Hawaii’s Board of Education is owning up to a lack of follow-through on previous plans for public education and taking steps to increase accountability as it forms a new strategic plan. 

At a meeting Thursday morning, board members reviewed results from an online survey for the strategic plan that garnered 7,756 responses, and feedback from 15 community meetings attended by over 900 people across the state.  

The BOE will distribute a second survey next month in response to stakeholders who voiced the desire to weigh in on a draft of the plan.

Hawaii Board of Education Member Kili Namauʻu talks at a community meeting at Ewa Makai Middle School. The Board held 15 meetings across the state as a part of its strategic planning efforts.  Viola Gaskell/Civil Beat 2022

Board member Kili Namauʻu acknowledged that the board fell short of adhering to the previous plan, which was adopted in 2017 — the same year she was appointed. 

“The plan was there but as a board, or as a system, I don’t think we came back to it often enough to look at it and think about whether we were doing a good job of making it happen,” she said in a meeting. 

Board Chair Bruce Voss agreed, saying that the board would set specific commitments to review and update the new plan to ensure that the board is moving in the right direction and holding itself accountable. 

Results from the survey showed that 62% of respondents had a positive outlook on how public schools are performing in Hawaii, while 38% did not. 

The state’s persistent learning gap for high needs students and a lack of emphasis on accelerated learning for gifted students were among the concerns highlighted in the survey. Only 11% of respondents thought the department was doing a good job of giving students who perform at or above grade level meaningful opportunities to accelerate their studies. 

A main takeaway from community meetings on the outer islands was frustration with Oahu-centric operations and an overly bureaucratic system rife with communication problems

The BOE plans to release its draft plan on Dec. 15 along with the follow-up survey, which the public will have until Jan. 19 to complete.

Civil Beat’s education reporting is supported by a grant from Chamberlin Family Philanthropy.

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