Hawaii Department of Education Superintendent Christina Kishimoto plans to launch her own business after she steps down July 30 as head of the public school system, she revealed Tuesday on Hawaii Public Radio.

Kishimoto, who has led the Hawaii Department of Education for the past four years, will be starting a company called Voice for Equity and its focus will be on “preparing women as policy leaders,” she said during an hourlong interview with host Catherine Cruz of HPR’s The Conversation.

“I am going to keep doing my equity and empowerment work, particularly focused on women leaders,” Kishimoto said, adding there will be a “soft launch” of the company in the next few weeks, as well as a Voice for Equity Twitter handle, which she encouraged listeners to follow.

“The Journal,” a publication that covers K-12 education technology topics, reported last week that Kishimoto will also head a new leadership academy for women school superintendents offered through the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents.

Department of Education Superintendent Christina Kishimoto speaks during board meeting.
Outgoing DOE Superintendent Christina Kishimoto will be starting her own company focused on women leadership and empowerment. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2019

The Bronx native, who last month announced her intention to stay in Hawaii after her term ends but leave the field of educational administration, faced a tumultuous final stretch of her tenure given her leadership style during the COVID-19 pandemic. She ultimately decided not to seek renewal of her term from the Hawaii Board of Education.

Kishimoto has been a vocal proponent of reopening schools for in-person instruction to prevent further learning disruption, to the dismay of some families who prefer a clearer option for distance learning should they not feel comfortable sending their kids back.

The superintendent, who is handing the reins over to Keith Hayashi, a Waipahu High principal who will serve as the interim DOE chief, emphasized adhering to a trio of safety protocols: mask-wearing on DOE property by students and staff; frequent hand-washing; and staying home when feeling ill.

Though she acknowledged some parents’ trepidation over sending their kids back just yet — “We know there are different feelings about this,” she said on HPR — she expressed optimism over the vaccination rates: up to 56% of DOE students and 80% of teachers are either fully or partially vaccinated, she said.

“We’re in great shape,” she said. “The more vaccinated students and adults we have, the safer we’ll be with kids under 12.”

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