Cayetano puts trust in Matayoshi


POSTED: Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Acting schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi, described as a quick study with good communication skills, has the courage to work for the public interest, says former Gov. Ben Cayetano.

Cayetano, who faced budget shortfalls in his administration, said that as the director from 1995 to 2002, Matayoshi turned the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs “;upside down”; and streamlined it.

“;Kathy is smart, honest, innovative and has the courage needed to put the public interests above all else,”; Cayetano said. “;As a noneducator, I think she will bring a different perspective. ... She did a great job for me ... and I think she will do the same at the (state Department of Education).”;

But there are some who wonder whether Matayoshi has the independence to make the hard decisions to balance the department's budget and reshape and improve a department criticized by some for high spending and low student test scores.

She is balancing on a political tightrope on her route toward potentially becoming the new head of the state Department of Education.

She is backing a plan between the teachers union and school board that would add more instructional days but not enough to restore all 17 Furlough Fridays.

Meanwhile, she is trying to persuade federal officials to give Hawaii millions of dollars in competitive educational grant money.

The Board of Education is scheduled Monday to consider appointing Matayoshi as interim superintendent.

Matayoshi, 51, an attorney by profession, comes from a family with strong Democratic Party ties on the Big Island.

Her father, Herbert Matayoshi, served as Big Island mayor.

Hawaii business advocate state Sen. Sam Slom said Matayoshi has “;fresh eyes”; and did a good job as director of the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs under Cayetano.

But Slom, president of Smart Business Hawaii, said he would prefer that the Board of Education wait for a while before appointing a permanent superintendent and see how Matayoshi performs as interim superintendent.

“;We've rushed into so many appointments in the past,”; said Slom (R, Diamond Head-Hawaii Kai). “;I really don't think there's a need to rush it on.”;

Slom said he also wants the board to wait for reports about the department by the state Office of the Auditor and a review of procurement procedures by the state attorney general.

Hawaii State Teachers Association President Wil Okabe said he supports the appointment of Matayoshi to superintendent and that she has worked well with his group.

“;Her intelligence and can-do attitude would serve the department well,”; Okabe said.

But Jeff Garland, secretary of the nonprofit Community Media Producers Network, said that during Matayoshi's tenure as commerce director, the number of cable stations for future public, education and government use was reduced.

Garland said that under Matayoshi he felt the public hearing process was “;opaque”; and that he did not know enough about what was being proposed before the cable division public hearings.

Republican state Sen. Fred Hemmings said Matayoshi might be able to make some changes, but unless she is willing to take on the establishment, she will be a “;rubber stamp.”;

“;I hope she's brave ... but I'm not holding my breath,”; Hemmings said.



Kathryn Matayoshi

The former Cabinet member under former Gov. Ben Cayetano sits on the board of directors of the Aloha United Way and Pacific Resources for Education and Learning, and is a charter member of the Hawaii P-20 Council. Her resume:

» Deputy education superintendent, July 2009-January 2010
» Executive director, Hawaii Business Roundtable, 2007-2009
» President and chief executive officer, Community Links Hawaii, 2006-2007
» Strategic planning consultant, 2005-2007
» Chief of staff, Honolulu Board of Water Supply, 2002-2005
» Director, state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, 1995-2002
» Positions at Hawaiian Electric Co., 1988-1995
» Law firm of Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel, 1983-1988
» Law clerk for U.S. District Judge Samuel P. King, 1982-1983
» Law degree, Hastings College of Law, University of California
» Bachelor's degree, Carleton College (Minnesota)
» Graduate, Hilo High School