Resolutions urge BOE to consider Hawaii residents for superintendent’s post

The search for a new public schools superintendent will begin soon, and some legislators want the state Board of Education to consider Hawaii residents and Department of Education employees for the position.

House Resolution 129 and House Concurrent Resolution 153 urge the BOE to consider Hawaii residents and applicants from the public school system “as part of the qualified candidate pool” to serve as superintendent.

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The resolutions were introduced by Hilo Rep. Chris Todd and co-introduced by Big Island Reps. Greggor Ilagan, Jeanne Kapela, Mark Nakashima, David Tarnas and other legislators on March 12 — days after Superintendent Christina Kishimoto announced she would not seek to renew her employment contract with the department.

With more than 10,000 teachers in the school system and a large number of “competent and experienced” administrators, Todd said he has no doubt a good candidate can be found in Hawaii.

“While we can’t require that the Board of Education only look within the state, I just want to send a message that this should be a priority, and they should give preference to local candidates to the extent that they’re legally allowed to do so,” he said.

Todd said part of the concern is that Hawaii’s education system is “so unique, and there really isn’t a school district in the rest of the country that’s similar to it.”

When factoring the state’s culture and values, any candidate from the mainland comes in with a steep learning curve and at a disadvantage, he said.

“We need someone who can engender trust from our educators, from our administrators, from our parents, and I think realistically it’s going to be very hard to gain that trust if you’re coming from the mainland and stepping right into the job.”

Kishimoto was tapped to lead the DOE nearly four years ago, initially signing a three-year contract that began Aug. 1, 2017, and was set to expire June 30, 2020.

The BOE, however, voted in December 2018 to extend her original contract by one year. It will expire July 31.

Both resolutions, which are nonbinding, were heard and passed Thursday by the House Education Committee.

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The committee also would develop a transition timeline process, make a recommendation for an interim superintendent and create a search timeline and process, among other things.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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