A consultant to Lingle objects
to criticism from a DOE official
over reform findings
The debate over school reform flared yesterday as the governor's educational consultant denounced the spokesman for Hawaii public schools for impugning his reputation and trying to "intimidate" him.
Department of Education spokesman Greg Knudsen sent two e-mails blasting consultant William Ouchi and his research to Ouchi's boss at the University of California at Los Angeles.
"I know that school reform is a contact sport," Ouchi said. "But this kind of vicious assault on my reputation by writing to my dean, to my boss, is absolutely, completely beyond the realm of anything I have encountered before and anything that is morally acceptable."
Ouchi held a press conference at Gov. Linda Lingle's office yesterday to release a letter he was sending to the chairman of the Board of Education asking that Knudsen be reprimanded for what he described as "shameful" behavior.
Attached were two e-mails sent from Knudsen's home to Bruce Willison, dean of UCLA's Anderson School of Management, where Ouchi is a professor of corporate renewal.
"Hawaii's governor is giving Bill Ouchi several free trips back to his home island," Knudsen wrote in the first one, sent Nov. 28. "In return, Anderson School faculty member Ouchi is giving UCLA's reputation a black eye with phony research that has one purpose -- to advance the governor's political agenda."
Knudsen was referring to a recent report Ouchi wrote with Bruce Cooper, a professor of educational administration at Fordham University, entitled "Financial Analysis of Hawaii Public Schools." The report claimed that just half of every dollar spent on education in Hawaii makes it into the classroom, but was quickly slammed by Schools Superintendent Patricia Hamamoto as distorted and misleading.
Knudsen's message included links to editorials in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and the Honolulu Advertiser that criticized the Cooper-Ouchi report, a link to the Department of Education's critique of it and a link to the report itself.
Knudsen said he sent the e-mail in his private capacity but signed off as communications director, Hawaii Department of Education, "in the interest of full disclosure."
"I in no way thought that it would threaten his position," Knudsen said yesterday. "I did feel that it might result in a little more quality in his research work. ... I should have clarified that it was just my own action and definitely was not anything that I was doing on behalf of anyone else."
Ouchi said he would not have objected if the e-mail was from an ordinary citizen, but was outraged that it appeared to be sent in an official capacity. "Clearly, Mr. Knudsen seeks to prevent me from continuing my volunteer work in Hawaii and to create in me fear of reprisal and of damage to my reputation at UCLA and in Hawaii," Ouchi wrote.
Breene Harimoto, who was elected chairman of the Board of Education on Thursday night, said yesterday afternoon that he had not read Ouchi's letter yet and would need to consult with Hamamoto, Knudsen's superior, before responding.
Ouchi said he had been reimbursed about $2,000 to $3,000 for his trips to Honolulu by the Hawaiian Educational Council. The council's chief mission is to hold professional development conferences for executives. Its president, Robert Witt, said yesterday that it is also "interested in school reform on a strictly nonpartisan basis."
Contacted at his UCLA office, Willison said he had not read the Cooper-Ouchi report or the response to it. "We don't monitor or censor the consulting work that our faculty do," he said, adding that Ouchi "is a highly regarded and respected member of the faculty."