Suevon Lee – Honolulu Civil Beat https://www.civilbeat.org Honolulu Civil Beat - Investigative Reporting Wed, 24 Apr 2019 05:36:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.0.3 Multilingual Report Cards May Be Coming Soon To Hawaii Schools https://www.civilbeat.org/2019/04/multilingual-report-cards-may-be-coming-soon-to-hawaii-schools/ Tue, 23 Apr 2019 10:01:10 +0000 https://www.civilbeat.org/?p=1329287 The Hawaii Department of Education plans to gradually roll out the option of preparing student report cards in languages other than English, starting with Hawaiian, according to a presentation delivered to the Board of Education last week. “What we are going to be able to look at doing is, (ask), what language would you like […]

The post Multilingual Report Cards May Be Coming Soon To Hawaii Schools appeared first on Honolulu Civil Beat.

]]>
The Hawaii Department of Education plans to gradually roll out the option of preparing student report cards in languages other than English, starting with Hawaiian, according to a presentation delivered to the Board of Education last week.

“What we are going to be able to look at doing is, (ask), what language would you like your report card in, family, and we will be able to give it to you in that language,” Brook Conner, chief information officer for the department, told the board.

It’s not clear when the option might become available, but the idea was floated as part of a lengthy presentation Conner delivered outlining the DOE’s five-year plan to move documents online, modernize its financial systems and plan other technological updates.

Board of Education meeting. Catherine Payne .

DOE’s student information system, Infinite Campus, will allow issuing report cards in a variety of  languages.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Roughly 8% of Hawaii’s public student body, or close to 15,000 students, are “English learners,” with the most common languages spoken among students being Ilocano, Chuukese, Marshallese, Tagalog, Spanish, Japanese, Mandarin and Samoan, according to a 2019 DOE briefing to the Legislature.

A March 2016 report by the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism measured Hawaiian as the fifth-most spoken language at home other than English, behind Tagalog, Ilocano, Japanese and Spanish.

Both English and Hawaiian are considered official languages of the state, which is why the DOE may be looking in that direction first when it comes to the report cards.

In early 2016, the Board of Education approved a new “Multilingualism for Equitable Education” policy whose three-year implementation plan included providing language programs for multilingual students, equipping teachers with more preparation and instructional materials and providing better outreach to families.

The post Multilingual Report Cards May Be Coming Soon To Hawaii Schools appeared first on Honolulu Civil Beat.

]]>
DOE Lays Out A 10-year ‘Road Map’ For Fixing Old Schools, Building New Ones https://www.civilbeat.org/2019/04/doe-lays-out-a-10-year-road-map-for-fixing-old-schools-building-new-ones/ Wed, 17 Apr 2019 10:01:38 +0000 https://www.civilbeat.org/?p=1328500 Hawaii Department of Education officials are hoping a new statewide facilities master plan will persuade lawmakers to provide more money for maintaining and renovating aging public schools and building new facilities. Extensive and wide-ranging, the master plan lays out an exhaustive list of 1,300 desired capital improvement projects across all 261 DOE campuses. It was […]

The post DOE Lays Out A 10-year ‘Road Map’ For Fixing Old Schools, Building New Ones appeared first on Honolulu Civil Beat.

]]>
Hawaii Department of Education officials are hoping a new statewide facilities master plan will persuade lawmakers to provide more money for maintaining and renovating aging public schools and building new facilities.

Extensive and wide-ranging, the master plan lays out an exhaustive list of 1,300 desired capital improvement projects across all 261 DOE campuses.

It was published late last week on a website managed by Jacobs Engineering Group, an outside firm commissioned by the DOE to conduct the study.

The estimated total price tag for “top priority” projects, such as additional classroom space to account for overcrowding or basic repair and maintenance to make schools safer, is $7 billion, according to the 309-page report. That figure rises to $11 billion when accounting for all levels of priorities.

Under the DOE’s current approximately $300 million annual CIP allocation from the Legislature, those “Priority 1” projects — which include the “highest, non-negotiable needs” identified in each area of Hawaii — would take 23 years to address.

Central Middle School front lawn. Central Middle School is a historic school building in Honolulu, Hawaii, built on the grounds the former palace of Princess Ruth Keelikōlani of Hawaii.

Central Middle School is a historic school building in Honolulu, built on the grounds of the former palace of Princess Ruth Keelikōlani. The average age of the state’s school buildings is 60 years old.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

“This is the first time the state Department of Education has a facility master plan – how are we going to invest in the important and often small amounts of CIP funding we get,” said Assistant Superintendent Dann Carlson, who is in charge of facilities for DOE.

“It also says, if we’re only to get $300 million for the next 10 years, this is what we can expect to get done, but the reality is we have a lot of priorities the communities have prioritized. We’re not going to be able to accomplish all that if we’re only getting $300 million a year.”

A Large List Of Needs

The master plan is the culmination of a years-long contract Jacobs had with the DOE to complete a statewide facilities assessment, evaluate how the needs match up with education standards and determine the best process to address those needs.

That contract was initially estimated to cost $4.6 million in 2014, but rose to $7.9 million as the scope was broadened from developing an Oahu schools’ master plan to a statewide assessment, according to contracts between DOE and Jacobs. 

The purpose of the master plan is to provide a “10-year roadmap” for school officials to consider how it wants to prioritize capital improvement projects and actually deliver on them.

“The goal of this facility master plan is simple: a quality school for every child, regardless of where they live,” the report states.

The categories for these capital improvement projects include capacity and instructional needs, such as building more classrooms that support STEM, visual arts, career and technical education. They also cover meeting gender equity and accessibility requirements, as well as basic repair and maintenance, starkly captured in anonymous comments sprinkled throughout the report.

“Main building is sinking in certain areas. I have to put my legs around the desk to stay still because my chair slides off,” the principal of Naalehu Elementary on Big Island, whose name is not included in the report, is quoted as saying.

The proposed projects include meeting basic needs such as air-conditioning for classrooms. But there are also highly ambitious proposals like a $20 million to $40 million construction project at Central Oahu’s Mililani Uka Elementary, complete with a new three-story classroom building, cafeteria, kitchen and covered multi-purpose area.

Another major proposal is a $40 million to $75 million plan for combining Jarrett Middle School with Palolo Elementary into a pre-K through 8 school, while turning the Palolo school building into a “Honolulu Professional Development Center.”

DOE officials emphasize that the wish list was compiled through extensive community engagement.

The effort involved 500 people, including parents, students, teachers, principals and administrators around the state. There were 100 workshops held during the past year culminating in a two day “summit” on Oahu in February to discuss goals and objectives, according to the report.

Inequitable Spending

DOE faces complicated challenges.

Many of its buildings are worn and aging — DOE facilities, which span 20 million square feet of space across the state, average 60 years in age. Changing migration patterns around the state have contributed to schools that are both over- and under-capacity. And a politicized system of “legislative add-on” line item projects often bump other projects off the DOE capital improvements priority list, the report notes.

“Without a strategic plan, the result has been sustained inequitable allocation of public resources, with some students benefitting at the expense of others who are under-represented,” the plan states.

There are schools in “high-growth areas” that are short of seats for up to 12,000 students. Other areas shrinking in population have “more than 22,000 surplus capacity for students that are no longer there,” the report notes.

Dann Carlson, Assistant Superintendent, Office of School Facilities and Support Services during joint senate/house hearing.

Dann Carlson, assistant superintendent for school facilities, said the facilities master plan is “a starting point” to drive DOE decisions moving forward.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The more open question is how the facilities master plan will drive DOE decisions moving forward.

There’s an existing DOE “priority list” for CIP projects and this plan is just a “starting point” to steer it in certain directions, Carlson said.

“It’s a valuable resource we can draw from and look at in making our decisions for planning as we go forward,” said John Chung, public works administrator for the DOE.

Where’s The Funding?

There are big questions about where the funding will come from. The plan recommends finding new funding sources and models, including issuing asset revenue bonds, or raising the sales tax, tourism tax or property tax for education.

The current funding framework is “insufficient to deliver top statewide priorities within a reasonable timeframe,” the plan says.

But the 10-year plan will take “a fundamental change of political institutions” that involves a “broad legislative information campaign and courageous leadership from HIDOE, Board of Education and legislature,” the report continues.

The DOE in the 2019 fiscal year requested $783 million for its CIP budget. The Legislature approved $281 million.

It’s not clear whether the existence of this new facility master plan will sway lawmakers in appropriating more down the road.

Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Donovan Dela Cruz said the DOE needs to come up with “a portfolio of ways” to fund projects and that the Legislature needs to balance the school system’s needs with other needs throughout the state.

“I don’t think the Legislature, or the governor or budget director will give up their fiduciary responsibility and just take whatever (figure) the board (of education) sends to the Legislature verbatim,” he said.

“There’s so many different needs statewide. There has to be a portfolio of ways to pay for these improvements, even new facilities.”

The post DOE Lays Out A 10-year ‘Road Map’ For Fixing Old Schools, Building New Ones appeared first on Honolulu Civil Beat.

]]>
State Initiates Audit Of School Impact Fees On Developers https://www.civilbeat.org/2019/04/state-initiates-audit-of-school-impact-fees-on-developers/ Tue, 09 Apr 2019 10:01:11 +0000 https://www.civilbeat.org/?p=1327118 The Office of the State Auditor is auditing a program in which the Hawaii Department of Education collects impact fees from residential housing developments in certain areas. The performance audit was self-initiated, State Auditor Les Kondo told state Board of Education members Thursday, to gain a “very broad, general understanding of the program.” “We’re assessing […]

The post State Initiates Audit Of School Impact Fees On Developers appeared first on Honolulu Civil Beat.

]]>
The Office of the State Auditor is auditing a program in which the Hawaii Department of Education collects impact fees from residential housing developments in certain areas.

The performance audit was self-initiated, State Auditor Les Kondo told state Board of Education members Thursday, to gain a “very broad, general understanding of the program.”

“We’re assessing the department’s performance of these projects, how they’re actually implementing these programs,” he said in a brief presentation at a BOE meeting. “I understand there’s been very little activity in this program, which may help us or may not help us.”

State Auditor Les Kondo speaks about the first HART Audit.

State Auditor Les Kondo told Board of Education members they should think of the audit initiated by his office as “a free service.”

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

School impact fees were established by the Legislature in 2007 to address the impact of new residential development on schools. Act 245 directed developers to either pay a fee or provide land to contribute to the cost of building new or expanding existing DOE facilities.

The DOE has since identified five impact districts for the fees — the latest being the Kalihi to Ala Moana corridor on Oahu that tracks the path of the Honolulu rail project — which has so far generated about $5.5 million total, in an account maintained by the DOE’s facilities branch.

Department of Education personnel, as well as some board members and outside stakeholders, have already been asked to provide information about how the program operates, Kondo said. His office has been working on the audit since mid-February, with a draft report expected sometime in June.

Although state audits typically take six months to complete, Kondo told the board he expects a quicker process because of the relatively small scale of the fees program.

“Our goal is to help you out. You get a free service,” he told board members. “Hopefully, we make real, meaningful recommendations to make your operation better. It’s really for the department to improve management and operations of your programs.”

Implementation of the fee program has been uneven and sometimes controversial over the years.

“The process has gone through a metamorphosis,” said BOE member Brian DeLima. “When you look at this history, it appears this is something fraught with difficulty.”

The newest impact fee district stretches from Kalihi to Ala Moana.

Department of Education

The program concept raised a grumble in West Hawaii — the earliest school impact district identified by the DOE — causing then-mayor Billy Kenoi to refuse to collect fees from developers, saying they would financially burden small property owners.

The area has not collected any school impact fees to date and Kondo told the board he didn’t plan to approach the current mayor, Harry Kim, about those underlying reasons.

The Legislature came up with the formula for school impact fees, while the DOE determines the district and conducts the fee analysis. Fees are calculated by the total school land requirement multiplied by the value per acre of potential future school sites.

Other fee districts identified so far include Leeward Oahu, West Maui and Central Maui. The impact fees for the regions range from $3,300 to $5,300 per unit.

The DOE’s fees analysis has also seen adjustment. A draft analysis three years ago proposed an impact fee for the Kalihi to Ala Moana area at about $9,300 per housing unit, but since taking effect on Oct. 1, that fee was adjusted to $3,800 per unit.

The impact fees are not applied to commercial, industrial and senior housing projects, but affordable housing developments are not exempt. That’s riled some developers, including Stanford Carr, who said the added fees “exacerbate an already challenging task.”

“If the DOE wants to extract an impact fee for new housing, they’re making it further difficult to build housing in an already constrained market,” Carr said.

The audit comes at an interesting time.

While the DOE conducts its own internal financial audits, it’s faced some increasing calls in recent years by legislators for a financial audit from the state Auditor’s Office, as proposed by Senate Bill 856, which is still alive this session.

Kondo’s office did not take a position on that bill, instead commenting that it would prefer to see a clarification of the scope of the desired auditing or more specific direction.

When it comes to the school impact fees, Kondo told Civil Beat he purposely chose this program because it would be relatively easy to do in the designated timeframe and responded “I do not know” as to whether it’s a potential sign of more DOE audits to come.

The post State Initiates Audit Of School Impact Fees On Developers appeared first on Honolulu Civil Beat.

]]>
Ige Appoints Kamehameha Schools Official To Board of Education https://www.civilbeat.org/2019/04/ige-appoints-kamehameha-schools-official-to-board-of-education/ Sat, 06 Apr 2019 02:45:20 +0000 https://www.civilbeat.org/?p=1326868 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 […]

The post Ige Appoints Kamehameha Schools Official To Board of Education appeared first on Honolulu Civil Beat.

]]>
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.

Damien Kaimana Barcarse has been appointed to the Hawaii Board of Education.

Office of the Governor

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.

The post Ige Appoints Kamehameha Schools Official To Board of Education appeared first on Honolulu Civil Beat.

]]>
Following Lawsuit, DOE Revives Its Gender Equity Committee https://www.civilbeat.org/2019/04/following-lawsuit-doe-revives-its-gender-equity-committee/ Fri, 05 Apr 2019 10:01:37 +0000 https://www.civilbeat.org/?p=1326399 A Hawaii Department of Education committee charged with making recommendations to the school superintendent regarding public high schools’ compliance with the Title IX civil rights law has been revived after lying dormant for six years. The DOE Gender Equity in Athletics Committee has been quietly reestablished in the wake of a wide-ranging federal lawsuit brought […]

The post Following Lawsuit, DOE Revives Its Gender Equity Committee appeared first on Honolulu Civil Beat.

]]>
A Hawaii Department of Education committee charged with making recommendations to the school superintendent regarding public high schools’ compliance with the Title IX civil rights law has been revived after lying dormant for six years.

The DOE Gender Equity in Athletics Committee has been quietly reestablished in the wake of a wide-ranging federal lawsuit brought by the ACLU of Hawaii late last year against the DOE and the Oahu Interscholastic Association over alleged gender disparities in Campbell High School athletics.

Those disparities include the lack of a girls’ athletic locker room and boys teams’ access to more experienced coaching staff, prime time games and promotion by their school.

Campbell HS female track track runners prepare some practice gear during practice near the football field.

The DOE gender equity committee has been revived in the wake of a December 2018 ACLU lawsuit against Campbell High School for gender disparities in its athletics programs.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Three sitting members of the committee, believed to include about 12 members, confirmed their participation to Civil Beat. The development was also briefly mentioned in an item on the March 7 Board of Education agenda laying out the superintendent’s priorities.

A DOE spokeswoman, however, has declined to confirm the committee’s existence, members’ names and identities or its specific tasks.

DOE Communications director Lindsay Chambers said on Wednesday that any inquiry on the topic will be treated as a formal public information request, “given that some of your questions address an active lawsuit.”

The committee, which has met once in March and is scheduled to meet again in July, is a revival of a long-standing working group that convened between 2001 to 2013.

Its purpose was to make recommendations to the DOE superintendent about how schools could comply with Title IX, the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in any federally funded education program.

The DOE group was an extension of a commission established in 2000 under the “Gender Equity in Athletics Law,” passed by the Hawaii Legislature in 1999 in response to troubling reports of gender disparities in high school athletics that were coming to light in the years since the enactment of Title IX in 1972.

That commission’s final report, issued in 2003, noted lingering issues at the five public high schools it studied, including disproportionate sports participation rates by girls compared to their total student enrollment and need for facilities’ upgrades, according to ACLU’s lawsuit.

Previous Committee

Meanwhile, the DOE committee pressed on.

It continued to meet over the next decade, sharing its findings in open meetings. Chaired by Mike Victorino, now the mayor of Maui, it included various individuals from within and outside the department, including Jill Nunokawa, a civil rights specialist for the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

“We would advise the superintendent on gender equity initiatives and compliance benchmark indicators, (school) monitoring and assistance in implementation, identifying challenges and advocating the Legislature for additional resources,” she said.

Every public high school in Hawaii was required to do a review of their athletics programs, with the data being reported to the DOE’s Civil Rights Compliance Office, she added.

The committee, which met twice-yearly, would examine the DOE’s facilities “priorities” list and work with the facilities division to “identify places that made the most sense” in terms of helping lift projects up off the ground.

For instance, identifying the need for a girls’ athletic locker room at Kalani High School — completed earlier this year — occurred around that time, said Nunokawa.

DOE Kathryn Matauyoshi testifies during a Hawaii State Ethics commission meeting. 27 may 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Kathryn Matayoshi, who served as schools superintendent from 2010 to 2017, disbanded the department’s gender equity committee in 2013.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

In 2013, the DOE’s committee was abruptly disbanded under then-school superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi.

In a June 2016 lawsuit filed in Oahu First Circuit Court, Susan Kitsu, the former director of the DOE’s Civil Rights Compliance Office, alleged that Matayoshi in 2012 told her staff to “stop gathering Title IX data if it was not ‘legally required’ because it took up too much time and was not necessary,” according to the complaint.

“(Kitsu) informed Superintendent Matayoshi that without the data, (the DOE) could not assess whether it was complying with the Title IX gender equity in athletics requirements,” the complaint states.

Kitsu served as director of the DOE’s Civil Rights Compliance Office from 2005 to 2015, when she was let go from her position.

Her lawsuit against the DOE, which is awaiting a ruling, alleges employment discrimination and retaliation based on her firing after she notified top education brass of purported DOE violations of federal laws including Title IX, Title VII, mandatory reporting of child abuse and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Kitsu declined comment for this story.

‘No Real Oversight’

What spurred the DOE under current superintendent Christina Kishimoto to bring back the DOE’s gender equity committee is unclear, but the absence of a committee was raised at a Board of Education meeting in October by Nunokawa.

“Since the end of our regular meetings five years ago,” Nunokawa said in her written testimony, “the Department of Education has struggled and reverted back to its prior non-compliant ways. There is no real oversight, accountability, institutional knowledge, authentic commitment, and legal competency.”

Shortly thereafter, the ACLU of Hawaii filed its Dec. 6 lawsuit, alleging a long list of gender inequities in Hawaii’s largest public high school, including more desirable competition venues and game times for boys than girls, disproportional access to experienced coaching staff, greater athletic scholarship opportunities for boys than girls and alleged retaliation against girls who protested over such conditions.

While the plaintiffs are two unidentified Campbell senior female athletes, the suit seeks to represent all current and former Campbell High female athletes as a broader class action lawsuit. Currently in discovery, the suit seeks remedies that include a DOE compliance plan and court monitoring of such a plan.

Several months after Nunokawa’s testimony, the DOE gender equity committee was re-formed. Nunokawa was asked to be a participant.

“In their wisdom, the DOE administration decided it was a prudent and positive choice to move forward with a committee on gender equity which would incorporate some very committed and knowledgeable resources,” she said.

The ACLU was more circumspect to the development.

“Like any committee out there, the devil is in the details,” said ACLU of Hawaii Legal Director Mateo Caballero. “We’d have to understand who’s on the committee, what kind of training they have, do they understand Title IX, ultimately (its) decision-making authority.”

DOE administrator and current OIA executive director Ray Fujino, who was active in the former gender equity committee, confirmed he is serving as chair.

Dana Takahara-Dias, a vice-principal at Kaiser High and the former athletic director of Moanalua High, also confirmed her participation.

Other individuals believed to serve on the committee are Wendy Anae, athletic director of Kahuku High, although she did not directly respond to a question from Civil Beat, and Kalei Namohala, athletic director of Ka’u High on the Big Island, who could not be reached for comment.

According to Takahara-Dias, much like in the past, the committee will be analyzing data to be collected by the DOE’s civil rights compliance branch and then make recommendations to Kishimoto on how schools can comply with Title IX.

DOE Superintendent Christina Kishimoto after the Gov’s early learning signing.

Current DOE Superintendent Christina Kishimoto.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

“We take a look at the existing state of where we’re at with Title IX,” she said. “We’re primarily going to take a look at the athletic component. We take a look at the reports that the department is generating.”

The committee will be analyzing girls’ rates of participation in high school athletics compared with their total enrollment down to granular details like where they practice, what times they practice or whether they have access to athletic locker rooms and basic sports equipment on par with boys’ teams.

“If you ask the underrepresented sex which field or locker room (they use), or which time (they prefer) to play or (the) season and allow them to choose, then you begin to understand what equity looks like,” Nunokawa said.

Among Kishimoto’s list of priorities from the March 7 BOE agenda is a 10-year “Title IX Athletics Plan” that includes schools coming up with athletic self-assessments that will begin in the 2020-21 school year on a three-year rotating basis.

It also references broader, unspecified “plans” by the DOE’s Office of School Facilities and Support Services and Office of Curriculum and Instructional Design to “assess and propose options for the Department’s athletic program going forward.”

“I think the DOE got in trouble when they no longer used the committee. They stopped taking data,” Nunokawa said. “When there’s that type of non-reporting, that complacency, it will sometimes revert to bad behavior.”

She praised the revival of the committee and its make-up, pointing to its mix of current and former school athletic directors.

“The truth is, it takes a sustained commitment,” she said. “We did make inroads with our (former) committee, but it regresses, reverts back when you have certain personnel who think they’re above the law.”

The post Following Lawsuit, DOE Revives Its Gender Equity Committee appeared first on Honolulu Civil Beat.

]]>
Charter School Clampdown Has Educators Worried About Their Independence https://www.civilbeat.org/2019/04/charter-school-clampdown-has-educators-worried-about-their-independence/ Mon, 01 Apr 2019 10:01:38 +0000 https://www.civilbeat.org/?p=1325802 A bill to give the state more financial control of Hawaii charter schools has some educators worried about what they see as a threat to the charters’ independence. House Bill 622 introduced by House Finance Committee Chair Sylvia Luke is in part a response to unconfirmed reports of federal investigations of several charter schools in recent […]

The post Charter School Clampdown Has Educators Worried About Their Independence appeared first on Honolulu Civil Beat.

]]>
A bill to give the state more financial control of Hawaii charter schools has some educators worried about what they see as a threat to the charters’ independence.

House Bill 622 introduced by House Finance Committee Chair Sylvia Luke is in part a response to unconfirmed reports of federal investigations of several charter schools in recent years over alleged financial mismanagement or other irregularities. The schools are not currently required to inform the state of such investigations.

It proposes shifting control of disbursed funds to the State Public Charter School Commission for any school where an employee has been federally charged with a work-related crime.

It also tasks the commission with establishing and maintaining a central bank account system to manage expenditures for all charter schools and selecting the auditor who will conduct yearly required financial reviews of the schools.

The measure is opposed by many charter school officials and has raised concerns at the state Board of Education.

“We’re just very confused by what’s going on,” said John Thatcher, director of the Connections Public Charter School, a K-12 school in Hilo. “This is just a direct blow to the autonomy of charter schools.”

Ka’u Learning Academy was shut down by the state because of financial irregularities and enrollment discrepancies. It was operated out of a former golf clubhouse in Naalehu on the Big Island.

Courtesy Josh DeWeerd

Commission members are nominated and appointed by the Board of Education, whose members are appointed by the governor.

Several charter schools have come under scrutiny by the commission, which authorizes contracts with the schools and monitors their compliance with state and federal laws. It can also initiate reviews, enforce intervention or revoke contracts when schools fail to adhere to standards.

Last year, the commission revoked the contract of Ka’u Learning Academy, a school serving third- to seventh-graders on the Big Island, following reports of financial irregularities and enrollment discrepancies.

The commission also reconstituted the governing board for Kanuikapono Charter School, a K-12 school on Kauai, following allegations of lack of internal controls, violations of governance rules and irregular enrollment and admissions practices, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

More recently, Kona Pacific Public Charter School, a K-8 school on the Big Island, received a notice of revocation by the commission for alleged commingling of funds between the school and the nonprofit Friends of Kona Pacific Public Charter School and also allegedly inflating its enrollment numbers, according to West Hawaii Today.

Board of Education Charter School Board Member Sione Thompson.

State Public Charter School Commission Executive Director Sione Thompson said problems at a few charter schools aren’t representative of the entire system.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

“Those few schools aren’t representative of the whole, but I do understand in the actions of a few it can trigger what we’re seeing as a heightened sense of worry,” said Sione Thompson, executive director of the Charter School Commission. “There are schools that may be under (federal) investigation.”

The 36 public charter schools currently in operation — along with DreamHouse Ewa Beach, scheduled to open in July — are part of the Hawaii public school system but run by independent governing boards that select and hire school leaders, set curriculum and oversee the financial health of the school.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said charter schools are part of the Hawaii DOE.

Charter schools comprise about 11,500 students, or 6% of the total public school population. They are subject to the same statewide assessments and measures of student achievement as DOE public schools, but founded on the premise of being laboratories of innovation and thus removed from the oversight that DOE has for traditional public schools.

Burrowed within this framework of independence is also deep-seated financial uncertainty. Charter schools’ per-pupil funding this year was $7,466 per student — compared with $13,748 per student in regular schools. They must also pay for renting space with these funds as there’s no separate facilities allotment.

Teacher Rachael Hussey reads book in class to students at Malama Honua charter school in Waimanalo. 22 dec 2016

Malama Honua Public Charter School in Waimanalo, which opened in 2012, is one of 36 charter schools operating in Hawaii.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

 

That’s why proposed legislation to shake up the funding disbursement system or impose new controls has some charter school leaders concerned.

“We have been fiscally responsible for many years, (and are) being treated as if we’re not,” said Thatcher. “We just don’t understand it.”

Steve Hirakami, founder and director of Hawaii Academy of Arts & Science, on the Big Island for nearly 20 years, called House Bill 622 “a knee-jerk response to one or two errors” made by a handful of other charter schools.

“One school makes a mistake and they (lawmakers) paint a broad brush and say, you all got to do it,” Hirakami said.

The Legislature’s base budget for the upcoming school year includes $96 million for charter schools and $101 million for the 2020-21 school year.

Two other bills are also moving forward. One provides additional funding to cover mandatory incentive pay for charter school educators who are teaching in hard-to-staff areas or have national board certification. Another would continue 18 pre-K charter school classrooms started with a 2015 Federal Preschool Development grant.

A House bill that proposed a separate allocation for charter schools’ rental or lease of facilities, however, appears to have stalled in the Senate.

At least 17 of the state’s charter schools are Hawaiian culture focused. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs, which has submitted testimony in opposition to House Bill 622, has provided about $22 million in financial support for those schools since 2005-06.

A Central Bank Account?

House Bill 622 has taken several forms since it was introduced.

An earlier version passed by the House Finance Committee called for a centralized purchase order system that would have required charter schools to make specific funding requests to the commission before they could receive funds.

That proposal has since been replaced with one calling for the commission to establish and maintain a central bank account system for charter school expenditures.

Rep Chair Sylvia Luke answers questions during Civil Beat Editorial meeting held at Speaker Saiki’s office.

Rep. Sylvia Luke said her charter school bill is all about “financial accountability.”

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

“The whole crux of 622 is actually the financial accountability,” said Luke.

She pointed to the current system of charter schools getting their per-pupil funding from the commission through a lump sum distribution from the Department of Budget and Finance.

“That’s when it gets lost,” Luke said. “The funding gets deposited into the various charter schools’ accounts as opposed to a state account. What we have been told by (Budget and Finance) is that they cannot really track where the money goes.”

Lawmakers this session have held up financial transparency in agency budgets as a mantle. Some believe this measure reflects that shift.

In written testimony for an earlier version of the bill, the Charter School Commission proposed the bank account system as an alternative to the purchase order system.

Thompson, the commission’s executive director, pointed out that each charter school maintains its own private bank account to manage finances, and that the commission relies upon self-reporting. There are times, he said, when some of the quarterly reports don’t align with the annual reports or audits of the schools.

“As legislators dug very deeply into budgets this year, it seems … that was a blind spot for our legislators in some ways,” he said. “Greater transparency is what I’m speculating is desired.”

Since charter schools contract with their own auditors, the commission receives the final reports but does not necessarily have access to the underlying data used for those audits, Thompson said.

“We do believe there should be a state oversight to the audits that doesn’t preclude independent schools from having their own independent audits,” he said.

“What I don’t want is 622 to overshadow the other bills,” Thompson said. “This bill is not the answer to all of the current issues that we’re having.”

Parts Of Bill ‘An Insult’

Another component of the bill that is unsettling to charter school leaders would impose a four-year waiting period before anyone who has been affiliated with a charter school can sit on the commission or state Board of Education.

“That’s really an insult to the credibility of the people who are busting their butts to make this thing happen under all adverse circumstances and inadequate funding and dedication,” said Hirakami.

Dept of Education Board Chair Catherine Payne.

Board of Education Board Chair Catherine Payne has concerns about several aspects of the charter school bill.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The current BOE chairwoman, Catherine Payne, was appointed to that position by Gov. David Ige in 2018. A former DOE principal, she was at the time serving as the chair of the Charter School Commission.

The commission currently includes at least four members who were formerly affiliated with charter schools or their governing boards, including Mitch D’Olier, who noted that those commissioners are aware of the financial challenges facing charter schools and that this knowledge is “very helpful” in discussions.

“Where this is coming from, we’re not sure. I wish I knew too,” Payne said. “I think this caught a lot of people by surprise.”

On behalf of the BOE’s ad hoc legislative committee this session, Payne has expressed concern with several aspects of the bill, including shifting funding control away from schools upon the filing of a federal charge against an employee. She has proposed amending that to require charter schools to inform the commission once an employee comes under federal investigation.

“We absolutely support legislation that holds charter schools accountable and has authorizers holding charter schools accountable but there is enough legislation already that gives authority to the authorizers and to the board to hold these schools accountable and they’re working really hard to address that,” Payne said.

The measure passed out of the House Finance and Lower and Higher Education committees before crossing over to the Senate. The Senate Education Committee then heard it, followed by Ways and Means.

Only one lawmaker, Sen. Kurt Fevella, who sits on the Ways and Means Committee, cast a dissenting vote.

“Just by reading the bill and listening to testimonies, it doesn’t seem like a good thing,” said Fevella, the lone Republican in the Senate. “Too much oversight kills any kind of program.”

The post Charter School Clampdown Has Educators Worried About Their Independence appeared first on Honolulu Civil Beat.

]]>
Push To Increase Spending On Schools Loses Momentum https://www.civilbeat.org/2019/03/push-to-increase-spending-on-schools-loses-momentum/ Thu, 28 Mar 2019 10:01:13 +0000 https://www.civilbeat.org/?p=1325225 When last year’s proposed constitutional amendment to allow the state to raise more money for public education by implementing its own property tax was shot down, even opponents said Hawaii’s schools needed more money and vowed to help them get it. A year later, that doesn’t seem to be happening at the Hawaii Legislature, where […]

The post Push To Increase Spending On Schools Loses Momentum appeared first on Honolulu Civil Beat.

]]>
When last year’s proposed constitutional amendment to allow the state to raise more money for public education by implementing its own property tax was shot down, even opponents said Hawaii’s schools needed more money and vowed to help them get it.

A year later, that doesn’t seem to be happening at the Hawaii Legislature, where leaders are now saying the lesson of 2018 was that there needs to be better transparency in current school spending practices before more money is provided.

“Education doesn’t seem to be at the top of the agenda this session, which seems to me puzzling and interesting because there was so much discussion over the ConAm,” said Colin Moore, director of the Public Policy Center at the University of Hawaii Manoa.

Coalition against the ConAm of ‘Vote No’ for the Constitutional Amendment gather for press conference at 2750 Date Street.

Last year’s proposed constitutional amendment, which drew plenty of opposition before it was invalidated by the Supreme Court, has been followed by a much quieter legislative session when it comes to education funding.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While the proposed constitutional amendment was ultimately invalidated before the election by the Hawaii Supreme Court for its vague wording, it stirred up intense debate over the adequacy of public school funding in Hawaii that left many people wondering how it would shape future talks.

This year, however, most education funding proposals are not faring well in the Legislature.

GET Increase Stopped In House

One casualty this session — and perhaps the most analogous to the constitutional amendment as far as raising more money — was a Senate bill to increase the general excise tax by 0.5 percent to steer additional funding to the Hawaii Department of Education and the University of Hawaii.

The idea, which has been floated before, was a long shot from the start. The bill did cross over from the Senate, but will not get a hearing in the House, Sylvia Luke, the House Finance Committee chair, decided.

“We made that determination early on in session,” Luke said, adding that “bills should be introduced for discussion purposes.”

“We have an obligation to at least make an effort to show the public that we are helping the DOE bring accountability to DOE before we tackle the tax issue,” she said. “We need to have a better understanding of how these monies are being used.”

The Hawaii Department of Education’s spending practices would be audited every three years under a proposed bill.

Civil Beat

Greater transparency for the DOE’s nearly $2 billion annual operating budget was also called for by constitutional amendment opponents, including those in the business community.

“The Legislature took that very seriously. We heard that the community also wanted that aspect of it,” House Lower and Higher Education Chair Justin Woodson said earlier this session.

That’s what sparked the decision to turn to a new budgetary process this session to give committee chairs more authority over department budgets, Woodson said.

The push for more transparency has also produced Senate Bill 856, which calls for a financial and management audit of the DOE by the state auditor every three years. The measure is set to be heard by the House Finance Committee on Friday.

Such an audit “would help the state determine exactly what kinds of costs are needed to help with our schools’ infrastructure and student needs” as well as “more accurately inform further action by the Legislature to improve our schools,” the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, which opposed the constitutional amendment, said in written testimony.

Aside from one other bill to appropriate money for repair and maintenance of DOE buildings, it’s the only education measure the chamber is supporting this year.

Representatives of the Chamber and Affordable Hawaii Coalition, a political action committee organized last year to oppose the constitutional amendment, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association, which led the two-year effort to get the constitutional amendment on the ballot last year, opposes an audit and is instead pushing for a bill to commission a study on the adequacy of education funding in Hawaii.

“Although the audit may identify inefficiencies as everyone would expect, it will not find a large enough sum to make up for the inadequate funding of our public schools,” HSTA President Corey Rosenlee said in written testimony.

Another education funding measure still alive this session is Sen. Stanley Chang’s measure to offer DOE teachers placed in harder-to-staff geographic areas $500 monthly vouchers to help offset the cost of rent or mortgage payments.

Other bills that called for establishing a minimum starting pay for certified teachers and automatic step pay increases have stalled.

Education Vs. Affordability

Last year’s constitutional amendment — whose primary backer was the HSTA — generated controversy from the start.

The proposal, significantly watered down by the time it passed out of the Legislature, asked voters whether the Legislature should be authorized to establish “a surcharge on investment real property” to support public education, without offering any parameters as to what constituted “real property” or how new funds might be spent by the DOE.

If it had withstood a court challenge and been approved by voters, lawmakers would have had the task of coming up with the details of that taxing mechanism. (Although the ballot measure had already been invalidated, final election results showed overwhelming opposition.)

HSTA Corey Rosenlee speaks in support of a yes vote for the Constitutional Amendment.

HSTA President Corey Rosenlee, shown here last year with HSTA government relations specialist Mitzie Higa, center, and Deborah Zysman, executive director of Hawaii Children’s Action Network, supports a study of education funding after seeing the constitutional amendment invalidated.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

 

 

 

 

 

“It was kind of a non-commitment commitment (by legislators) to put that on the ballot,” said Jim Shon, director of the Hawaii Educational Policy Center at UH Manoa.

The HSTA argued the DOE, the country’s only statewide school district encompassing 292 schools, 179,000 students and roughly 22,000 administrative employees, is so underfunded that some public school students are deprived of a quality education.

The constitutional amendment’s opponents included the county mayors and the real estate and business communities. They said any tax surcharge on investment property would harm the average resident in Hawaii by raising rents across the board in an already unaffordable place.

The counties also didn’t want to see the state gain the ability to tax property — something only counties can do now.

“I think the residue is, people are a little gun-shy — ‘well, I guess that didn’t work out,'” Shon said. “I do think people feel that it would be better if public education were better funded, but maybe the stronger feeling is that it’s too darn expensive to live in Hawaii.”

A recent survey released by the education advocacy nonprofit HawaiiKidsCAN, conducted by Solutions Pacific and Ward Research, indicates that improving public education is a priority for residents — although it’s behind addressing homelessness and even with alleviating traffic congestion.

Out of 404 voters randomly polled statewide, 77 percent said they believed public schools should receive more funding, but it’s not clear how their responses would change if that proposed funding was through a new or raised tax.

Rosenlee said the biggest ripple effect he’s seen this year from last year’s debate is a shift in legislators’ thinking when it comes to the need for public education funding.

“Very quickly in conversations, (you) no longer have to convince (lawmakers) the schools need more funding,” he said. “The question is not, should we increase funding for public schools but what is the best way to do it?”

He added that it was encouraging to see the GET bill pass out of the Senate, even though it won’t make it through the House.

“We are surprised it got so far in the Senate. There was still a desire to fund education and we saw the Senate willing to take up the GET bill,” Rosenlee said.

The post Push To Increase Spending On Schools Loses Momentum appeared first on Honolulu Civil Beat.

]]>
The Battle Over Preschool Puts Hawaii Governor On The Hot Seat https://www.civilbeat.org/2019/03/the-battle-over-preschool-puts-hawaii-governor-on-the-hot-seat/ Tue, 19 Mar 2019 10:01:08 +0000 https://www.civilbeat.org/?p=1324245 A legislative proposal to clarify which state entity controls the state’s public pre-kindergarten program is moving forward with little agreement on how to handle the issue. The biggest standstill appears to stem from the inability of leaders of both sides — the Hawaii Department of Education and the state Executive Office on Early Learning — to reach some […]

The post The Battle Over Preschool Puts Hawaii Governor On The Hot Seat appeared first on Honolulu Civil Beat.

]]>
A legislative proposal to clarify which state entity controls the state’s public pre-kindergarten program is moving forward with little agreement on how to handle the issue.

The biggest standstill appears to stem from the inability of leaders of both sides — the Hawaii Department of Education and the state Executive Office on Early Learning — to reach some sort of resolution.

The person caught in the middle of this? Gov. David Ige. That’s evident through the words of Sen. Michelle Kidani, chair of the Senate Education Committee, who chided the governor’s legislative staff at a hearing on Friday.

“My recommendation is that the governor sit down with the players because you’re really putting the legislators between adults who should be making decisions for themselves,” she said to Ford Fuchigami, Ige’s administrative director.

“For the sake of our children, for our keiki, please work it out.”

A bill to clarify that state-funded pre-K is controlled by the Executive Office on Early Learning would keep school principals from opening new pre-K classrooms using DOE weighted student funds.

Suevon Lee/Civil Beat

Ige’s position on House Bill 921, which states that the early learning office should have administrative authority over most state-funded pre-kindergarten programs, is that it’s not needed.

“When I look at that measure as currently drafted, I really don’t see how it helps us move forward,” he said to Civil Beat after a monthly meeting of the Early Learning Board, the governing entity for the Executive Office on Early Learning.

“We have a statewide plan that we’re implementing. It really is about partnership, it’s about each entity taking their responsibility and really allowing us to move forward in early learning,” he added.

Ige had just addressed a room of early education advocates and Early Learning Board members at CEED Hawaii on South King Street, mainly to reinforce his optimism for the recently signed Early Childhood State Plan and the need for expanded opportunities for young children.

In a brief interview after his remarks, the governor said he could not answer whether he would veto HB 921 if it landed on his desk — saying it depends on what it looks like by that stage. But he made his views on the issue clear.

“If we are going to have public pre-K programs, it ought to be integrated into our public schools. And so, any pre-K program on a public school campus ought to be under the jurisdiction of that public school,” he said.

HB 921 has been described as clarifying the early learning office’s oversight of state-funded pre-K.

The bill is scheduled for decision making in the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday. From there it would go to the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

The bill now expressly prohibits the DOE from establishing any “general education prekindergarten classrooms for any purposes except for Title I-funded prekindergarten.” It now also states the DOE cannot use weighted student funds to open up general pre-K classrooms, essentially handing funding authority over to the early learning office.

“I think the idea was not to be so prescriptive,” said Ann Mahi, complex area superintendent for the Nanakuli-Waianae area. “I could establish (a new pre-K classroom) but not with the weighted student formula.”

Under the leadership of superintendent Christina Kishimoto, the DOE is staunchly opposed to the proposed legislation, arguing it would strip away principals’ authority from implementing and maintaining pre-K classrooms on their campuses.

The DOE asserts that since these classrooms are located on DOE campuses, oversight should ultimately rest with the DOE, essentially making it a preK-12, as opposed to K-12, system.

Kishimoto, who’s just shy of reaching the halfway mark in her tenure as superintendent under a four-year contract, has made her position clear. At Thursday’s Early Learning Board meeting, she made a motion for the board to ask the Legislature to “kill the bill” as unnecessary.

After a lengthy discussion by Early Learning Board representatives, the motion was narrowly defeated by a 4-3 vote.

Robert Peters, chairman of the board, said it was clear “we are struggling through this” given the board’s inability to reach a consensus on the legislation.

According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, other states such as Georgia, Massachusetts and Washington state have a separate state entity managing early childhood education, including pre-K programs.

UH President David Lassner and DOE Superintendent Christina Kishimoto in a light moment as Governor Ige signs the Early Learning.

Gov. David Ige, seen here signing Hawaii’s Early Childhood State Plan, a broad framework for early learning, is caught in the middle of a brewing debate over who should control state-funded pre-kindergarten.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Ige, meanwhile, is in the tough spot of being the bridge between the two entities that are wrestling for the lead on pre-K expansion.

The governor appointed Lauren Moriguchi, the current executive director of the early learning office and a former DOE employee, in 2015.

And while Kishimoto as superintendent is technically hired and evaluated by the Board of Education, its nine members are appointed by the governor who serve renewable three-year terms.

Ige was still a state senator at the time the Executive Office on Early Learning was established in 2012 — it was a touchstone of the administration of his predecessor, Neil Abercrombie, so his investment in the issue doesn’t run as deep.

But that hasn’t made his role brokering a compromise between these two parties any less of a challenge.

The Executive Office on Early Learning, tasked with building a high-quality early learning system in Hawaii to help its youngest residents attain future success, has so far established 26 pre-K classrooms around the state.

The existing classrooms have a potential reach of 520 4-year-olds, but need to be opened at a faster pace, the DOE argues.

According to NIEER, Hawaii ranks at the bottom of the country in terms of the proportion of 4-year-olds reached through state-funded pre-K: the program reaches only 2.1 percent of the state’s 4-year-old population, whereas the national average is around 33 percent.

The DOE is not opposed to working with the early learning office — which is not part of the DOE, just administratively attached to it — to expanding pre-K. It currently has a memorandum of agreement with the office to clarify certain roles and responsibilities when it comes to data sharing, assessments or professional development.

But the legislative attempt to codify in statute the early learning office’s administrative control over public pre-K has set off a massive effort by DOE to defeat the measure.

Underscoring these discussions is the belief that the original intent of the early learning office is being turned on its head.

“While I have no doubt the Department understands the need and aspects that go into supporting our youngest children and their families as a unit, my concern is that the priorities and concerns of the Department of Education is very different from what we envisioned about the executive office on early learning,” said former state senator Jill Tokuda, who helped lead the efforts to establish the EOEL.

“Pigeonholing (this effort) to the department will really cut us off from the need (of) where can we provide the best services all around for our young children,” she said.

As HB 921 advances, state leaders have been reminded once again of the need to work something out.

“I think we have a dilemma because we’re all after the same results,” Kidani said at Friday’s hearing, though she agreed with Mahi that the bill in its current form “won’t allow (school leaders) to do the (pre-K) pilot program they want to do.”

“I think this bill will continue to move forward until it gets in conference,” Kidani added. “I advise you guys (until then) to please (work together) diligently.”

The post The Battle Over Preschool Puts Hawaii Governor On The Hot Seat appeared first on Honolulu Civil Beat.

]]>
School Chief Chooses Some Of The People Helping To Evaluate Her https://www.civilbeat.org/2019/03/school-chief-chooses-some-of-the-people-helping-to-evaluate-her/ Wed, 13 Mar 2019 10:01:28 +0000 https://www.civilbeat.org/?p=1323401 Business leaders, principals and the Honolulu police chief are among the people the Hawaii school superintendent has asked for input on the public education system’s successes and challenges as part of her year-end evaluation process. The names of 20 people asked to provide feedback were approved by the Board of Education on March 7. Their […]

The post School Chief Chooses Some Of The People Helping To Evaluate Her appeared first on Honolulu Civil Beat.

]]>
Business leaders, principals and the Honolulu police chief are among the people the Hawaii school superintendent has asked for input on the public education system’s successes and challenges as part of her year-end evaluation process.

The names of 20 people asked to provide feedback were approved by the Board of Education on March 7.

Their responses to survey questions developed by Superintendent Christina Kishimoto will be used “to inform goal setting for the next school year,” according to a BOE document.

While this so-called stakeholder feedback is not the evaluation, the document states, it will be used by the board and Kishimoto to help create a plan to improve and address problem areas.

Board of Education meeting. Catherine Payne .

The Hawaii Board of Education will look at the responses from outside stakeholders to set goals and priorities as part of the evaluation process for Superintendent Christina Kishimoto.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outside feedback is just one component of the superintendent’s evaluation process — which was re-shaped with Kishimoto’s input when she assumed the role in 2017 — but does not affect the final performance rating, according to an outline of the process.

Still, such feedback is not likely to be discounted by the board members, who are appointed by the governor and in charge of hiring and evaluating the school superintendent during mid-year and end-of-year reviews.

The board’s performance rating for the superintendent can determine any compensation adjustments or bonuses and factors into discussions surrounding renewal or termination of her contract.

“All the board members read every single word,” BOE member Bruce Voss said of the survey responses. “To me it’s important. We need input from beyond her inner circle.”

Those asked to provide feedback this year were HPD Chief Susan Ballard, Hawaiian Electric CEO Alan Oshima, Hawaii Business Roundtable executive director Gary Kai and higher education leaders like Nathan Murata, dean of the University of Hawaii Manoa’s College of Education, and Lynn Babington, president of Chaminade University.

Education Superintendent Christina Kishimoto outside after the senate passed the measure. The State Senate on a key vote today on a bill to ask voters to decide this fall whether the state should be empowered to impose a surcharge on residential investment properties to help fund public education.

Superintendent Christina Kishimoto’s performance is being evaluated by the Hawaii Board of Education.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

From within the DOE, Kishimoto has asked four principals from various grade levels, as well as several complex area superintendents, and DOE’s director of civil rights compliance, Beth Schimmelfennig, to offer feedback.

Some people who were asked to provide feedback in the 2017-18 school year —Kishimoto’s first year leading the DOE — reappear on this year’s list, including Kamehameha Schools chief executive officer Jack Wong and State Public Charter School Commission executive director Sione Thompson.

Asked how Kishimoto chooses the respondents, a DOE spokesperson said they “represent a broad spectrum of internal and external stakeholder groups that can provide meaningful and constructive feedback.”

In April, the named individuals will be sent survey questions that ask, among other things, whether their overall perception of public education in Hawaii has improved over the last year; whether there is a “clear strategic direction” for the system; whether the superintendent has “effectively engaged with your community”; and how she can further develop community engagement.

These surveys are then collected and summarized on an anonymous basis by BOE administrative staff.

Kishimoto then will create and present a report to the board and propose a plan to “improve on successes and address concerns,” the BOE document says.

The superintendent’s priorities this school year include increasing access to advanced placement and early college courses in high schools, developing protocols for natural disasters or threats to schools, and increasing the percentage of special education students in the general education setting.

In December, Kishimoto’s three-year contract was extended by one year during her mid-year evaluation, in which she was graded as “effective.” It was the first time a school superintendent in Hawaii received a contract extension midway through their tenure. The initial closed-session BOE vote was redone in a public meeting to settle any issues over transparency.

Some BOE members interviewed after the March 7 meeting said they value the input they receive from outside sources, regardless of the fact the people are all chosen by Kishimoto herself.

“We’ve never had this input before, I think it’s healthy,” said Brian De Lima, who asked Kishimoto at the March 7 board meeting to consider adding to her list an advocate for special education students. “You’ve got to take everything with a grain of salt. Every one of these individuals has an interest in the state of public education in Hawaii. Obviously, the board members want the superintendent to succeed.”

Robert Fox, professor emeritus at University of Hawaii Hilo, who served on the state Board of Education from 1992 to 1996 when it was comprised of elected members, recalls that even back then, the evaluation process for the school superintendent was predictable.

“While it was the board evaluating the superintendent, the process was very staff-directed,” Fox said. “The process and criteria were all suggested by members of the (DOE) staff or personnel.

“It was and is my opinion that the Board of Education very much were lay people, whose attention was directed by the superintendent and the associate superintendents. By and large the issues it considered were brought to it either by the superintendent or the result of public outcries that went through the superintendent.”

The post School Chief Chooses Some Of The People Helping To Evaluate Her appeared first on Honolulu Civil Beat.

]]>
Who Should Run Hawaii’s Pre-K Program? https://www.civilbeat.org/2019/03/who-should-run-hawaiis-pre-k-program/ Wed, 06 Mar 2019 10:01:28 +0000 https://www.civilbeat.org/?p=1322558 A bill in the Legislature that seeks to clarify the oversight authority of a state office dedicated to early learning in Hawaii has exposed rifts at the core of a supposed working partnership between that agency and the head of the state Department of Education. House Bill 921, which asserts that the state’s Executive Office […]

The post Who Should Run Hawaii’s Pre-K Program? appeared first on Honolulu Civil Beat.

]]>
A bill in the Legislature that seeks to clarify the oversight authority of a state office dedicated to early learning in Hawaii has exposed rifts at the core of a supposed working partnership between that agency and the head of the state Department of Education.

House Bill 921, which asserts that the state’s Executive Office on Early Learning has administrative authority over Hawaii’s public pre-kindergarten classrooms, has drawn sharp opposition from school superintendent Christina Kishimoto.

She has made her displeasure known in testimony, comments and a Feb. 5 letter to the chair of the Early Learning Board, the governing board for EOEL that shapes early learning policy in the state.

“All partners at the table are being treated as ‘capable’ leaders when it comes to PreK programming, while HIDOE is being represented as incapable of understanding and managing its own PreK program,” according to Kishimoto’s letter to state Early Learning Board chairman Robert Peters, a copy of which was reviewed by Civil Beat.

Executive Office of Early Learning Executive Director Lauren Moriguchi, far right, and schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto, second from right,  attend a signing ceremony in January for the state’s Early Childhood State Plan.

Suevon Lee/Civil Beat

The underlying tension between DOE and the early learning office, which was established by the Legislature in 2012 to focus on early childhood education from birth to age 5, is playing out as Hawaii embarks on expanding the number of public pre-K classrooms in public schools from its current 26 to more than 300 within 10 years.

The split touches on who should be in charge of the pre-K buildout, how much consideration is being given to each other’s expertise and above all, the pace of the rollout of new public pre-K classrooms.

“The DOE is not being treated as a policy and program partner at the table,” Kishimoto told Civil Beat on Tuesday. “When a bill comes up without engaging us about our pre-Ks in our schools, I am going to have something to say about that. Because once again, I am seeing the DOE is being treated as if we are on the fringe of ed policy instead of at the core and heart of public education policy.”

HB 921 is one in a series of bills over the last several years that have sought to clarify the early learning office’s role — and it’s not the only one that has been met with DOE resistance.

Last year, in what was Kishimoto’s first legislative season since assuming her role in August 2017, she said she objected to a proposal that removed preschool, with limited exceptions, from DOE’s purview. The measure was eventually signed by Gov. David Ige after briefly appearing on his intent to veto list.

Too Few Public Pre-K Programs

Established during the Gov. Neil Abercrombie administration, the Executive Office on Early Learning is responsible for establishing a “high-quality” learning framework for pre-K students in Hawaii’s public schools.

For the early learning office, that means training pre-K teachers, providing mentoring and professional development and administering and distributing funds to schools that express a desire to adopt a pre-K program.

DOE Superintendent Christina Kishimoto after early learning signing at the Gov’s office.

Superintendent Christina Kishimoto wants her agency to have more say in expansion plans for the state’s pre-K program.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The existing 26 pre-K classrooms, with a current total capacity of 520 4-year-olds — are known as “EOEL pre-K classrooms.”  Those are separate from federally funded Head Start public preschool programs or those exclusively administrated by the DOE for special education or Title I-funded students.

Hawaii has one of the lowest rates of public preschool participation in the country while having some of the most expensive private preschool costs. An estimated 42 percent of the state’s kindergarteners in the 2012-13 school year had not gone through any kind of preschool, known to be a crucial first step in laying the groundwork for academic and social success down the road.

The early learning office is seeking $2 million in funding for 22 additional pre-K classrooms on DOE campuses, primarily to fund a teacher and educational assistant in each class.

Hawaii’s educational leaders face pressure from community leaders to rapidly increase access to public pre-kindergarten. DOE wants to create the new classrooms at a faster pace than the early learning office.

Hawaii currently has one of the lowest rates of children attending public preschool programs. Pictured here are preschoolers playing at Linapuni Elementary in Kalihi.

Suevon Lee

The answer about how fast to expand is not so clear, says EOEL Executive Director Lauren Moriguchi. She has explained in legislative hearings that a high-quality pre-K classroom requires careful training, observation and professional development of teachers given the unique learning needs of kids at that age.

HB 921, which passed the House and will now be considered by the Senate, has landed squarely in the midst of these pedagogical concerns, pitting the superintendent and her complex area superintendents against the early learning office and its supporters. Those supporters include early childhood education advocates, parents and some principals.

“It’s working just fine as it is, why do you need to throw a wrench in it?” said Nancy Jadallah, who retired as principal of Hookena Elementary on Big Island last year. “From a financial standpoint, what (Moriguchi) does is, she gives us a teacher, a contract EA (educational assistant) and gives them either $5,000 or $7,000 to buy supplies.”

Current Bill ‘Maintains The Status Quo’

The current bill, according to its sponsor Rep. Justin Woodson, chair of the House Lower and Higher Education Committee, clarifies that the early learning office has administrative authority over all state-funded pre-K programs, except those currently administered by DOE.

It does not delineate any new responsibilities to the early learning office or curtail any existing DOE authority over certain public pre-K programs, Woodson said.

“It’s unfortunate that certain individuals are saying it takes away authority from principals or complex area superintendents,” he said. “The proposal does not do that in any way, shape or form. It’s attempting to maintain the status quo as it relates to the operations of public early learning in the state of Hawaii.”

Rep Justin Woodson Chair House Education during DOE meeting held at the Capitol Auditorium.

Rep. Justin Woodson, chair of the House Lower and Higher Eduction Committee, says his bill doesn’t take any current authority away from DOE.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Absent the bill’s clarifying language, “I do get scared that our youngest children won’t be cared for and educated in the way they should be,” said Kathy Murphy, executive director of the Hawaii Association for the Education of Young Children. “The DOE hasn’t been in the business of young children.”

But according to Kishimoto, the DOE has been “ignored” in discussions among the EOEL and Early Learning Board.

(Clarification: Although other partners at the table include Head Start and Kamehameha Schools, the superintendent said she was not referring to those parties.)

In her letter to Peters, Kishimoto charged the DOE was “left off a list of acknowledgements as meaningful contributors” to a federal preschool development grant initiative and that the DOE’s interests “are not being represented or supported by this influential board.”

“We have asked specific questions about, how can we be a powerful partner with EOEL to move this agenda?” she said to Civil Beat. “And every step of the way for the last six to eight months I have been deferred multiple times with no response to ideas I’ve put at the table.

“We will not be a silent partner at the table,” she added. “We are a well-resourced organization that should be a major partner at the table to make this happen. We are the ones who hear directly from the parents about when are you going to open up more pre-Ks?”

Contact Key Lawmakers

Multiple principals and complex area superintendents, who oversee large geographic areas comprised of neighboring high schools and their feeder elementary and middle schools, made a rare appearance at a Feb. 21 House Finance hearing to oppose the bill.

“I’ve never seen a hearing where six (complex area superintendents) show up,” said Rep. Roy Takumi, the former longtime House education committee chair.

The state’s 14 complex area superintendents sent their own signed letter to ELB Chair Peters on Feb. 11, in which they wrote they were “troubled by (ELB and EOEL’s) accusations that we are not capable administrators and should not retain authority over PreK classrooms on our campuses.” They contended they’re being “criticized for supposedly lacking subject-matter expertise in this area.”

Takumi said public pre-K programming was an area the two previous superintendents — Pat Hamamoto and Kathryn Matayoshi — were happy to leave in the early learning office’s hands, given the gargantuan task of managing the K-12 system.

“For reasons unknown to me, the (current) superintendent decided this was an area that she wanted to get more active in,” he said. “Theoretically, it’s a great thing when the superintendent of public education and the governor want to get more involved in early learning in our state.”

“If the superintendent and (DOE) wants to take hold of the early learning program, they are free to try and do so but what that would require is a bill to repeal the Executive Office on Early Learning,” Takumi added. “Absent that, the law is still the law. It’s very clear we have charged the EOEL with early learning in the state of Hawaii.”

The post Who Should Run Hawaii’s Pre-K Program? appeared first on Honolulu Civil Beat.

]]>