Friday, December 14, 2001

Hawaii State Seal

New schools
chief selected

Pat Hamamoto's interim status
as chief changes to permanent

By Crystal Kua

The Board of Education hired interim Superintendent Pat Hamamoto yesterday as the permanent leader of Hawaii's public schools, awarding her a four-year contract and a $150,000 annual salary, about $60,000 more than her predecessor.

The appointment, announced last night at a board meeting, is effective immediately.

Hamamoto was named interim superintendent after the former superintendent, Paul LeMahieu, resigned in October.

She had been LeMahieu's deputy.

"From the time she became interim, she has shown good leadership, and the board has been very satisfied and very happy with the leadership," said board Chairman Herbert Watanabe.

He said the board was looking for stability as public schools face $21 million in budget cuts this year and next, a crucial compliance deadline in March in the federal mandate to improve special-education services, and the legislative session starting next month.

Watanabe had previously said that a national search would be conducted.

"We don't think a national search is necessary. We think we have the person as capable as anybody can find to run the system," he said last night.

Hamamoto said: "It's an honor that the board feels that I can do the job. I think it says a lot in their support of me. They have the confidence in me."

She said the board's primary purpose is to focus on what is happening with students so "the kids don't lose with all these changes that we know we're currently engaged in."

Joan Husted, executive director of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, said: "I think it is a good choice. She's got a feel for the school level."

Hamamoto's career began 30 years ago as a teacher, and she has held various positions throughout the schools system.

Her insight and knowledge of how the department works was a major consideration for the board. "Having been in the system, she understands the full depth. You might find a person (in a national search) with very good credentials, but not knowing the system, it might take them a whole year or more to understand all that," Watanabe said.

When Hamamoto was named interim superintendent, she won praise from throughout the school system and government for what they said was her ability to get whatever job she has done.

She has also been the lead person in the department in compliance issues related to the Felix consent decree in improving educational and mental health services for special-needs children.

"I do know the Department of Education; I know the concerns; I know the problems, the challenges," Hamamoto said. "I'm fully cognizant of the political as well as the community factors."

She was the principal of McKinley High School when she was tapped to be LeMahieu's deputy.

"I think she was the best choice I made, maybe the best decision I made -- that's how good she is," LeMahieu said last night.

Hamamoto called her new job an "awesome responsibility," and LeMahieu said being at the top is much different.

"It's a lot lonelier. In the end you are the sole individual responsible for the decisions, and there are a lot of folks who rely on you because of that," he said.

Hamamoto's salary is higher than the $90,041 earned by her former boss.

The Legislature gave the BOE the ability to set the salary of the superintendent up to $150,000 last year, but the board did not act to raise LeMahieu's salary. That's because LeMahieu did not want a raise until the teacher contract was settled, Watanabe said.

"We feel the position deserves (the $150,000)," Watanabe said. "In this case we are starting with a new person, so we're just going to the max."

Hamamoto said she is looking forward to giving back to the system that has supported her throughout her career.

"I believe with the board's guidance and direction ... we will weather and we will move together," she said.

BOE votes to find ways to cut budget $21 million

The Board of Education voted last night to accept $21 million in cuts in the Department of Education budget for this fiscal year and next.

Gov. Ben Cayetano has told the DOE to restrict $7.1 million in its budget for the current fiscal year and $14.4 million in reductions for the next fiscal year beginning July 1.

The board agreed with the department to accept the cuts in lump sum and decide within the next few weeks on where to specifically make the cuts.

As part of the current year's restrictions, the department plans not to fund $1.4 million in programs authorized by the Legislature this past session.

Those programs include $550,000 for School to Work, $200,000 for principal and vice principal incentives, $250,000 for professional development schools and $400,000 for fine arts resource teachers.

Board moves to expand gender equity in schools

A new policy on gender equity was adopted by the Board of Education last night.

An Advisory Commission on Gender Equity recommended that the board pass such a policy, which says that the 1972 federal gender-equity law known as Title IX will be standard to provide all students with an equal opportunity in DOE programs and activities.

Title IX has been primarily applied to seeking equity in boys and girls sports in the public schools which must abide by the law because the DOE receives federal funding.


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