Christina Kishimoto, the outgoing superintendent of Hawaii Department of Education schools, is exploring career avenues outside of educational administration and has no immediate plans to leave the Aloha State after her contract is up July 30, she said Monday.

Kishimoto, who came to Hawaii for the job in 2017, announced earlier this year that she would not seek renewal of her DOE contract amid criticism over her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m staying in Hawaii, Hawaii is home, I love this place,” Kishimoto said on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s “Spotlight Hawaii” program.

Noting that she’s led three school districts across the U.S. over the last decade and served in a deputy role for six years before that, she suggested she’s ready to head in a new direction.

“I will certainly be a part of this state’s work moving forward,” she said. “I’m ready to lean into another area of policy and equity where I can lead more boldly and with more support around me to change some of the trajectory of what it means to live and to work and play and worship in Hawaii.”

Dept of Education Superintendent Christina Kishimoto DOE press conference announcing pay increases for special needs students and other teachers.
DOE Superintendent Christina Kishimoto won’t be leaving Hawaii once her term ends. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2019

Kishimoto did not elaborate on her plans, other than to say they will involve “equity of access for our children” and “gender equity in terms of women empowerment and voice.” DOE spokeswoman Nanea Kalani later said the information the superintendent shared on the program “is all the info she’s sharing at this time.”

A Bronx native, Kishimoto led school systems in Gilbert, Arizona, and in Hartford, Connecticut, before coming to Hawaii for the superintendent position on a $240,000 annual salary.

On Monday, she also reiterated her commitment to open all DOE schools for in-person learning by the start of the school year on Aug. 3 and said mask mandates, for now, would stay in place.

Her advice for incoming interim superintendent, Keith Hayashi? “Do not stop leaning in really hard and leading boldly on equity of access,” she said.

“We’re the most diverse state in the nation, we have assets that other states do not have, just by virtue of how diverse and beautiful we are and the aloha that we have,” she said. “This should be the state with the best education system in the nation, but we have a long way to go.”

Hawaii needs more decision-makers “locking arms with their superintendent and not putting up roadblocks,” she added. “I’ve encountered lots of roadblocks, and we still delivered on a lot of fronts and I’m proud of that.”

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