Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Isle educational officer
helped unionize principals

Takao Ito / HGEA founding member


By Mary Vorsino

Takao Ito, former president and founding member of the Hawaii Government Employees Association, who helped convince local educational officers that the union would best suit their needs, died on June 6. He was 82.

"We've lost a giant of a man in (Ito)," HGEA Executive Director Russell Okata said in a statement yesterday. "(And) one of the founders of HGEA in the collective-bargaining era."

In 1970, when government employees were given the right to select their own unions, the Department of Education's officers, which includes principals and vice principals, had three union choices: the Hawaii Education Association, HGEA or independence.

Okata credits Ito with moving principals and vice principals statewide away from the teacher-dominated HEA toward HGEA by an overwhelming majority.

"The initial odds were against HGEA ... (but) Takao was convinced that his group deserved their own union that was separate from teachers," Okata said.

To campaign for the union, Ito took two weeks without pay from his principal's position at Koko Head Elementary School and talked to educators statewide about the union's benefits, said his longtime friend Paul Kobayashi, a retired principal for the Wahiawa Community School for Adults.

Ito was born and grew up in Maui and worked in local sugar plantations while in his teens. He joined the Army and served with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II. After the war, he entered the University of Hawaii and majored in education to "pay back the community," Kobayashi said.

Ito worked for the Department of Education from 1954, when he was a teacher at Pearl Harbor Elementary, until 1984, when he was principal of McKinley Community School for Adults, when he retired.

He served as HGEA's president from 1974 to 1978.

Ito stressed equality above all else and strove to bring education to everyone, Kobayashi said.

"We've lost one of the pioneers in education and equality," he said. "He was a real good guy and he cared about people."

Ito is survived by his wife June T.; his three sons Thomas Y., Alvin T. and Peter K.; his three daughters Marilynn T. Ito-Won, Cathy K. Mochizuki and Yvette S. Muta; brother George and five grandchildren.

Services will be held at Hosoi Garden Mortuary at 6 p.m. Friday. The family has requested that attendees wear casual attire.

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