Sunday, November 29, 2015         

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Ahu Isa quits school board

By Mary Vorsino


Board of Education member Lei Ahu Isa resigned yesterday, saying she wanted to give the governor the chance to make his first BOE appointment.

Ahu Isa's resignation is effective immediately.

In November, Hawaii voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to switch from an elected to an appointed Board of Education. The governor cannot appoint a new board, however, until the state Legislature passes a law specifying how candidates would be chosen and confirmed.

It is unclear when — or whether — a replacement for Ahu Isa will be appointed to the current elected board.

"I just felt like I would give him a chance to appoint," Ahu Isa said yesterday. "I was thinking long and hard. Why wait for the bill to pass?"

Lawmakers have pledged to approve a measure spelling out the board appointment process quickly. And in his State of the State address Monday, the governor said he is ready to "act now" to appoint new BOE members.

But the process could be slowed because of competing measures before legislators on how members should be appointed.

A Senate bill moving forward calls for direct governor appointments, with candidates being confirmed by the Senate. A House bill, meanwhile, would create an advisory council to select a limited number of candidates for the governor's consideration.

Ahu Isa, an Oahu at-large member, was elected in 2004.

She has held several leadership positions, including first vice chairwoman. Most recently she served as chairwoman of the Committee on Curriculum, Instruction and Student Support, responsible for early childhood to adult education.

Board Chairman Garrett Toguchi said Ahu Isa has "proven invaluable."

"Personally, I appreciated her support and insightful advice," he said in a news release. "Her care for students has always been at the forefront of her decisions."

Ahu Isa said she had been thinking about resigning for months, in part after growing frustrated about the public's views of the board.

"We got no respect. People saw us as a lame-duck board," she said. "When you actually get into and sit on the board, it's not easy. The public doesn't know that."

Ahu Isa also said she expects more BOE resignations soon.

Ahu Isa, an assistant professor at Hawaii Pacific University and a former state lawmaker, won re-election in 2008 for a four-year term. At the time, she was running on a platform of more accountability for public schools.

She has also long raised concerns about budget cuts to education.

The 14-member Board of Education hires and evaluates the superintendent of schools and sets policy for a department with more than 22,000 employees, including 13,000 teachers serving 171,000 students.


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