The Hawaii Senate vice president on Friday accused Gov. David Ige of trying to circumvent the public input portion of the nomination process for new Board of Education members by failing to submit sufficient names for upcoming vacancies by an April 1 deadline.

The criticism came as the board prepares to choose a replacement for outgoing schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto, who has announced she won’t seek a new term after her contract expires July 30.

Sen. Michelle Kidani, chair of the Senate education committee, said in a statement the governor was “purposefully skirting” the advise and consent process, which allows for public input on nominees, so he could “name an interim Board member of his choosing.”

Department of Education board meeting.
Two members of the Hawaii Board of Education decided to step down once their terms end June 30. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2019

Kidani also said it was “especially concerning” because it “presents the opportunity for potential interference in the selection of the next superintendent.”

Ige’s communications office said the governor wasn’t available to reply to a request for comment.

The nine-member Board of Education has upcoming vacancies because Dwight Takeno and Maggie Cox will be stepping down once their terms end on June 30. Current chair Catherine Payne also has a term expiring on June 30, but she is seeking to remain in the post and needs re-confirmation.

Rather than submitting three names for consideration to the Senate, Ige submitted just two nominees: Payne and Bill Arakaki, the recently retired Kauai complex area superintendent, for three-year terms.

Kidani was not available for further comment on Friday, but Senate spokesman Jacob Aki told Civil Beat that the senator had reminded the governor in “several conversations” to send three names by the deadline and that she followed up with him “shortly before the appointment deadline.”

Aki said now that the deadline has passed, the governor can appoint any individual to the board of education in an interim role, without an opportunity for public input.

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