The search for an executive director for the state agency overseeing Hawaii’s public charter schools is starting again following an announcement today that a finalist who was offered the job has declined it.
The state Public Charter School Commission, which initially had wanted to hire someone by July 1, voted today to reconvene a screening committee that will continue the search and make a recommendation to the full commission.
The commission’s former executive director, Tom Hutton, announced in February that he would step down after three years on the job. The commission formed its screening committee — which is exempt from the state’s open-meetings law — the following month and engaged the help of executive search firm Inkinen & Associates.
Commission staff said a pool of roughly 20 candidates was whittled down to six people, who were interviewed by the screening committee. Two finalists, whose names were not disclosed, were interviewed on June 16 by the full commission in lengthy closed-door sessions. Following the interviews, commission Chairwoman Catherine Payne said that although the group had made a decision, the commission would not be voting on the hire until both finalists were notified.
An update on the hiring was included on today’s commission meeting agenda. Payne said the candidate’s decision was unexpected and disappointing.
“We thought at this point we would be announcing, or we would have already announced, our selection,” Payne said. “The person that we selected … sent us an email that said he had reconsidered and would not be accepting the position after all.”
The commissioners voted to allow the screening committee to consider both new candidates as well as previously vetted applicants.
Hutton was the first executive director of the commission, which was created as part of legislation passed in 2012 to reform the charter system after a couple of charter school administrators were faulted for hiring their relatives and apparent misuse of public funds.
The commission replaced the Charter School Review Panel, which had gone through six executive directors in nine years. Hutton’s three-year tenure was twice as long as the average of his predecessors at the panel.
The level of oversight imposed by the commission has been a point of contention between the commission and schools that contend the agency is too heavy-handed and routinely infringes on their autonomy. The state auditor, however, faulted the commission in a study issued in December for not acting forcefully enough to shut down Halau Lokahi for financial insolvency.