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7 members sworn in to last elected BOE

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    Seven newly elected state Board of Education members were inducted yesterday. Chairman Garrett Toguchi, left, chatted with well-wishers while new members posed for a group photo.

  • Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald, right, talked with Eileen Clarke, Board of Education member representing the Central District, before yesterday’s induction ceremony for seven newly elected board members. Their terms will be short, as a new appointed board will likely be in place by May.

The final induction ceremony for the elected Board of Education — before an appointed one is put in place — was held yesterday, with four new and three returning members sworn in to serve what will likely be a small fraction of their four-year terms.

In a short speech, board Chairman Garrett Toguchi urged members to move forward on the campaign pledges they made.

"The work of public education must go on," he said. "Whether it’s a short period of time or a long period of time, what this opportunity gives to our current board members and our newly elected board members is an opportunity for the governor and the Legislature to see how we all continue to perform, serving our public schools as best as we can."

State legislators have indicated they expect the appointed board to be in place before May.

Voters strongly supported a switch to an appointed board, with more than 57 percent in favor and 38 percent opposing it. Five percent left the question blank, which counted as "no" votes.

An appointed board will end a four-decade-plus run of the elected BOE, which voters adopted in 1966.

Board members sworn in yesterday recognized that theirs was not just any induction ceremony, and many were thinking about how much they can really get done before a governor-appointed board is put in place.

"I’ll give it my best shot," said newly elected Oahu at-large member Pamela Young, adding she would push to make the board and Department of Education more transparent.

Randall Yee, who was also elected to an Oahu at-large seat, said being inducted to a board that will be replaced with appointed members in what could be a few months will make the business of the BOE much tougher.

"It’s going to be a challenge to get anything accomplished," he said.

Yee said he is hopeful that Gov.-elect Neil Abercrombie will retain some existing BOE members for the appointed board.

Including Yee and Young, the other new BOE members inducted yesterday were Maralyn Kurshals of the Leeward District and Leona Rocha-Wilson, the incoming Maui District member.

Three sitting board members who won re-election also were sworn in: Central District member Eileen Clarke, Oahu at-large member Kim Coco Iwamoto and Windward District member John Penebacker.

It is still not clear how the appointed board will be chosen or for how much longer the elected board will continue to serve.

First, lawmakers will have to pass implementing legislation, which will spell out how the appointed members will be selected by the governor and approved by the Senate.

Legislators approved a bill earlier this year that would set up an advisory council to select BOE candidates for the governor’s consideration.

But the measure was vetoed by Gov. Linda Lingle, who objected to the process as too restrictive, subject to manipulation by special interests and secretive because the council’s meetings would not be open to public scrutiny.

Legislators have said they intend to expedite a new bill in the coming legislation to outline how the governor will choose members.

In the meantime, Toguchi said yesterday the board will not sit around and wait to be replaced.

He said there are several key issues set to come before the board, including new, tougher graduation requirements and collective bargaining issues.

"There’s a lot of things we’ve got to do," he said. "What’s important is to not act like a lame-duck board."

The 14-member Board of Education hires Hawaii’s schools superintendent and sets policy for the ninth-largest school district in the nation, with 22,000 full-time employees, including 13,000 teachers, serving 171,000 students.

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