comscore Column: Long-term changes needed in schools | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Editorial | Island Voices

Column: Long-term changes needed in schools

  • Judy Sobin is a real estate broker and chair of the Kamiloiki Elementary School School Community Council.

    Judy Sobin is a real estate broker and chair of the Kamiloiki Elementary School School Community Council.

This pandemic is not going away. There are scientists and doctors who are predicting another wave. We are opening our shores to more visitors. We are getting so many mixed messages from our leaders that our heads are spinning.

Over the past 35 years, I have served as a member of multiple School Community Councils in East Honolulu public schools, on behalf of my three children and four grandchildren — all alums of or current students in public schools. I am currently serving on the Kamiloiki Elementary School and Kaiser High School community councils.

One thing that I have learned in these many years is that change does not come easy to our public schools. We are still fighting the same long battles to bring much-needed resources to the classroom and to our children. Bureaucracy, flexibility and finances have been long-time challenges.

The pandemic has made the challenge even more profound. But perhaps it is also an opportunity to change the way we do things.

A Sept. 28 letter from our complex area superintendent that includes Farrington, Kaiser and Kalani schools is upbeat and thanks everyone for their hard work. The question is: How are we doing? Does anyone really know?

The Board of Education in its Oct. 1 meeting threw the decision-making back on the school principals. As one board member stated, “The ultimate decision is at the discretion of the principal.”

According to the meeting, the decisions to be made by the principal are around whether teachers should be allowed to work from home, as opposed to having to work from campus. The principals are also authorized to determine whether and which students may return to the classroom.

Why not provide resources to the schools for large fans, tents for open-air classrooms, and other ways to make our schools safer so students and teachers can return? Let’s use some of the CARES Act money for our classrooms to make them safer. Let’s see if we can improve online learning and bring more resources to our classrooms at home. How about more training for teachers and parent-teachers and more technical support for students? This pandemic will be with us for the foreseeable future.

Perhaps our children are not losing ground with online education. I have not seen any measurement. My observation is that my grandkids are mostly filling the squares. Anecdotal feedback from friends is similar.

My message is that if we truly focus on the classroom and the student — as we always say we do — then we should strive to improve our children’s learning even during this unprecedented situation.

Judy Sobin is a real estate broker and chair of the Kamiloiki Elementary School School Community Council.

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