New BOE represents hope for public schools

You never know how things will play out, but the initial impression here is that Gov. Neil Abercrombie did an thoughtful job of picking his first appointed Board of Education.

They’re yet to be vetted by the state Senate, but the nine members seem to represent a diverse pool of talent without being a “Noah’s Ark” of special interests who would end up working at cross purposes. All seem to have solid professional credentials relevant to some aspect of setting policy for our public schools.

The governor was wise not to include any of the members of the current elected BOE after they were so soundly repudiated by voters who opted overwhelmingly to switch to an appointed board.

It was also a good move by Abercrombie to engineer an agreement with the new board that Kathryn Matayoshi will be retained as superintendent.

It raised eyebrows when the current board hired her after a search that was less than robust, but she’s passed her battle testing by coming up with a credible plan to improve school performance and winning a $75 million federal Race to the Top grant to help implement it.

Nothing is guaranteed, but the change to a less political and more professional board has the potential to bring a leap forward for our schools, and Abercrombie appears to have done the right things to get it off to a good start.

For those who haven’t seen the news, here’s the board:

•Don Horner (chairman), chief executive officer and chairman of First Hawaiian Bank

•Wesley Lo, chief executive officer at Maui Memorial Medical Center

•Brian DeLima, attorney and former Hawaii County Council member

•Nancy Budd, attorney and a member of the Kauai Planning and Action Alliance Public Education Action Team

•Jim Williams, retired administrator and CEO of the Hawaii Employer-Union Benefits Trust Fund;

•Charlene Cuaresma, associate director of the Graduate Professional Access Program at UH-Manoa

•Cheryl Kauhane Lupenui, chief executive offer of the YWCA on Oahu

•Keith Amemiya, executive administrator and secretary of the Board of Regents

•Kim Gennaula, philanthropy director at Kapiolani Health Foundation

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18 Comments on “New BOE represents hope for public schools”

  1. el guapo Says:

    Where is your outrage at the lack of transparency in this process?

  2. el guapo Says:

    Let me rephrase that, where is your outrage that transparency is not required in this process?

  3. kalaheo Says:

    Maybe Mr Shapiro is worn out from fighting the good fight, or maybe the requirements for a BOE member aren’t as easily comparable as the requirement for a judge.

    This looks like a hard, thankless job to straighten out our education mess here, but this is a new start.

  4. David Shapiro Says:

    guapo, you’re mixing apples and oranges and the reason is in the word “process.”

    With the BOE, by law the governor can appoint anybody he wants and he’s 100 percent accountable for his choices. There is no “list” of candidates and you can judge him by who he picks. I personally supported this selection process because of the clean line of accountability.

    There’s no clean line of accountability with the judges. He’s limited to picking from the list of candidates provided by the Judicial Selection Commission and can blame the commission if his appointee turns out to suck. You need to see the candidate list to fairly evaluate whether the JSC is giving him decent and diverse choices and whether the governor is exercising good judgment in his picks. Otherwise, there is no accountability and no way to tell where any problems lie.

    Without transparency, there’s no way to judge whether the process itself is working. It was done in the dark the way Abercrombie wants to in the years leading up to the Bishop Estate scandal and we didn’t get better judges — we got political favoritism, cronyism and corruption that stained the judicial selection process as well as the Judiciary itself. The best way I know to make sure it doesn’t happen again is transparency.

  5. ppcc Says:

    I think you give Matayoshi way to much credit for the $75 million grant awarded. Anyway, with $75 million of federal grant money, AND the money Abercrombie gave the DOE by taking money from the rainy day and hurricane(?) funds, Matayoshi testified to State legislatures that with just a budget cut of tens of millions of dollars from the DOE’s 2++ BILLION overall budget, the DOE could NOT meet the minimal teaching days that was enacted by the State legislature after the BOE and Matayoshi enacted student furloughs. Sounds like Matayoshi is just perpetuating the old HSTA controlled BOE playbook.

    DOE needs a CLEAN SLATE and the new BOE members should CHOOSE a new DOE Superintendent. Unless the implication is that Matayoshi is nothing more than a figurehead that does exactly what board members tell her to do, therefore it is irrelevant to hire a new superintendent.

    Remains to be seen if the new BOE members do what NEEDS to be done and that is enact a full independent audit of the DOE and then with the findings clean house once and for all to eliminate, if not greatly reduce the incredible waste, graft and corruption that currently goes on in the DOE.

  6. el guapo Says:

    According to the Star Advertiser there were more than 150 applicants for these positions. So you don’t care who the other 140+ candidates were to see if he really made good choices? You said accountability and transparency go hand in hand, but there is no transparency in this process. Now it sounds as if accountability is more important to you.

    In the end, what is important is that the Gov make a good choice regardless of political connections or affiliations. If he doesn’t want to release the names of those that were given to him by the Judicial Selection Committee, then by his actions he is letting them off the hook and has chosen to be accountable. And we must continue to hold him accountable for the decision and not give him the opportunity to cry later if he thinks he didn’t have a good hand to play.

  7. Cloudia Says:

    thanks for the insight. We all need to wish them well!

  8. David Shapiro Says:

    ppcc, Horner was on TV saying the new board will form an audit committee.

    Guapo, the Judicial Selection is a key component of the process and must be held accountable along with the governor. It’s not for him to let them “off the hook.” The only way to hold them accountable is to see the output of their efforts. Nobody is asking to see all who apply, just the candidates they forward to the governor so we can fairly judge their work.

  9. shaftalley Says:

    what a soft-ball puff piece.

  10. el guapo Says:


    I’m trying to understand your rationale. You seem to not like Wildman’s selection and seem to have valid reasons. You like the BOE selections and probably have valid reasons. But in neither case do you know who the competition was to compare against to know if there could have been better choices, you made a judgement based on what you had in front of you, and that’s ok.

    What I am getting at is that in Wildman’s case, it seems like a bad choice is a bad choice, regardless of the competition. And if you felt that the BOE choices were not good, I’m sure you would be very interested in knowing who some of the other applicants were, regardless of how the law dictates the selection process.

  11. Craig Smith Says:

    Where are the parents with kids in public schools?

  12. WooWoo Says:

    Good selections. Best of luck to all of them.

  13. ppcc Says:

    Issues of judges don’t interest me, however regarding Wildman, (what a name!) I just read he withdrew his name from nomination to be a judge citing an “unresolved situation with my law firm”. Unresolved skeletons in the closet? Shapiro, either you have the “real” story or a just a gut feeling on the guy, regardless, I get the feeling just from reading your blogs and the way things turned out, that Abercrombie should NOT have nominated this guy to be a judge in the first place.

  14. 3keys Says:

    Interesting that Don Horner will form an audit committee. Didn’t Duke Aiona pledge when he was running for Governor that he would call for an audit of the DOE if elected? Also in the advice and consent process of the Senate, how many will meet the qualifications (required minimum and recommended) by the new law:

  15. waialuahaole Says:

    3keys, I think what Horner is doing and what Duke Aiona called for are two different things. As I understand it, Aiona called for an independent, comprehensive, FINANCIAL audit to be conducted. It has never been done by an independent, outside agency. (There have been partial audits conducted by the state’s own Auditor.) I believe Horner is angling for a policy audit, in-house.

  16. el guapo Says:

    Horner is doing neither of those things, but he is laying the groundwork for one of those event to occur if the BOE feels it is needed.

  17. Been There/Done That Says:

    All of the new members appear qualified and sincere. However, the elected members they replace were selected with 1,235,314 public votes; the new ones, only nine votes (all from one person). If that one person is now accountable, then the voting public should have been held accountable for the elected BOE, right? Since public involvement is crucial to public school success, how does it help to sever the public from the voting/accountability process? The only positive is that it is a fresh start for the BOE. But it’s the same old DOE.

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