BOE issue to be heard off-island

Assuming a hot-button issue was dead, no one signed up to speak at the last Board of Education meeting on Kaua‘i — which means those wanting to sound off will have to do so in Honolulu next month.

The topic, slated on the BOE’s agenda for discussion and action regarding the Hanalei School’s request to change the work site used in adverse weather conditions, was deferred at Thursday’s meeting at Waimea High School.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean those interested in the issue will be able to turn up easily the next time it’s discussed. Because the BOE is a statewide entity that rotates its meeting schedule on different islands, its next meeting will be on O‘ahu.

In light of the lack of participants, Denise Matsumoto, Chairperson of the BOE committee on Collective Bargaining, said, “That’s unfortunate. We would have liked to hear from them.”

Matsumoto said that her understanding from the Hawai‘i State Teachers Association was that the school was told that the request was denied. Because they were under the impression that “it was dead,” they did not attend the meeting.

“The issue is not dead,” Matsumoto said.

The provision to be discussed hinges on a requirement for teachers to report to another school in the event of road closures, and the quality of working conditions provided in such situations.

The issue stems from a Hanalei School exception request to allow teachers to remain at home to work when flooding forces schools to close.

Nathan Aiwohi, principal at Kapa‘a Middle School, was principal at Hanalei Elementary when the issue presented itself arose two years ago. When an employee was unable to come into work because of a road closure, he was therefore unable to earn money that day.

A proposed solution to rectify the problem was to get people to work despite road closures.

Aiwohi said he developed a plan in collaboration with the Regional Personnel Officer, the Complex Area Superintendent and his staff. The plan called for those living north of the Hanalei Bridge to report to Hanalei Elementary in such situations. Those living south of the bridge could choose to report to Kilauea Elementary, Kapa‘a Elementary, Kapa‘a Middle or Kapa‘a High School.

When teachers reported to the alternate sites, they were given the flexibility to do whatever schoolwork they needed to get done, whether it was correcting assignments, writing lesson plans, developing grade level teaming projects or continuing waiver day/professional collaboration day activities.

Laptop computers had been purchased for each teacher as part of the new information system installation process, and Aiwohi said teachers were given the option to take the lap tops home, so they could have it available to them should they need to report to an alternate work site.

Teachers also were given the flexibility to arrive at the alternate work site at 8:15 a.m., to avoid the congestion.

Aiwohi said Hanalei Elementary has always been deemed safe in case of flooding. However, when flooding conditions occur, teachers living in flood zones are offered early release.

“Safety is our number one concern,” Aiwohi said.

According to the request, “being directed to ‘mark time’ in some designated corner of another school does not constitute professional treatment of teachers.”

The request also states that teachers should be allowed to work at home for their own safety.

The Police Department determines road closures. Capt. Alejandra Quibilan of the Patrol Services Bureau said that on the average, the Hanalei Bridge road is closed four to six times a year due to flooding conditions.

In order for the request to be made, the school community council had to be able to document the collaborative process that was used to reach consensus. This is part of the process the BOE established so that schools may be granted waivers of specific BOE policies or rules and may be granted exceptions to specific provisions of labor agreements to which the BOE is a signatory.

The SCC exception review committee, consisting of two representatives from the union involved and two BOE members, reviews the request.

Upon recommendation by the committee, requests are forwarded to the BOE for final approval.

Matsumoto said the matter was deferred because they would like to get more information. The goal is to get the issue resolved before the end of the school year.

The next BOE meeting is scheduled for June 7 in Honolulu.

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