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• Thoughts on Board of Education
Thoughts on Board of Education
By Sherwood Hara
I have shared my opposition to the Governor’s initiative on elected school boards focusing on the broadest issue of your rights as a parent and citizen in our community. During the course of my four years as your Board of Education (BOE) representative, I have prayed that in every instance that I would be guided for your child and his/her education. It is with this focus that I weighed the factors I was exposed to in making my decision to support the Board’s position and not the Governor’s initiative.
First, governance of the BOE is not directly related to what happens in the classroom. Changes in governance do not directly influence improvements in your child’s achievement in school. The Honolulu Star Bulletin’s Wednesday, February 18, 2004 edition had a front page headline “Research fails to back Governor on school boards.” The non-partisan Education Commission of the States, the BOE, and the Superintendent supports the educational strategies most likely to improve student achievement- small schools, smaller classes, a weighted student formula, appropriate leadership training for principals, highly qualified teachers, a challenging curriculum, and adequate resources. A change in the governance structure will take away efforts by the present BOE, our Superintendent, the Department, our principals, and our teachers, who are diligently focusing their attention and efforts on standards-based education for students and their achievement.
Governor George R. Ariyoshi, Governor of Hawaii, 1973-1986, in the March 2004 Hawaii Business issue wrote “Where is the Reform in Education Reform?” states that “The work of teachers and students, supported by principal and parent, is the crux of the educational experience and must remain the focus of all real improvements in education.”
Second, my decision is further supported by the Department’s shortfall in funding each year. In 2002, we had a shortfall of $44 million; in 2003, a shortfall of $32 million; and in 2004, a shortfall of $23 million. Whenever the Department is faced with a shortfall and monies are required for other areas of dire need, monies are transferred out of the classroom account, a practice the Board and the Superintendent are working to minimize.
If we are faced with a shortfall every year and seven local school boards are established, where would the monies to fund the local boards come from? Where would the monies to administer the appointed Education Commission come from? Do we take monies away from the classroom budget?
Governor Ariyoshi goes on to say, “The proposal to create seven elected district (local) school boards is an irrelevant, cumbersome, and potentially costly step.”
Third, the BOE and our legislators received testimony from the principals, the teachers, and the Hawaii State Student Council (HSSC), who represent the young people in our state education. I was the Chairman of the Student Services Committee and these young people who represent the 182,000 students do research and debate to come to the conclusion that they do. Many of the HSSC bills have laid the basis for past legislation. The principals, the teachers, and the students do not support the Governor’s initiative. As Mr. Bryce Mendez, our student member of the Board, states “Throughout the community crossfire, in the media and the state government regarding local school boards, only one component remains idle. The students. No longer will we remain silent and let the decision be made for us. As a student member on the State Board of Education …. I will not support any legislation relating to the creation of local school boards … As its current status, the State Board of Education is easily accessible to the students.”
The HSSC’s official position not to support the idea of local school board is because it adds an additional layer to the present system and there is little evidence that proves a correlation between local school boards and student achievement.
Fourth, the BOE believes decision making should be at each school. This is where student achievement occurs. Consequently, the Board supports a student weighted formula where the monies follow each child to the respective school he/she is in. This will empower the schools to use resources to affect student achievement, provide schools the flexibility to use resources, and provide the framework for accountability.
For the Student Weighted Formula to succeed, certain conditions need to be met: (1) the Board and the Department’s need full authority to manage their own resources for education, e.g. not having Department of Accounting and General Services administer and control the monies for new construction of schools, repair, and maintenance as is presently done; and (2) a necessary infrastructure needs to be established and sustained which includes all the stakeholders, e.g. labor unions, parents, the Board, and the Department working together for the improvement of student achievement. The Board has revised the existing School/Community-Based Management (SCBM) system and needs to further assess it in the future. Each school is better represented at the school level as community members are chosen from the respective school community. The SCBM will be composed of the principal, teachers, students, support staff, and community members all working collaboratively for the students’ achievement.
I want to extend my thank you to Kaua‘i’s legislators who voted to not support the Governor’s initiative. I know it is only through thorough analysis of the data regarding governance and local school boards and its impact on education that they made the decision they did.
And I thank John Hoff and all of you who have taken the time to participate in the process with me and our community. We, indeed, have a community that cares about our children’s education.
We all want student success. Let’s focus on the classroom by supporting our teachers and your children.
Sherwood Hara is the State Board of Education’s Kaua‘i Board Representative
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