Saturday, November 28, 2015         

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Governor taps Horner for school board

By Mary Vorsino


The governor appointed Don Horner to the Board of Education yesterday, saying the First Hawaiian Bank board chairman and chief executive officer embodies the leadership qualities he wants to see on the board that sets policy for Hawaii's public schools.

Horner will fill an Oahu at-large seat left vacant by Lei Ahu Isa last month. He will also be nominated to serve on the new, appointed Board of Education. Nominees are subject to state Senate confirmation.

"This is the opportunity that I have to demonstrate to the Legislature and to the public at large the focus that I have and the approach that I'm going to be taking with regard to nominations and appointments for the Board of Education," Gov. Neil Abercrombie said yesterday at a news conference. Of Horner, he added, "I cannot think of anyone ... more capable."

Abercrombie's appointment drew praise from lawmakers and BOE Chairman Garrett Toguchi, who said Horner's public service and belief in public education will be "invaluable assets to the board and our schools."

Horner has served on a number of boards and committees, including the Legislature's Reinventing Government Task Force, 'Iolani School's board of trustees and the advisory council for the University of Hawaii at Manoa's Shidler College of Business.

He said yesterday that he was looking forward to working on improving Hawaii schools, being a product of public schools himself.

"I do believe we can do better and we will do better," he said. "I'm very, very confident that this governor is fully committed to making fundamental change to our public education system."

Horner's appointment is effective immediately.

Ahu Isa, whose seat he fills, resigned from the board last month, saying she wanted to give the governor a chance to make his first BOE appointment.

Abercrombie said he is looking for other applicants for the appointed board.

So far, the governor's office has received about 30 applications.

Voters overwhelmingly supported switching from an elected to a governor-appointed BOE in November. But new board members cannot be appointed until legislation spelling out how they should be picked, and the board's composition, becomes law.

Such a measure, which calls for Senate confirmation without an advisory council that vets candidates, is expected to be sent to Abercrombie before the end of the month.

State Sen. Jill Tokuda, chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, said Abercrombie's appointment of Horner sends a strong message to the public of how important the governor takes his job of choosing all the members of a new appointed board.

"It really shows the governor is taking this very seriously," said Tokuda (D, Kaneohe-Kailua). "I think it's a positive sign."

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