Friday, December 17, 1999

BOE shelves LeMahieu’s
teacher accountability plan

By Crystal Kua


Schools Superintendent Paul LeMahieu hit a roadblock last night when he tried to separate an accountability system for school employees from the state's collective bargaining law.

The roadblock was the state Board of Education and unions.

Board members declared that devising an accountability system -- crucial in LeMahieu's drive for standards-based education -- is something that should be discussed at the bargaining table.

Saying they didn't want to jeopardize its good working relationship with public sector unions, the board voted unanimously to delete language in legislation proposed by the Department of Education that would have exempted such a system from the state law covering collective bargaining.

Unions representing teachers and other DOE employees favored the move.

"Why isn't the department willing to negotiate these matters with their employees?" Leiomalama Desha, a Hawaii Government Employees Association field services officer, asked the board.

Karen Ginoza, Hawaii State Teachers Association president, said accountability should be subject to collective bargaining laws. "It is through collective bargaining that true partnership is developed."

LeMahieu said the board's action won't prevent the department from pursuing accountability.

And while he saw the unions' stand as a willingness to pursue accountability, the superintendent added that it is unfortunate there is a history in Hawaii of believing that collective bargaining is the only form of collaboration.

"It isn't," he said.

The board approved the DOE's proposed bill after making the deletion and changing other parts of it.

Among other things, the proposal calls for continuous professional training for teachers and principals.

LeMahieu said Hawaii is one of only six states that doesn't have mandatory professional development, and the department will have an obligation to provide the training if it's required.

"We want to make darn sure that you can get it without reaching into your pocket," he said.

Teachers who have explicit needs after being evaluated for knowledge, skill and professional behavior could be held accountable and be required to take certain courses or training, he said.

The legislation sought exemption from collective bargaining laws because some parts of accountability could affect contracts -- for instance, if principals or teachers are removed or transferred, LeMahieu said.

Ginoza said teachers want to make sure that courses are available if they are required to take them as part of an accountability system.

"You cannot require a teacher to take the courses if they are in Hana," Ginoza said, referring to one of several rural areas in Hawaii where professional development is scarce. "We want to assure them that their due process is in place."

If monetary incentives are part of the system, then they would fall under collective bargaining agreements, which set salaries for teachers, she said.

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