Denise Matsumoto, left, Cec Heftel, Breene Harimoto, Margaret Cox and Lei Ahu Isa were sworn in as members of the state Board of Education yesterday by Chief Justice Ronald Moon at the Supreme Court chambers. Also sworn in were Herbert Watanabe and Garrett Toguchi. New to the board are Heftel, Ahu Isa and Cox, who replace Carol Gabbard, Shelton Jim On and Sherwood Hara.

Education officials
welcome gov’s release
of $4.3 million

Gov. Linda Lingle has released the remaining $4.3 million in the Reinventing Education Act, five months after it was allotted by the Legislature to boost parental involvement in the public schools and upgrade computer systems.

Where the money is going

Public school money released by the governor:
» Technology to track student data: $2 million
» Parent Community Networking Centers: $1.74 million
» Full-time student activities coordinators: $460,000
» Program for parents to help at-risk students: $100,000
Total: $4.3 million

Superintendent Pat Hamamoto had been asking for the money since the start of the fiscal year, July 1. After months of trying to justify the funds to Lingle's Budget Department, Hamamoto and state Board of Education Chairman Breene Harimoto asked to meet directly with the governor. They did so Monday, and Lingle released the money on Wednesday.

"I had an opportunity to meet with Pat Hamamoto and Breene Harimoto and got a lot of my questions answered, and I want to make sure they have every opportunity to succeed in their efforts," Lingle said yesterday.

The money represents more than a third of the $11 million in the Reinventing Education Act, which was passed over the governor's veto. The law gives principals and their school communities more say over their campus budgets and calls for more accountability for student achievement.

"We are full steam ahead and will do our very, very best to do what is expected of us," Hamamoto said yesterday.

More than $1.7 million will extend the Parent Community Networking program to the 69 public schools that do not already have them, and ensure that all 250 schools have part-time parent coordinators, supplies and telephones.

The delay had prevented some schools from hiring parent coordinators. In other cases, people took the jobs expecting the money to be released but have had to work without pay.

Another $2 million will go to upgrade computer systems to allow tracking of individual student performance over time. The department has had to scale back that effort for lack of funds, limiting it to just 33 campuses instead of the 78 planned.

Another $460,000 will allow all high schools to hire full-time student activity coordinators, a priority of the Hawaii State Student Council. A year ago the Hawaii State Student Conference had passed a resolution to that effect; the news was welcomed yesterday as students gathered for this year's session at the state Capitol.

"That's awesome," said Troy Hashimoto, the student member on the Board of Education. "We've been working hard to get that money released."

House Education Chairman Roy Takumi (D, Pearl City-Pacific Palisades), an author of the Reinventing Education Act, had a blunter assessment.

"It's about time," he said. "My suggestion to the administration would be to work with the department and work with the Legislature. I'm just hoping now that the governor realizes that it's better to work with the stakeholders instead of shutting them out."

Star-Bulletin reporter Richard Borreca contributed to this report.

State Department of Education
Office of the Governor

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