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Friday, November 10, 2000

BOE expects to
come together on
important issues

Knudsen says the debate over
gay-harassment rules won't
necessarily divide the board

By Crystal Kua

Once the election dust settles, the state Board of Education will be able to get down to the important work of educating Hawaii's public school students, a school board leader said.

The past political season saw the public and the board split over whether gay and lesbian students should be specifically protected against harassment.

But First Vice Chairwoman Karen Knudsen said while that issue consumed board politics, she believes the board will be able to get past that and come together to address more immediate concerns.

"I think that much has been made about the perceived differences, but I really think once the new members are sworn in and are active on the board, you'll see us focused on what's important at the school level," she said. "I don't automatically think we're going to have a divided board."

Board member Winston Sakurai said, "I agree. It's going to work itself out. I think we'll bring every-one together."

Incumbent board members Mitsugi Nakashima, who is also the current board chairman, Ron Nakano and Garrett Toguchi were voted out of office. Noemi Pendleton did not to run for re-election.

Replacing them on the board will be Sherwood Hara, Marilyn Harris, Donna Ikeda and Carol Gabbard.

Appointed members Michael Nakamura and Meyer Ueoka were elected to permanently serve on the board for the next two years.

Denise Matsumoto, Herbert Watanabe and Lex Brodie were re-elected.

"This happened around an election but I think once the dust will settle, we'll get down to the important work of the Board of Education and education issues," said Knudsen, who will be the longest serving member on the new board.

Board Executive Director Galen Onouye said because of a 20-day challenge period following the general election, new board members can't be sworn in earlier than Nov. 28.

The first meeting for the new board members will be Dec. 7 on Maui.

All nine members who were elected will be sworn in one or two days prior to that meeting, Onouye said.

A new chairman will also be selected at the Maui meeting along with two other leadership posts.

Committee positions will be decided in the weeks following that meeting.

"I think the new board members will bring new energies and new talent," Knudsen said.

"Sherwood Hara's a former board member and he's familiar with policy and procedures," board member Sakurai said.

Both Sakurai and Knudsen pointed to Ikeda, a former state senator who chaired the Ways and Means Committee, as being a helpful source on lobbying the Legislature on the school budget.

"Donna Ikeda knows the Legislature. We're going to tap her expertise in that area," Knudsen said.

Besides lobbying the Legislature to increase spending to the Department of Education's $1 billion budget, other immediate issues include aiming to fulfill requirements in the federal consent decree covering special education and implementing state Schools Superintendent Paul LeMahieu's reforms revolving around standards-based education.

"Those are going to be the real critical issues," Sakurai said.

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