is facing a runoff
A challenger tops the teachers
union leader in initial balloting
Incumbent Karen Ginoza has been forced into a runoff election for the presidency of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, after challenger Roger Takabayashi pulled ahead of her in initial balloting.
The third-place finisher, Albert Ferreira of Hilo, said he is throwing his support to Takabayashi, a former HSTA vice president who works as student services coordinator at Dole Middle School.
Officials at the union, which represents 13,000 public school teachers statewide, declined to divulge vote totals from the initial balloting, saying the results were unofficial and provided only to the candidates. The election was conducted by mail and the ballots were counted Saturday.
"They are not public information," said Executive Director Joan Husted. "Until the board certifies the results, the election is not official."
Takabayashi said he was told he received 1,591 votes, or 43 percent of the total cast in the election for president, while Ginoza received 1,493 votes or 41 percent, and Ferreira got 579, or 16 percent.
Takabayashi said he was informed of the vote count only after calling to inquire this week.
"I was elated," Takabayashi said. "I've had a lot of comments that we need a change, and I guess the vote tally kind of reflected that."
Ferreira said the union told him yesterday that Takabayashi had received the most votes, followed by Ginoza, but he was not given the actual tallies.
The results of the initial election will not be certified until the HSTA Board of Directors meets on May 10, Husted said. Meanwhile, ballots for the run-off election between Ginoza and Takabayashi were mailed yesterday, she said. They must be postmarked by midnight May 9, and will be tallied on May 17.
Ginoza, who took over as president in July 1998, has taken a week's leave from her job and did not return a call to HSTA headquarters seeking comment.
Takabayashi, who has taught in Hawaii's public schools for 33 years, said he wanted to bring a more open, collaborative style to the union leadership.
Last year he was named by the Hawaii School Counselors Association as state counselor advocate of the year, which may have raised his name recognition, he said. He served previously as vice president and as treasurer of the union.
"My style would be more open communication with the members," he said. "I also think we need to be more collaborative with our legislators, our Department of Education, our Board of Education. It's hard to make progress being constantly adversarial."
Ferreira, a social studies teacher at Hilo High School, said he is sending e-mail messages and posters to his supporters statewide asking them to back Takabayashi in the runoff.
"I know after this, I'm politically dead," Ferreira said, "but I figure a voice saying there needs to be change is a voice that needs to be heard."
Like Takabayashi, he said he was motivated to run out of a desire to improve communication between members and the leadership. "We've forgotten that things should go from the roots up," he said. "We've been too much top down lately, I think."
Ginoza is seeking her second three-year term as president. She served a two-year term before being reelected in 2000. Union bylaws now limit the president to two three-year terms.
Last week, HSTA agreed to extend its contract for another year, with no salary increase, in exchange for more money from the state for medical benefits. That announcement came Friday, after voting was complete in the first union election.
Hawaii's public school teachers went on strike for three weeks in April 2001, and some lingering discontent over that may be fueling the push for change, Takabayashi said.
"I think many teachers feel the strike was not really necessary," he said. "But we held together and that's a credit to the teachers."
The union won pay raises of about 16 percent, bringing the average teacher salary up to $45,600 by the end of the two-year contract, spokeswoman Danielle Lum said.