HONOLULU — The Hawaii Department of Education is down to two candidates in its search to replace Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi.
The DOE recently interviewed Linda Chen and Christina Kishimoto and expects to hire one of them within a few weeks after narrowing down the search from 92 candidates.
Chen, 46, served as the chief academic officer for Baltimore City Public Schools in Maryland and as deputy chief academic officer for Boston Public Schools. She also served an assistant superintendent for the Philadelphia school district.
Chen has a doctorate in education from the Urban Education Leadership Program, a master’s degree in educational leadership, and a master’s degree in curriculum and teaching from Columbia University’s Teachers College.
Kishimoto, 48, is superintendent of Gilbert Public Schools in Arizona and previously served as superintendent of Hartford Public Schools in Connecticut.
Kishimoto also holds a doctorate in educational leadership from Columbia University’s Teachers College and a master’s degree in public affairs from the University of Connecticut.
Public testimony was made available and while there were some supporters of Chen and Kishimoto who submitted testimony, there were many voices from the community that oppose hiring either candidate.
Oahu resident Cal Chinen questioned either candidate’s ability to lead the department.
“Both of the finalists pose a tremendous risk for the state of Hawaii,” Chinen said. “Both of these candidates have very questionable issues in their records in their fairly recent histories.”
Chen’s resume doesn’t include any superintendent experience besides her role as an assistant and her tenure as chief academic officer for Baltimore City’s public schools lasted only two years.
Tracy Murakami, a Kauai resident, testified in favor of Kishimoto.
“Dr. Kishimoto refers to herself as a ‘bold leader,’” said Murakami. “I think bold leadership is essential to move the Hawaii DOE forward from the current system that often undervalues students’ needs.”
While some testimonies recognized Kishimoto’s experience in a superintendent position, there are question marks surrounding her performance reviews and ability to lead.
Kishimoto received low marks on her performance review back in 2013 and the Hartford schools board voted unanimously to reject Kishimoto’s request for a contract extension due to concerns surrounding her ability to communicate effectively and the slow rate of improvement in schools, according to reports by the Hartford Courant newspaper in Connecticut.
Dr. Lisa M. Watkins-Victorino, chairperson for the Native Hawaiian Education Council, said the council is “disappointed” the final candidates are not from Hawaii and do not appear to “readily understand Hawaii’s unique and complex context.”
Matayoshi’s contract expires June 30. The board decided against renewing it.