Letters for Thursday, December 4, 2014

• All need to prevent senseless acts • School empowerment would improve state’s education system

All need to prevent senseless acts

The bludgeoning to death of a defenseless Hawaiian monk seal was cold and heartless. 

We need to bring focus and attention to the necessity of re-establishing the essence of “living aloha” and the emphasis of practicing “malama aina” principles to the consciousness of all who live here and to those who come to visit our aina! We are all responsible for protecting and preserving the basic values and traditions developed by the kanaka maoli for all of us to observe and live by. These things cannot be taken for granted! 

Media exponents should be front and center to provide information of these basic principles. Schools should incorporate lessons into the curricula at all levels to develop awareness of these “life lessons.” However, it may be possible to promote ways to “live aloha” and taking care of our environment should be part of our daily lives. This is our shared kuleana — for residents and visitors alike! Let’s join forces and make every effort to prevent cruel and senseless acts like this from happening again. 

Jose Bulatao, Jr., Kekaha

School empowerment would improve state’s education system

More and more people are coming to the realization that Hawaii’s public school system is dysfunctional. The Department of Education has adopted an obsolete organizational model of command and control that has not kept up with how society has evolved and is not consistent with contemporary management principles.

The central office of the DOE controls schools by issuing commands and principals and teachers must comply with the mandates. At every school, however, the principal and teachers know much more than those in the central office about their students and how best to educate them.

Principals and teachers often view the mandates as irrelevant to student learning. Yet, they have to comply with the seemingly endless stream of mandates, which detracts from fulfilling their educational responsibilities. It’s no surprise that their morale is at an all-time low.

No wonder Hawaii consistently ranks in the bottom 10 among all state school systems. Good people are working in a bad system.

School empowerment consists of organizing principles that are designed to change the culture of educational institutions, such as Hawaii’s DOE, by putting student learning at the center of all activities. School empowerment aligns the roles and responsibilities of all employees so that they are accountable in their own way for student learning.

School empowerment recognizes that at every school the principal and teachers know their students best, and they can best design the most effective educational program for them. Individual schools are given the majority of the responsibility for student learning. At each school, the principal is an educational leader who encourages and facilitates collaboration among teachers, other school staff, and other stakeholders. Through collaborative efforts, they determine the educational philosophy of the school, the curriculum, instructional methods, and how ancillary services support student learning.

School empowerment envisions a decentralized structure in which the role of the central office and its district offices is changed from one of command and control to that of support for the individual schools. As a group, the individual schools determine what they need from the central office.

School empowerment aligns resources with responsibilities. Most of the total budget for education is distributed equitably to the individual schools because that’s where learning takes place.

School empowerment consists of a set of principles that must be woven into the fabric of the organization. It is not a template that can be easily laid down. The process takes time and requires substantial effort by many people. Ultimately, however, school empowerment holds the promise of achieving excellence in education for Hawaii’s children. They deserve nothing less.

John Kawamoto, Honolulu

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