School board member quits, faults Ige
Retired teacher Jim Williams, one of the original members appointed to the Board of Education in 2011 after voters chose to do away with an elected school board, has resignedfrom the board, citing a lack of confidence and support from Gov. David Ige.
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Retired teacher Jim Williams, one of the original members appointed to the Board of Education in 2011 after voters chose to do away with an elected school board, has resigned from the board, citing a lack of confidence and support from Gov. David Ige.
In a resignation letter to Ige dated Wednesday, Williams accuses the governor of circumventing the state Constitution and law with Ige’s appointment of an education task force to formulate a “blueprint” for education in Hawaii.
“Until this year, my service on the board gave me great personal satisfaction, even when the board faced difficult decisions and tough circumstances,” Williams said in the letter, which he shared with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “Unfortunately, your lack of faith in and support of the board have sapped my enthusiasm to the point where I no longer can continue to serve with the positive attitude the position requires.”
In his five years on the board, Williams has been credited with being a candid critic who held Department of Education officials accountable to goals outlined in the joint DOE-BOE strategic plan, which is currently being updated. He previously taught on Molokai at Kauanakakai Elementary and Molokai High schools and served as CEO of the Hawaii Employer-Union Benefits Trust Fund, vice chairman of Voyager Public Charter School and president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association.
Williams was one of three remaining appointees of former Gov. Neil Abercrombie. He was reappointed in 2014 to a three-year term on the voluntary nine-member board. (Abercrombie’s other appointments are Brian De Lima, the board’s vice chairman, who was initially named to the board in 2011 before being reappointed this year, and Grant Chun, who was appointed in early 2014.)
Under the state Constitution, the BOE has the authority “to formulate statewide educational policy and appoint the superintendent of education as the chief executive officer of the public school system.” Since taking office in December 2014, Ige has appointed seven of the board’s nine voting members, including Chairman Lance Mizumoto.
“I think that you need to support this board whose members you selected and trust them to carry out their responsibilities,” Williams wrote to Ige. “Instead,” he said, “with no advance communication to the Board of Education,” Ige announced the formation of the “Governor’s ESSA team.”
Ige in April named a 19-member advisory team that he tasked with developing a “blueprint” he hopes will guide a transformation of the state’s public school system. The advisory group — which includes current and former teachers, principals, community leaders and business executives — was assembled in the spring, after passage of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, which transfers federal control over public education to states when it comes to things like school accountability, teacher evaluations, student testing and support for struggling schools.
The federal legislation requires states to develop a comprehensive and collaborative state educational plan for implementation. While the state Department of Education has started work on the plan, Ige has said he wants his ESSA team, using input gathered at an education summit held in July and subsequent community meetings held statewide, to share ideas with the Board of Education before Hawaii submits its plan for federal approval in the spring.
Although Ige has dubbed the advisory group his ESSA team, the governor has said he views the new flexibility afforded in the law as an opportunity for Hawaii to re-imagine its public school system beyond the scope of the federal law.
“My view is that these tasks belong to the Board of Education and you have circumvented the Constitution and laws of our state by appointing your so-called ‘Governor’s ESSA team,’” Williams said. “In short, my view is that your ‘Education Team’ is the Board of Education, which you appoint, and which is recognized by our Constitution and laws. Since you clearly have a different view, I can no longer continue to serve on the board.”
Asked for comment on Williams’ letter, the governor’s office issued a statement thanking Williams for his service.
The statement also defended the efforts of the governor’s ESSA team, saying that “in developing this blueprint, we have met with more than 3,000 teachers, parents, students and community members across the state who care about improving public education. They are engaged in our effort and have offered us valuable insight and input.”
Jodi Leong, the governor’s press secretary, added that the chairman of the team, retired public school principal Darrel Galera, provides regular updates to the board.
She said Ige was not immediately available for further comment.
Williams said in a phone interview that he’s proud of the collective work of the board over the past five years. He cited as examples “tough policy work, some of it controversial,” including new or revised policies on Hawaiian education, sexual health education, teacher evaluations and academic standards for science and social studies. He also helped lead an investigation into the state Public Charter School Commission.
“The board has done good work and we have good members,” Williams said. “I think the governor should put more faith in the board.”
Jim Williams BOE Resignation Letter