Friday, April 27, 2001


The state's chief labor negotiator, Davis Yogi, smiled after the
governor announced a settlement between the state and
University of Hawaii Professional Assembly on April 17.

Davis Yogi
mends fences with
daughter’s teachers

The first day back reminds
him of the real beneficiaries
of the strike: the children

By Christine Donnelly

FOR DAVIS YOGI, the most uneasy moment in the long education strike may have come yesterday, just before facing his daughter's teachers as he brought her back to public school for the first time in three weeks.

HSTA logo Yogi was "happy and very relieved" to get a hug from his daughter's teacher and handshakes and waves from other school employees who knew him more as an involved dad than as the state's chief labor negotiator, who had been vilified along with Gov. Ben Cayetano by some teachers during the education showdown that closed schools across the state.

"They made me feel like everything was OK. There was a certain amount of healing I wanted to do. It was very important to me," said Yogi.

During the long strike, "probably a lot of people don't realize that I was feeling what everyone else was feeling. My daughter goes to public school," said Yogi, who graduated from Farrington High School.

"My wife and I are both products of the public schools. Certainly my heart was in trying to get the kids back to school. But I also had to represent the taxpayers."

He is proud of the final package, which boosts teacher pay across the board, provides big incentives for professional development and also requires unsatisfactory teachers to improve.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association ratified the pact Tuesday night.

Yogi said he hoped the community support showered upon the striking teachers, with people dropping off bottled water and snacks at picket lines, stays with the public schools and teachers now that school is back in session.

"I hope our communities and neighborhoods remember the bonds they created with our schools ... and the generosity and respect for teachers on the line expands to teachers year round," he said.

Yogi, also director of the state Department of Human Resources Development, said he felt an obligation as a high-ranking state official to send his kids to public school and has been "very satisfied" with his daughter's education so far.

His wife, Debra Kagawa, a lawyer, shares that philosophy, he said.

They have two daughters, one a toddler and one school age, who spent the lost school days at the YMCA's special strike care program.

As someone who considers himself a proponent of public education, Yogi said it was "hard and lonely sometimes" during the drawn-out labor dispute when he or the governor was accused of trying to destroy the public schools.

"I never anticipated seeing my name on protest signs, being called a dictator. We believed in what we were trying to do: help teachers by raising pay but also help students by creating incentives for teachers to increase their level of expertise," said Yogi. "I respect (Cayetano) for standing by what he thinks is right for the children of Hawaii."

Years of experience as a labor negotiator in both the private and public sector tell him "ultimately this was not about the teachers union and not about the state. This was about the children and the quality of the education they're going to get."

And yesterday morning, it was about a father, a daughter, her teachers and her school. Yogi declined to name the school or the teacher, saying he did not want to bring them unwanted attention.

"It was really just a nice private moment, and a relief for me to have her back at school and happy and see her teachers back at school and so happy."

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