When Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s highly anticipated picks for the Board of Education were announced, the one name that stood out in the group was Kim Gennaula. Many people may know Don Horner and Keith Amemiya, but EVERYBODY knows Kim Gennaula. Or at least they feel like they know her.
Gennaula was at KGMB for 15 years, working from weather anchor to main anchor. She left the station in 2008 to join Kapiolani Health Foundation as philanthropy director.
She didn’t apply for the BOE position, but says her name came up because she has been an active volunteer in her children’s school and on an advisory council.
“I was honored to get ‘the call’ to be considered,” she said. “During the interview process we talked in depth about my passion for education, why I got involved in the effort to begin with, what my hopes are for the future for my children, and what I thought was realistically possible in the near future. The governor also asked me for ideas of ways to work directly with students in this effort, via social networking, video and other venues.”
Gennaula and her husband, KGMB weather anchor Guy Hagi, have a son in third grade and a daughter in second grade at Hokulani Elementary school, near UH-Manoa.
“I love my kids’ school,” she said. “I see lots of teachers, administrators and others in the school system working very hard on behalf of our kids, and yet we are not getting the results we need and should be getting in the quality of our education. The system is broken and it’s going to take lots of thinking outside of the box to fix it.”
Her trademark at KGMB was her affable relatability. Here, too, she shares a story many Hawaii parents can relate to.
“My husband and I both have wonderful jobs and yet the prospect of having to pay over $40,000 a year to send them to private elementary through high school is a daunting $480,000 bill — and then we have to figure out how to pay for college,” she said.
“I want to stop worrying that I am failing my kids if we can’t afford to send them to private school.”
All of Abercrombie’s picks for the BOE are subject to confirmation. All will serve without pay, and with the added burden of possibly unrealistic expectations about what they can do to fix things. A return to an appointed rather than elected board may or may not be the catalyst to transformation, but at least presumably board members won’t be worried about offending special interests that might derail their re-election.
“I would never have agreed to volunteer so much of my time and life to this board if I didn’t truly believe we could be a force for positive change,” Gennaula said. “I want to take all that I’ve learned in my years of communicating and connecting with the public and use that to be the voice of parents across the state on this board.”
Lee Cataluna can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.