Election 2010 / When we talk about education, we often speak in a mix of jargon and platitudes. Student-centeredness. Standards-based. Achievement. Accountability. All good. Who doesn’t believe in achievement or accountability? But these words often obscure the ideas behind them.
Lacking the space to conduct full interviews with all of them, we asked all 11 candidates for the at-large seats on the Board of Education one question: “If you could rule by fiat, what one specific change would you make to improve our schools?”
What follows are nine responses–for more information, we encourage readers to visit the League of Women Voters website at [lwv-hawaii.com].
“It would be imposing accountability and responsibility for administrative and fiscal employees. Accountability always starts at the top. It’s like a ship that has holes in it. It’s surviving, but there are leaks. In order to move forward we need to repair them, in order to be the best school system we can be.”
Human resources manager, school volunteer.
“If there was one thing we could do, it would be to have parents, caregivers and the community really invested in our kids’ future. Talking to them from the beginning is important, about how the decisions you make in high school and middle school affect your future. We have kids getting out at 1:30 and 2 in the afternoon, and what are they doing? School is definitely not the center of their lives.
Are we asking our highs school kids why they’re dropping out? Whatever it is, we need to fix it.”
Professional mediator, former Kailua Neighborhood Board chairwoman.
“Race to the Top was a grant that got us $75 million, but the bigger picture is that it’s a five-year strategic reform plan for the DOE. In it are a lot of exciting initiatives that have the potential of making a change. In the Race to the Top, there are two things that can really make a difference. Look at Campbell High School. People thought of it as the worst of the worst. What turned it around was incredible leadership from the principal, buy-in from the teachers, and commitment from parents and the community. It took six to seven years. The initiatives they put in place–raising standards, opening AP classes to everyone, keeping kids in school, tutoring, just creating ways to make the school exciting–it turned the school around.”
Tutor, former public school teacher
“If I were a dictator I would say repeal compulsory education and state education altogether. Restricting myself to remote possibility, it would be nice if the board mandates that the schools allowed students to take every class by exam. They should be able to test out. People will work for freedom. Right now, you’re stuck there for 12 years. A student who expects to go to work as a laborer or a cashier has no incentive to perform. They can walk through doing nothing. So school doesn’t really offer him anything. But they will work for freedom. If they could test out, they would learn, and they would.”
Volunteer at Word of Life Christian Center.
“I would make absolutely sure that the money that is supposed to be going to a project actually goes to that project. Some of our buildings are falling apart. I would make sure that the reconstruction money actually goes where its supposed to.”
Kim Coco Iwamoto
Current member of the Board of Education
“The Feds and State should be mandated to follow the US Department of Defense funding formula for public education. The DOD applies Government Accountability Guidelines to compute how much it invests each year into the public education systems they operate abroad. In 2009, the DOD spent $23,496 –$25,968/ student. This level of commitment to full-funding for Hawaii public education would allow each of our students to benefit from real-time student/teacher data collection and analysis, a highly-qualified and highly effective teacher in every classroom, anytime access to computers and the Internet and a safe and conducive learning environment.”
Roberta Phillips Mayor
Career educator and school administrator
“My belief is that the most important factor is the relationship between students and teachers. I would ensure that students in every classroom have quality instruction. You must support the teachers with professional development. I would investigate the success or failures of current performance-based compensation. I would ensure that teachers and principals are evaluated regularly and that we have a meaningful assessment process.”
Former state legislator
“I don’t have one specific change. If there was one specific change, the members of the board would have done it by now. There’s a problem of accountability. It comes down to the budget. You want to help the kids, and you don’t want to leave out the teachers. But you have to work within the budget that you’re given.”
“I would like to get more resources to help the lowest performing schools.”
—Honolulu Weekly staff