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Appointments necessary

Abercrombie asks for applicants to join a new Board of Education

By Mary Vorsino

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 03:35 p.m. HST, Mar 04, 2011



After the Senate unanimously approved a measure yesterday giving him the power to directly appoint Board of Education members, Gov. Neil Abercrombie called for people who can "help bring change" to public schools to apply.

Legislators fast-tracked the bill that establishes the appointment process for the Board of Education, and the governor has also pledged to work quickly to choose new members.

Abercrombie said yesterday he plans to sign Senate Bill 8 into law March 14 and announce his BOE picks by April 1. Appointees must be confirmed by the Senate — a process that also is expected to be moved along quickly.

"We welcome every person interested in serving on the Board of Education to apply," Abercrombie said in a news release. "We need people who are committed to Hawaii's students and who can help bring change to public education in Hawaii."

The push to switch to an appointed board was prompted by the angst and anger over teacher furloughs last school year, which left Hawaii students with the shortest instructional calendar in the nation.

NEW SCHOOL BOARD

» Members will be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate.
» Board picks will be announced by April 1.
» The new BOE will have nine members (from 13), including three at large.
» Members will serve three-year terms.
» To apply for the board, go to www.hawaii.gov/gov.

Voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment in November to get rid of BOE elections and let the governor choose who sits on the board.

But a new BOE couldn't be appointed until legislation setting up the process of filling board seats was passed.

Hawaii has had an elected BOE since 1966.

Appointed board members will be stepping into their roles at a time of immense change for Hawaii's schools: In August, Hawaii was one of 10 winners — nine states and the District of Columbia — of a second round of federal Race to the Top grants, and the only winner west of the Mississippi. As part of Race to the Top reforms, the Department of Education has pledged to boost student achievement, improve teacher effectiveness and turn around low-performing schools.

The BOE is charged with hiring a schools superintendent and setting policy for the DOE, which runs the ninth-largest public school system in the nation — and its only statewide one.

State Sen. Jill Tokuda, chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, said the appointed-BOE bill "creates a process that will give the people the kind of accountability they asked for" in November.

Before the Senate floor vote yesterday, Tokuda also said reform of Hawaii's public schools is overdue.

"The challenge to all of us is clear," she said. "We must do better. Our children deserve better."

The bill that outlines the appointment process says the governor should ensure BOE members meet several qualifications, including a "record of integrity," knowledge of best practices and a "commitment to educational leadership."

The bill also says:

» The appointed BOE will have nine members, not counting a student and a military representative, both nonvoting representatives.

» There will be three at-large members, along with three from Oahu and one each from Kauai, Maui and Hawaii island.

» Appointed members will serve three-year terms. However, in order to stagger terms, three members chosen for the first appointed board will have one-year terms, and three will have two-year terms.

» Members may serve no more than three consecutive three-year terms.

The governor has already announced one of his appointees: Don Horner, First Hawaiian Bank chairman of the board and chief executive officer.

Horner, who was appointed to the elected board Feb. 8 to fill a vacancy, will also be nominated to the new appointed board.






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