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Thursday, November 27, 2014         

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Young, Iwamoto and Yee on pace to win BOE seats

By Star-Advertiser staff

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Pamela Young, a city government accountant (not the television news anchor), is the top vote-getter in early returns for an at-large seat on the state Board of Education.

The other two top vote-getters are incumbent Kim Coco Iwamoto and former BOE member Randall M.L. Yee.

Iwamoto is a pro bono civil rights attorney and affordable housing property manager. Yee is an attorney who serves on the Charter School Review Panel.

Only the top three vote-getters are elected.

Former state Representative Brian Y. Yamane, Roger Takabayashi, and Melanie Bailey were all trailing in that race.

In the race for the Leeward Oahu seat, Maralyn A. Kurshals leads David O'Neal and James Arola.

Kurshals is a quality assurance specialist at Leeward Family Guidance Center.

O'Neal is self-employed in e-commerce. His wife is a public school teacher.

Arola is a disaster recovery coordinator for Central Pacific Bank and an active parent volunteer at his children's schools.

For the Windward Oahu seat, incumbent John R. Penebacker leads challenger Velzey Freitas.

Penebacker, a former University of Hawaii basketball player, has been on the board since 2006. He previously served on the board from 1980 to 1988.

Freitas is a program coordinator with the nonprofit Parents and Children Together.

And in the election for the open Maui seat, Leona Rocha-Wilson leads R. Ray Hart. 

Rocha-Wilson is an entrepreneur and longtime education advocate. Hart is a retired public school teacher.

There is not incumbent for the Maui seat because Mary Cochran did not seek re-election in her unsuccessful bid for Maui County mayor.

The BOE sets policy for the ninth-largest -- and only statewide -- school district in the nation.

The board candidates ran as Hawaii voters went to the polls to decide whether or not the state should switch to an appointed BOE. So far, the "yes" votes for an appointed board far outnumber the "no" votes.

Should voters approve the constitutional amendment, board members elected tonight could serve just a fraction of their terms before the next governor's nominees take their place.

The election comes at a time of great change for Hawaii public schools which are still recovering from the black eye of teacher furloughs last school year.

The Department of Education is overseeing a host of reforms, thanks in large part to a $75 million federal Race to the Top grant aimed at turning around poor-performing schools, improving teacher effectiveness and boosting student achievement.

Public schools are also under increased pressure to meet rising federal benchmarks for student proficiency in math and reading and are preparing to switch to a more rigorous, nationally standardized curriculum in core subjects starting next school year.






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