyn Yano said Hidano’s salary will fall between $157,500 and $189,000.
Hidano’s appointment comes amid ongoing conversations around reorganizing the office she now oversees.
In a Senate briefing last week, Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz questioned the range of responsibilities the assistant superintendent of facilities and operations oversees. In her new role, Hidano will oversee seven different branches in the DOE, including those responsible for schools’ repair and maintenance, project management and food services.
“This is overwhelming,” Dela Cruz said in the briefing.
He added that senators may consider introducing legislation to reorganize the Office of Facilities and Operations in the upcoming legislative session.
Board of Education chair Warren Haruki said the board is working with DOE to assess the current state of school facilities and campuses. It’s only once this review is completed, Haruki added, that he expects any changes to take place through BOE policies, statutory changes or other efforts.
“Everything is on the table,” Haruki said.
Rep. Justin Woodson, chair of the House education committee, said he would first like to give DOE time to internally review its processes for completing CIP projects. At this time, he added, it seems premature to introduce legislation that would reorganize the department or attempt to expedite the completion of CIP projects.
Hidano will report to deputy superintendent Curt Otaguro, who joined the department in August 2022.
Having previously worked with Hidano in the Department of Accounting and General Services, Otaguro said he appreciates Hidano’s persistence and sense of urgency around completing ongoing CIP projects, as well as her familiarity with the construction industry.
Correction: The following quote was mistakenly attributed to a different DOE official in a prior version of this report:
“This is a critical time for the state,” Otaguro said. “And this is absolutely a critical time for the DOE.”
Civil Beat’s education reporting is supported by a grant from Chamberlin Family Philanthropy.
Sign up for our FREE morning newsletter and face each day more informed.
A good reason not to give
We know not everyone can afford to pay for news right now, which is why we keep our journalism free for everyone to read, listen, watch and share.
But that promise wouldn’t be possible without support from loyal readers like you.
Make a gift to Civil Beat today and help keep our journalism free for all readers. And if you’re able, consider a sustaining monthly gift to support our work all year-round.