ControversialCalling for healing to begin, newly elected Board of Education member Carol Gabbard says she wants to work with fellow board members and the community to do what's best for the schools.
Gabbard wins seat
on schools board
Chairman Mitsugi Nakashima
and board members Garrett
Toguchi and Ron Nakano lose
By Debra Barayuga
Besides Gabbard, three new faces will join the school board come December. Longtime board members Mitsugi Nakashima and Ron Nakano lost their seats to newcomers.
"If we can put at the forefront the children and the best interest of the kids and put our differences aside, we can accomplish what we're setting out to do -- that is, to raise our standards and our educational system," Gabbard said.
The most controversial school board candidate, Gabbard says she was dragged into a "smear campaign" that portrayed her as a homophobe and hatemonger because of the Gabbard name and the victory two years ago by supporters of traditional marriage in the same-sex marriage debate.
In what was expected to be the most hotly contested race, Gabbard came from behind in the last printout to secure the third Oahu at-large seat. She led with 5,380 votes more than incumbent Garrett Toguchi.
The outcome was "testimony that 99,000 people in Hawaii turned their back on that type of campaign and supported what we were doing," she said.
Toguchi, the board's advocate on students with disabilities, Hawaiian studies and Hawaiian immersion and who led in the first two printouts, expressed disappointment in the final outcome. "I really thought that people were doing their homework."
That only three percentage points separated tire dealer Lex Brodie and former Sen. Donna Ikeda -- first and second, respectively, in the first two of three Oahu at-large seats open -- showed voters are more serious about who they want elected, Toguchi said. He hopes the board, with its newly elected members, will continue to address the needs of disabled students, Hawaiian programs, and gifted and talented students -- who in the past have been neglected by the board.
"If new board members are not aware or supportive of those programs, I think there will be a slide backward for these things."
The loss of current board Chairman Nakashima and Nakano, who each brought their brand of history and expertise, will be felt, Toguchi said. The department is in the midst of compliance with federal requirements involving mentally disabled students, development of performance standards and accountability for teachers and administrators. "For the board to be in disarray is not going to be helpful," he said. "The main thing is to be able to work well together."
Gabbard said she hopes the attention paid to the controversial anti-harassment policy passed last week granting specific protection to gay and lesbian students leads to more involvement by the community and parents in education.
"Hopefully, we can move on to issues that are concern to all of us, find commonalities rather than differences, so that we can work together."
In other school board races:
Second-time candidate Marilyn Harris toppled incumbent Nakano from the Leeward seat by 20,116 votes.
Kauai Family Court Director Sherwood Hara defeated Nakashima by 2,548 of the votes.
Retired Honolulu Police Chief Michael Nakamura swept the Central Oahu seat with 111,477 votes. He had been appointed to fill one of two seats vacated by members who resigned to run for the state House. His closest challenger received only 11 percent of the votes.
Maui attorney Meyer Ueoka, appointed to fill the second seat, was defeated by 136 votes by the winner in that district, William Myers.
Incumbents Denise Matsumoto of Honolulu and Herbert Watanabe of the Big Island were easily elected to another term.
Elections chief says turnout could have been betterChief Elections Officer Dwayne Yoshina says voter turnout was slightly higher than he predicted, but it could have been better.
He said 58.2 percent of registered voters cast ballots.
"I would hope people were interested enough in a presidential election to participate at a higher rate," he said.
Turnout in presidential elections here has been declining steadily in the last decade.
Emails urged voters to 'plunk' in BOE raceEmails from supporters of Board of Education candidates fighting for the third spot on the at-large seat urged voters to "plunk" their vote. Plunking means casting only one vote in elections where you can vote for more than one candidate. It gives the candidate you vote for an advantage.
Lex Brodie, who has always gotten the most votes, and former state Sen. Donna Ikeda were expected to finish first and second.
The last Honolulu printout showed 199,399 "undervotes" were not cast in the BOE at large race, indicating a whole lot of plunking was going on.
By contrast, the top vote getter -- Lex Brodie -- received 113,462 votes.