Cover Story continued

In 2006, six of 13 seats on the Board of Education will be contested, five of them in Honolulu, one on Maui. The Department of Education gets a bad rap, and rightly so: Hawai’i students consistently score lower than students nationwide, there’s low morale among teachers and there are not-so-subtle allegations of misappropriated funds. Basically, it’s hard not to agree that the $2.1 billion department is a giant bureaucratic mess.

The issues facing those running for the Board of Education are tough ones: how to implement the controversial Act 51, a law passed by the state Legislature in 2004 that uses a weighted student formula to allocate funding (based on the number of students and demographics, each school gets a reapportioned slice of the budgetary pie), how to meet the unreasonable standards set by the severely under-funded federal No Child Left Behind Act and how to ensure that the funds that are supposed to support the students don’t get lost before they reach the schools.

From a complete overhaul of the department to giving principals more control over budgets and decision making, this year’s candidates offer their perspectives on the best approach to improving public education in Hawai’i.

The profiles below are based on the candidates’ responses to a Honolulu Weekly questionnaire and outside research.

4th Department/ Central

Eileen Ishihara Clarke

Residence: Aiea

Eileen Clarke wants to ‘balance’ the curriculum with a focus on reading and mathematics as well as physical education, music, the fine arts and vocational skills.

Shirley A. Robinson

Residence: ‘Aiea

Shirley Robinson has served on the BOE for one term. She lists the department’s objectives: small schools, highly qualified teachers, comprehensive curriculum, high quality preschools, adequate facilities, effective leaders and realistic funding.

6th Department/ Windward

Kris DeRego

Residence: Kaneohe

Education: Associate’s Degree from Leeward Community College

Work Experience: Tutor, information specialist, speechwriter with Strategic Campaigns

5-year goal: Resolve Hawai’i’s teacher shortage

Kids attend public school? No children

Public school graduate? Yes, Castle High School

Should public schools teach intelligent design? It should not be taught in science class.

Kris DeRego, who believes that equal opportunity means equal funding, intends to work toward a ‘full and expedient implementation of Hawai’i’s weighted student formula.’ He feels that schools must have greater control over their operating budgets and be held accountable for those funds. Further, he proposes an independent commission to evaluate the DOE’s accounting system. DeRego is a proponent of charter schools.

Paul Vierling

Residence: Kailua

Work Experience: Business development. Current BOE member

5-year goal: The need for overall education reform within the DOE system.

Kids attend public school? Yes, both.

Public school graduate? Yes, in Indiana.

Should public schools teach intelligent design? Parents, families and community are the best teachers for any belief system.

Paul Vierling believes school professionals should have greater control over their budgets. While serving on the Board of Education, Vierling promoted learning options including charter schools and virtual education. He would like to see decentralization of power and increased flexibility at the school level.

No Departmental School District Residency

Michael Bass

Residence: Honolulu

Education: Grammar school in London, England

Work Experience: Entrepreneur, private sector education and training institute

5-year goal: Transform DOE from ‘top-down bureaucratic behemoth’ to a ‘bottom-up educational service.’

Stand on Act 51: Act 51 is doomed to failure.

Kids attend public school? Yes, outside Hawai’i.

Public school graduate? No

Michael Bass has over 40 years of education experience in the private sector. Some of his progressive ideas include: principals and teachers paid by results, school hours compatible with parents’ work hours, higher percentage of taxes going into the classrooms, limited union intrusion on quality of instruction, specialized academy, charter and web-based schools, annual independent audits of the Department of Education.

Darwin L.D. Ching

Residence: Honolulu

Vying for his second term as a BOE member, one of Darwin Ching’s priorities is to restore safety and discipline in Hawai’i schools, addressing problems like bullying with specific policy changes. He believes in zero tolerance when it comes to guns and violence and emphasizes the importance of prevention.

Carolyn Martinez Golojuch

Residence: Makakilo

Education: University of Hawai’i-Manoa

Work Experience: social worker, currently a substitute teacher with DOE

Should public schools teach intelligent design?: Science should be taught in science class.

What to do with NCLB’s schools in restructuring: NCLB was never funded and remains a cruel joke on the students and our nation.

Kids attend public school? Yes, both

Carolyn Golojuch is pushing for the release of appropriated funds for additional classrooms in order to relieve overcrowding, a major obstacle for teachers. She recognizes the ‘drastic’ need for higher education in both the Windward and Leeward districts, as well as the importance of building new schools in rapidly growing areas.

Henry W. Hoeft, Jr.

Residence: Waipahu

Education: Power Production School, Sheppard’s Air Force Base, Texas

Work Experience: Instructor, Electrical Apprentice Program, Honolulu Community College

Most Critical Issue for DOE in ’06-’07: Bullying and violence, school repairs.

Should public schools teach intelligent design? Should be taught side-by-side with Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and students can decide which view to accept

Kids attend public school? Yes, both.

Public school graduate? Yes, Damien Memorial High

Henry Hoeft has two children who attend charter schools, and he believes that charter schools should be given the same amount per student that other public schools receive. Hoeft also supports a voucher system that would allow parents to allocate the money that the DOE provides for their child’s public school education to a private school education if they so choose.

Donna R. Ikeda

Residence: Honolulu

According to Donna Ikeda, ‘More emphasis must be placed on making the Board accountable for itself.’ She aims to make this her primary purpose. Ikeda has been a BOE member since 2000, and she is the former chairman of the State Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Kim Coco Iwamoto

Residence: Honolulu

Through direct interaction with young people in such roles as a coordinator of program for inner city youth, a volunteer at a center for children living with HIV, a member of the DOE Safe Schools Community Advisory Committee and a licensed therapeutic foster parent, Kim Iwamoto developed a commitment to education.

Brian Kessler

Residence: Honolulu

Education: University of Pittsburgh, UCLA, University of Hawai’i

Work Experience: Financial, entrepreneurial, business strategy/development, creative and community service

Stand on Act 51: BOE must provide oversight and require the DOE to be fiscally accountable

Should public schools teach intelligent design? Voters should decide by referendum

Brian Kessler promises to strive toward a solution that will provide every child with a high quality public education, and he stresses that the solution is not a directive from the Department of Education, the Republican Party or the Democratic Party.

Malcolm Kirkpatrick

Residence: Honolulu

Malcolm Kirkpatrick firmly believes that a major overhaul in the state legislature, the Hawai’i Supreme Court and the Board of Education is necessary to implement an effective public education system. The Hawai’i DOE, he says, wastes taxpayers’ money and ‘trashes poor kids’ life chances.’

Karen Knudsen

Residence: Honolulu

Education: University of Nebraska, University of Hawai’i

Work Experience: Director of External Affairs, East-West Center; Hawai’i State Judiciary; UH Center for Pacific Islands Studies; Pacific and Asian Affairs Council; Peace Corps volunteer in Micronesia

Stand on Act 51: The weighted student formula adopted by the BOE should be based on sound, logical, fair, and accurate information as well as broad community input.

Should public schools teach intelligent design? Intelligent design should not be taught.

Kids attend(ed) public school? Yes, both

Public school graduate? Yes, on the mainland.

Karen Knudsen has served as chair and currently serves as first vice chair of the BOE, as well as chair of the BOE Committee on Budget and Fiscal Accountability. She cites the BOE’S accomplishments during her tenure, including whole-school renovations, raises for teachers and administrators and gains in national test scores.

Philmund Lee

Residence: Honolulu

Philmund Lee is a humanitarian relief and human rights advocate who has engaged in humanitarian relief work for the refugees in Lebanon. He is the founder of Hawaii Human Rights Center.

Liam Skilling

Residence: Honolulu

Education: University of Wisconsin

Work Experience: Teach for America

5-year goal: Smaller schools, fewer students in each class, better facilities. Charter schools can improve educational quality and attract new families into the public education system.

Kids attend public school? Yes

Public school graduate? Yes, in New York

Liam Skilling has taught fourth grade at Punahou and English and ESLL at McKinley High School. He is pursuing a doctorate in educational administration and a law degree from the Richardson School of Law. Skilling also externs at the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission and is the host of Street Mythology on KTUH.

Nancy J. Stone

Residence: ‘Aiea

Nancy Stone is a dually licensed teacher who believes that ‘there is no democracy when parents and teachers have no say in the education.’ Her priority is to create smaller districts and establish district school boards where decisions would be made by parents and teachers.

Terrance W.H. Tom

Residence: Kane’ohe

Education: University of Hawai’i-Manoa; University of California

Work Experience: Honolulu City & County, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney; Hawaii State Legislature

Most Critical Issue for DOE in ’06-’07: Full funding of the No Child Left Behind Act, weighted student formula, and the recruitment and retention of highly qualified teachers.

Kids attend public school? No

Public school graduate? Yes, Washington Intermediate, McKinley High

As a state legislator for 16 years, Tom was directly involved in drafting many of Hawai’i’s education laws, including the Zero Tolerance law. Tom, who has been blind from birth, seeks to be an advocate for children with special needs to ensure they have sufficient resources to succeed in school. He believes that the accomplishments of all students should be recognized and that they should be given adequate support and funding.

Ruth Tschumy

Residence: Honolulu

Education: Oberlin College; University of North Carolina

Work Experience: teacher, school administrator, education columnist

Most Critical Issue for DOE in ’06-’07: Implementing the weighted student formula

Kids attend public school? No children

Public school graduate? No

Ruth Tschumy asks, ‘Despite numerous education reform efforts over the years, why haven’t we seen greater change and better student achievement?’ She supports a restructuring of the state DOE. She was an education columnist for the Honolulu Advertiser and Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

Brian Y. Yamane

Residence: Honolulu

Education: University of Hawai’i

Work Experience: State House of Representatives, insurance agent,

Kids attend public school? Yes

Brian Yamane describes himself as a no-nonsense business person who is always forthright and expects accountability. He developed a great appreciation for model schools in Hawai’i, charter schools and immersion schools while serving as a legislator in the state house.

Honolulu Weekly BOE Endorsements

4th Dept./Central (ONE Seat)

Eileen Clarke

This candidate is well qualified, having received a doctoral degree from USC, a bachelor’s and master’s from UH and has worked in education in Hawai’i and elsewhere, as both a teacher and as an administrator. She is a graduate of McKinley and has four children who have attended Hawai’i public schools. Clarke served as a vice principal at Mililani High. She seems to have a good grasp on the problems faced by teachers in the trenches as well as the policy issues that the BOE deals with.

6th Dept./windward (ONE Seat)

Kris DeRego

Kris DeRego is one of the youngest candidates but gave a thoughtful, well-reasoned response to the questionnaire. He clearly knows about educational policy and has given much thought to both NCLB and Act 51. DeRego graduated from Castle High School just six years ago, and it could be good for the board to have someone on board who so recently graduated from our school system. He also recommends creating several autonomous commissions, one for streamlining the teacher certification process and another to oversee the performance of existing charter schools and applications for new ones.

No departmental school district residency (THREE SEATS; WE’RE ENDORSING FOUR)

Donna Ikeda

Ample political and committee experience from her days as a legislator and City Council member. Donna Ikeda is a local girl who attended University High, as well as UH-Manoa. She has a clear understanding of both Act 51 and of the federally mandated No Child Left Behind. She understands that the DOE needs to give ‘teachers financial support, opportunities and incentives to improve their teaching skills if we are going to expand our pool of highly qualified professionals.’

Karen Knudsen

Karen Knudsen has proven herself as an able board member during her years on the BOE. She knows how to make meetings move along and get agendas covered. She also has a good handle on Act 51 and the importance of adopting a formula within it that will be ‘sound, logical, fair and accurate information.’ Academic achievement in all grade levels and providing adequate resources are among her concerns.

Terrance Tom

A good board member, presently serving on the BOE. Tom has legislative experience, serving in the House from 1982-1998. He’s well aware of the crucial issues of teacher recruitment and retention as well as the challenges of Act 51 and NCLB. It’s good to have someone who is more sensitive to handicapped issues than most.

Ruth Tschumy

Ruth Tschumy has strong work and educational credentials, having been a teacher, an administrator, mediator and education columnist. Her questionnaire shows a firm grasp on the major concerns and possible effects of both Act 51 and NCLB.