The full Senate unanimously confirmed Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s nine appointees to the state Board of Education yesterday, officially ending the 45-year run of Hawaii’s elected board.
High hopes of big reforms are riding on the new board, whose members have pledged to think creatively about new and old problems facing public schools, from lagging student achievement to mounting budget concerns.
Members said yesterday they are taking on the job with "eyes wide open," looking forward to tackling big challenges while urging parents, teachers and students to remember that improvements won’t happen overnight.
"There’s high expectations," said board Chairman Don Horner, First Hawaiian Bank chief executive officer. "I can tell you that the nine new members … we’re going to do our best. Our goal is simply to leave education better than we found it."
Horner has said the board has a short-term to-do list that includes shifting more power to the superintendent, conducting a policy audit and paring down the number of board committees.
The new board will meet for the first time April 26, and Horner is promising a "full agenda," including a vote on new bylaws.
After a swearing-in ceremony yesterday, member Brian DeLima, a Big Island attorney, said he is excited to be "rolling up his sleeves" and getting to work.
"There’s much to do," he said.
Member Wesley Lo, CEO at Maui Memorial Medical Center, agreed, adding that the Department of Education is a "massive organization" whose problems aren’t simple or straightforward.
"There is going to be a steep learning curve," he said.
Yesterday’s confirmation vote came five months after voters overwhelmingly approved the switch from an elected board to one appointed by the governor.
Senators praised the board’s diverse makeup yesterday and urged the members to use their professional expertise to take bold steps to improve education.
"Among the nine we have chief executive officers, university administrators, community leaders, educators, attorneys and passionate advocates," state Sen. Jill Tokuda, chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, said in a speech to her colleagues.
But, she added, "This clearly is a case where the proverbial sum is greater than its parts."
Sen. Sam Slom, committee vice chairman, called the confirmation of the new board a "momentous occasion."
"Everyone is going to be watching them, is going to expect a great deal from them," he said. "They all have a vision of what we can be."
In addition to Horner, DeLima and Lo, the new members are:
» Keith Amemiya, former executive director of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association and current executive administrator and secretary of the University of Hawaii Board of Regents.
» Former television news anchor Kim Gennaula, now philanthropy director at Kapiolani Health Foundation.
» Attorney Nancy Budd, former president of the Kauai Parent Teacher Student Association.
» Jim Williams, retired administrator and CEO of the Hawaii Employer-Union Benefits Trust Fund.
» Cheryl Kauhane Lupenui, CEO of YWCA-Oahu.
» Charlene Cuaresma, associate director of the Graduate Professional Access Program at the UH-Manoa and a leader in the Filipino community.
The members will serve staggered terms.