Welcome Hamamoto to labor talks


POSTED: Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Patricia Hamamoto's sudden resignation from her job as Hawaii's superintendent of schools came as a surprise but should not jeopardize continuing talks to restore the school year. Hamamoto has said she will take part in the negotiations alongside an able team that should fully appreciate the need to restore school days that have been designated Furlough Fridays. Her continuing participation should be welcomed.

Hamamoto's departure should be not regarded as her shrinking from responsibility. She has said that her decision to retire at her present age of 65 is personal, much the same as that of many Americans who look at that age as a transition point from career to golden years. Her desire to spend more time with family and serve as a reader and storyteller to children at the public library is commendable.

She is replaced, at least temporarily, by Kathryn Matayoshi, a prototype of assistants hired by Hamamoto from outside the school system to play administrative roles. Matayoshi is a lawyer with experience in executive roles with the Hawaii Business Roundtable, the city Board of Water Supply and, for seven years, director of commerce and consumer affairs in the Cayetano administration. She has been deputy school superintendent since July.

The unassuming but ardent Hamamoto contrasted with Paul LeMahieu, a riveting figure who resigned from the superintendent job amid allegations of inappropriate conduct with a contractor that detracted from his earnest effort to deal with numerous problems within the department.


In a short time, Hamamoto showed she could be assertive and independent without the flair of her predecessor. In 2004, she asked to address a joint session of the Legislature, where she called the school system “;obsolete”; while rejecting calls by former Gov. Ben Cayetano and Gov. Linda Lingle to break up the system into four or seven school districts. She maintained that the breakup would “;add more layers of bureaucracy”; to the system.

In recent labor negotiations, Hamamoto was “;an integral part of our strategy,”; says school board member John Penebacker. “;She participated in long drawn-out discussions between the administration and the union.”;

That participation should not come to an end. Hamamoto's role should not be diminished and may even be enhanced in contract negotiations by her emeritus status as a nonvoting member of the department team.

While Lingle has rejected an agreement between the school board and the teachers union to reduce the number of days without classes, board Chairman Garrett Toguchi says it still is under consideration.