Friday, September 7, 2001


HSTA vents
frustration to
Ed board

The union laments broken
promises to new hires and
objects to the hiring of
uncertified teachers

Federal action looms in contract dispute

By Leila Fujimori

More than a dozen teachers warned the Board of Education last night that the shortage of educators in Hawaii is getting worse and that many more of them are ready to walk out.

Still, some railed against the suggestion by the state Department of Education and others that vacant positions be filled by candidates who have bachelor's degrees but are not certified teachers.

Carol Cameron, a Waipahu High School teacher for 30 years, objected to any plan to "hire any warm body with a bachelor's degree." She called it "an insult to my 30 years of service and training."

The discussion last night highlighted what has become another hot-button political issue between the public teachers union and the state, two sides that have yet to finalize a contract deal that ended a three-week strike last spring.

State education officials have said the state has a shortage of more than 400 teachers. Calling the situation a crisis, they called on people without teaching certification to apply, and the Department of Education has since been flooded with calls by interested applicants.

Gov. Ben Cayetano's administration accused the Hawaii State Teachers Association yesterday of "exaggerating" the shortage to get more money out of the state in the current dispute over teacher bonuses.

Cayetano's communications director, Jackie Kido, said: "Union leaders deliberately timed the strike to place the graduation of Hawaii students at risk. Now, they are exaggerating a teacher shortage in order to pressure taxpayers into paying more than was agreed on."

HSTA Executive Director Joan Husted responded: "The teacher shortage in Hawaii is real. It is a national shortage." She said that until every classroom has a properly licensed teacher, "We need to be terribly concerned."

Teachers who attended last night's BOE meeting also complained about the still-unsettled contract, which union members ratified in April.

Math teacher Dennis Hansen said he is taking his master's degree and leaving Waipahu High School in January to fix air-conditioning equipment at Pearl Harbor shipyard. "I'll be making more than a teacher with a master's degree," he said.

Joan Lewis, HSTA vice president, gave an impassioned plea on behalf of newly hired teachers, who have problems getting what they were promised when recruited, including moving expenses. "When the HSTA warned about an impending teacher shortage, we were treated like Chicken Little squawking about the sky falling," said Lewis, who urged the board to take a stand on the contract dispute.

"We're waiting to hear that you support us," Lewis said. "Your silence is deafening."

Board Chairman Herbert Watanabe said the board had recommended to have the contract implemented without the disputed portion involving bonuses for advanced degrees, but the proposal was rejected by both sides.

Board member Winston Sakurai said the board knew there would be a shortage of teachers and administrators.

"The problems that we're having right now does have to do with the contract," Sakurai said. "I would like to see the contract resolved as soon as possible."

Schools Superintendent Paul LeMahieu, commenting on the complaints of new recruits, called their problems "unconscionable" and said he would meet with them to help.

As for the having uncertified teachers hired to fill the 400 vacancies, LeMahieu said that it would be with the understanding that these individuals would get certified eventually.

But Barbara Ioli, a parent of a special-education child, and a representative on the Leeward Oahu Special Education Advisory Council, objected to having special-education, math and science positions filled by uncertified teachers.

"I don't think it's right," she said. "It's hard for regular-education teachers, and you're going to have people who aren't even teachers trying to fill the slots of special-education teachers?"

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