BOE will welcomeBy Debra Barayuga
three new members
Three new members to the state Board of Education are looking forward to joining the new schools superintendent in injecting new life into Hawaii's public schools.
While the board will miss the expertise and experience from ousted members, the newcomers bring strong qualifications and new ideas, said the board's chairwoman.
"I do see a strong, cohesive board advancing the agenda we had in hiring the new superintendent," said at-large board member Karen Knudsen, who easily won a third term. "We will see a focus on assessment, accountability and (student) achievement. I don't see any dissidents taking us in a different direction."
The newcomers and three incumbents were the winners in yesterday's general election.
Besides Knudsen, incumbents Keith Sakata in the at-large race and Winston Sakurai in the Windward Oahu race also retained their seats.
First-time candidates unseated Windward Community College psychology instructor John Mike Compton in the at-large race and retired corrections program planner Francis McMillen in the Central Oahu race.
Shannon Ajifu, an educator with 34 years in the public schools, handily defeated Compton and two newcomers to garner the second-highest number of votes in the at-large race.
Ajifu worked in the system as a counselor and administrator and said she knows what the schools need. "At times they don't feel they're being heard at the board level. I think I can offer a historical perspective."
Despite being recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer, Ajifu's prognosis looks good and she is confident she will serve the board well.
She said, "I feel I can do it, and the doctors are pleased with my progress."
Compton was a passionate advocate for disabled and special-needs children, said fellow board member Sakurai. "That has been his calling card."
In a heated Central Oahu race, parent and Realtor associate Marilee Lyons
pulled ahead of three-term incumbent McMillen.
"My goal is to have a better education for students, a better environment, better learning resources and support for teachers and principals," said Lyons. "I'm not an educator, but I'm in touch with parents and students, and I think that's important."
McMillen brought to the board years of experience and an understanding of the political process in Hawaii, Knudsen said. "He does have a definite drive and commitment."
Construction inspector Sakata held on to his at-large seat with the third-highest number of votes.
While he admits to being a low-key presence on the board, Sakata said he hopes to be more outspoken in his support of students, teachers and support staff. He will continue to focus on violence in the schools and push for better teaching environments.
Graduate student Sakurai faced a tough challenge to his Windward District seat from Moanalua High Principal Jacqueline Heupel. Sakurai will continue to push for fiscal accountability -- to ensure money is reaching the classrooms -- teacher training, lower class sizes and increased decision-making at the school level.
Insurance executive Mike Victorino handily defeated University of Hawaii college student Lance Collins to fill the Maui seat.
"I will work diligently to make changes to restore people's confidence in the public school system," Victorino said.
Members to the nonpartisan school board serve four-year terms. They will be sworn in at the Dec. 5 board meeting, at which time officers will also be elected.