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Arizona education official picked as next Hawaii schools’ superintendent


    Christina Kishimoto addressed the BOE board on May 11. Kishimoto has been hired to lead Hawaii’s public school system as superintendent of education, the state Board of Education announced today.

Christina Kishimoto, schools chief of Gilbert Public Schools in Arizona, has been hired to lead Hawaii’s public school system as superintendent of education, the state Board of Education announced today.

She will be paid $240,000 annually during her three-year contract, which begins Aug. 1.

BOE Chairman Lance Mizumoto said in a news release that Kishimoto “has the right combination of experience, knowledge, and focus to implement the strategic vision for educational change set forth in the Governor’s Blueprint for Education and the BOE and DOE’s newly revised joint strategic plan.”

Kishimoto, 48, has been superintendent and chief executive officer since 2014 for the Phoenix-area school district made up of 40 schools with 38,000 students. Before relocating to Arizona, she had a controversial tenure as superintendent of Hartford Public Schools, a district of about 22,000 students in Connecticut.

The school board in Connecticut gave her low marks on her job performance, citing poor communication and a perceived lack of urgency for improving student achievement. The board later unanimously rejected Kishimoto’s request for a contract extension. Kishimoto has defended her record in Hartford, saying she’s a bold leader who had to make tough decisions in a high-poverty district.

Mizumoto emphasized that the board conducted a thorough background check, including civil, criminal, financial, and educational verifications. “In addition, district officials, former superintendents, and other individuals in the Gilbert district were contacted. Various negative statements made about Dr. Kishimoto were either inconsequential or simply invalid,” Mizumoto said.

Kishimoto, who grew up in the South Bronx of New York, was one of two finalists, along with Baltimore City schools administrator Linda Chen, to replace outgoing schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi, whose contract ends June 30. BOE officials said today that they will name an interim superintendent for the month of July.

“It is with great excitement and honor that I accept this critical education leadership position for the state of Hawaii and the Hawaii Department of Education,” Kishimoto said in the BOE news release. “I look forward to implementing a vision of excellence for all students.”

The BOE faced some criticism from community members and educators who faulted the candidates for not being from or familiar with Hawaii. The board, made up of Gov. David Ige appointees, also came under fire for its decision to not renew Matayoshi’s contract despite positive evaluations. The search for her successor got off to a rocky start, after a former board member submitted and then withdrew his name from consideration.

The board plans to hold a news conference next month to formally introduce Kishimoto as superintendent.

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