Wednesday, July 8, 1998

says clear goals
are needed

'The standards need
to be absolutely central to
what the system
is about'

By Debra Barayuga


When he returns here Sept. 1, new schools Superintendent Paul LeMahieu will spend his first four to six months assessing schools' strengths and weaknesses -- by talking to people both in and outside the system.

He will look at data on program and student performances. With that, he and the school board will establish benchmarks for the system, then a plan to meet them.

What the schools need, he said, is a clear game plan to mold the talent, structure and standards.

"If we can do that, we can dream the dream that other places can only dream about," said LeMahieu in a meeting with the Star-Bulletin editorial board yesterday.

Info Box LeMahieu -- picked by the school board to succeed Herman Aizawa, who left the $90,041 job last month -- is in Hawaii this week from his current Delaware home base.

To regain people's trust in the school system, he said, he'll need to work directly with people and build relationships.

Meaningful involvement for parents, for example, means moving beyond participation in bake sales to making decisions over school affairs.

Changes to the system are needed, LeMahieu said. His responsibility as a leader is to help people see the importance for serious changes, then make them happen. "I want to work with the system."

LeMahieu has worked with people in Hawaii's schools over the past five years.

He's helped the Department of Education develop writing assessments, assisted with Waialae Elementary's accountability system, worked with East Honolulu schools and their school-to-work initiatives, and aided Kekaha Elementary's Hawaiian language immersion program.

The single, biggest obstacle to student achievement is the lack of coherence in the system, LeMahieu said.

Coherence requires all partners in education to carry out their unique roles and to have a clear set of goals for the system.

The goals -- known as the Hawaii Content and Performance Standards, which state what students ought to know and be able to do -- have already been developed.

But either because people didn't understand a standards-based system or weren't committed, it hasn't had much influence, he said.

"The standards need to be absolutely central to what the system is about."

Hitting those standards should be the center around which decisions such as these revolve:

Bullet Allocation of resources, curriculum and instructional materials.

Bullet Skills that teachers need to acquire.

The school system has the conditions for success, LeMahieu said, one of the reasons why he took the job.

Because it is a statewide school system, Hawaii has the opportunity for all its districts to pursue the same goals. It also has quality people committed to improving the system, and LeMahieu sees a respect here for children and for people who work with them.

And despite the frustration and dissatisfaction directed at the school system, he sees support for it.

"I came away believing that the structure, the people and the values -- the commitment and willingness -- were right to provide the conditions, at least, to be successful."

Education board
to review Aizawa post


The state Board of Education will review the appointment of former Superintendent Herman Aizawa as principal of the McKinley Community School for Adults.

Board Chairwoman Karen Knudsen said the matter will be taken up when the board meets at 2 p.m. tomorrow, following concerns about Aizawa's new job and salary.

A week before he left as superintendent, Aizawa appointed an assistant to act on his behalf.

The assistant approved Aizawa's appointment to the adult education post, although Aizawa was never interviewed for the position.

Under union and Department of Education rules, Aizawa can retain his $90,000 superintendent's salary for one year.

The review was requested, Knudsen said, "after concerns were raised if proper procedures were followed."

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