Monday, June 15, 1998

New schools chief
brings hope of reform

THE Board of Education has reached outside the state school system -- and the state itself -- for the next superintendent of schools. Paul LeMahieu grew up in Kaaawa but his college degrees and experience are on the mainland. He currently heads the Education Research and Development Center at the University of Delaware and previously worked in the Pittsburgh school system. His credentials in teacher development, student assessment and related issues are impressive. He is credited with being a "linchpin" in the school reform effort in Delaware.

He is familiar with the Hawaii school system, having served as a consultant to the Department of Education, and has made an effort to learn more about current conditions since becoming a candidate for the superintendent's job.

LeMahieu might provide the leadership to lift Hawaii's much-criticized school system out of mediocrity. The fact that he is not a product of the Hawaii system, unlike his two immediate predecessors, offers hope that he will bring a fresh perspective and new ideas to the job. However, it would be wrong to expect miracles. Unrealistic expectations could saddle the new superintendent with an impossible burden.

Hawaii's statewide system has advantages, but it must function with splintered accountability that makes any superintendent's role a complicated one. LeMahieu is responsible to the elected Board of Education, but the governor and Legislature determine how much money the school system receives, and the Legislature often calls the shots on other matters as well. The teachers and principals' unions are also major factors.

Anyone stepping into this job knows that it will be a challenge, given the widespread dissatisfaction with Hawaii students' comparative test scores and other problems. LeMahieu seems well qualified to accept that challenge.

The Board of Education also reached outside the system in choosing a new state librarian to replace the beleaguered Bart Kane. Its choice is Virginia Lowell, currently director of the 54-branch Nassau, N.Y., library system. She has 35 years in library work, having previously served in Michigan and Ohio.

Lowell was the only mainland applicant among five finalists. This may be a plus because she bears none of the baggage from the bruising fight between Kane and many librarians over the failed attempt to contract out book purchasing for the system.

We wish the new schools superintendent and the new state librarian well. Their success is important to the community.


Two success stories

SINCE Ben Cayetano became governor, the H-3 freeway and the Hawaii Convention Center have been completed. Both projects originated in previous administrations and were long bogged down in controversy. The freeway is a rousing success and the convention center promises to be one.

The formal opening of the convention center showed the public a magnificent facility that has already attracted dozens of convention bookings. It looks like it will be the stimulant to the visitor industry that its supporters hoped for.

The convention center project got off to a false start with the initial designation of the International Market Place on Kalakaua Avenue as the site. That decision, and its subsequent nullification, caused years of delay. The ultimate location, at the intersection of Kalakaua and Kapiolani Boulevard, isn't ideal but is probably the best of the three proposed sites considering all the circumstances.

Now that the center is finally completed, it appears to be worth all the money and effort that went into it. And we expect the center authorities to keep the noise down.

The H-3 was even more controversial than the convention center, with court battles stretching over decades. Now six months old, the freeway has proved itself in terms of usage and relief of traffic on the other trans-Koolau routes. The number of daily trips on the Likelike Highway has been cut in half. A tabulation of trips across the Pali on April 3 showed that of 123,660 trips made, 42 percent were on the Pali Highway, 29 percent on Likelike and another 29 percent on H-3.

Originally state officials had hoped H-3 would draw 10 to 15 percent of the trans-Koolau trips on the other two highways. That turned out to be an underestimate. In addition, the number of trips overall has increased. On Dec. 1, before H-3 was opened, there were 108,036 trips; on April 3 123,660. Officials estimate that H-3 has cut Honolulu commuting time for Windward motorists by 15 minutes -- a very significant saving.

Not every government public works project turns out well. These have.


East Timor dispute

ONE effect of the resignation of Indonesia's President Suharto may be to make possible resolution of the East Timor dispute. Under Suharto, Indonesian troops invaded East Timor in 1975 after the Portuguese colonial government withdrew. Since then Indonesia has been criticized repeatedly for its harsh tactics in repressing opposition to its rule. Suharto had refused to make any concessions to calls for autonomy.

Now Suharto's successor, B.J. Habibie, is reportedly ready to grant East Timor special status. A presidential aide said Indonesia, which is predominately Muslim, was willing to grant some form of recognition to the territory's culture and Roman Catholic religion. However, Habibie has ruled out independence. Activists said the proposal would not suffice to end the guerrilla war.

Still, it is a sign that negotiations may be possible. Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas said that Suharto's departure had provided an opportunity for Portugal, East Timorese separatists and Indonesia to resolve their conflicts.

Indonesia seized East Timor during a turbulent period in Southeast Asia with the war in Indochina winding down. Today the threat of communist aggression or subversion has faded and with it security concerns over East Timor. The new government in Jakarta has enough on its hands with the collapse of the economy without continuing the struggle in the territory.

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John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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