On behalf of all the children who are being disenfranchised by being forced into a school on the multitrack system: They need your help now.
Schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi recently told the news media that the Department of Education needs an exemption from the new law (Act 167), that it would be "tough" to conform and provide 180 classroom days per year for those in the multitrack schools. How many times must these children and their parents be told, it is "tough"?
It was "tough" when Mililani Middle School, designed to support approximately 1,400 students, opened in 1998 with an enrollment of more than 1,700. Did the DOE take action and provide for another middle school? No, the finances were too "tough"; besides, this was deemed a temporary situation. Well, almost 13 years later, Mililani Middle School needs to go to a fourth track to accommodate a population still exceeding 1,700 and the 180-day school year that Superintendant Matayoshi says can’t be done. "Tough."
I attended the Board of Education’s Dec. 9 meeting at Radford High School and listened to testimony put forth by the DOE that it needed this exemption from the 180-day school year for the multitrack schools. Its position is that it is impossible to implement without forcing the children to attend during the Christmas holidays, not to mention hardship placed on the teachers and administrators.
The DOE representative there stated that the best it could do is to implement 171 days — and when questioned by BOE member Eileen Clarke if the education would be the same as for those in the single-track schools, this witness answered that 171 days was just as good for these multitrack students as was the 180 days for all the single track schools.
I would like to ask: On what empirical data was this position put forward? It is obvious that this witness knows more than the Legislature. Why else would the Legislature demand 180 days of classroom training if the same education could be done in 171 days? Would not the Legislature opt for saving almost two weeks of teachers’ salaries if this were true?
The dirty little secret is that it cannot maintain both a 180-day school year AND the multitrack system. So instead of addressing a problem that has been plaguing our school system since the turn of the century, the DOE wants an exemption from the law at the expense of those children in the four multitrack schools; this is discrimination and disenfranchisement, pure and simple.
This is not a new problem; the DOE has lived with the multitrack system for more than 10 years. What has been done to eliminate the disparity being forced on our children? Why hasn’t the DOE restructured the school districts to eliminate the overcrowding that has forced the creation of multitrack schools, or built new schools, or some combination of both? After all, we are talking about only four schools.
For the sake of these children and the future of Hawaii, I beg every voter to let your representatives know that this heinous disparity can no longer be tolerated. We cannot allow the DOE to continue kicking this can down the road at our children’s and Hawaii’s expense. Demand that the DOE meet the Legislature’s minimum school year in ALL of Hawaii’s schools. Sorry it’s "tough," Superintendent Matayoshi.
Mililani resident Christopher J. Mann is a 32-year Navy veteran who ironically chose to settle in Mililani due to the reputation of its schools.