Latest Articles

  • Ige Signs Law Creating Farm-to-School Program in Hawaii

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Gov. David Ige signed a bill Tuesday that is intended to increase the amount of local food students eat in Hawaii’s public school system and boost their understanding of its importance.

    Senate Bill 376 initially called for creating two farm-to-school coordinator positions but state lawmakers scaled it down to one before passing it in May. The funding is only for one year too.

    Still, supporters applauded the new law.

    “It’s a really great start but there’s a lot more work to do,” said Lydi Morgan Bernal, coordinator of the Hawaii Farm to School and School Garden Hui.

    Gov. David Ige holds Senate Bill 376 after signing it into law as Act 218, Tuesday, as supporters stand around him.

    Governor’s Office

    Ige has tapped Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui to spearhead the initiative.

    “This program will ensure that our kids have nutritious meals as they learn about locally grown produce and cattle,” Tsutsui said in a statement. “This is a tremendous opportunity, and I look forward to working with the program coordinator, various state departments and agencies and the community to make sure we continue to move forward.”

    Across the nation, farm-to-school programs are reconnecting students to a better understanding of the food system and where their food comes from, the governor’s office said in a release.

    The programs introduce students to healthier eating habits and help them become familiar with new vegetables and fruits that they and their families will then be more willing to incorporate into their own diets, the release says. The farm to school coordinator will

  • Bill Still Alive: Bullying ‘Not Something That Is Going to Go Away’

    · By Jessica Terrell

    Concerns over implementation costs and oversight requirements stymied efforts to pass comprehensive anti-bullying legislation this session, but Hawaii lawmakers and advocates say they are optimistic they can resurrect the bill next year.

    “I think momentum and public opinion is on our side,” said Mathew Bellhouse-King, co-chair of the political action arm of Equality Hawaii.

    In 2011, more than half of high school students in Hawaii said bullying was a problem on their campus. In 2013, 18.7  percent of high school students surveyed reported personally experiencing bullying on school grounds, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Things were worse for middle school students, with 44.6 percent saying they were bullied in 2013.

    The state also has one of the highest rates of teen suicide attempts in the nation, Bellhouse-King said.

    Diego Grez via Wikimedia

    House Bill 819 would have created a state definition for what constitutes bullying and also listed some of the reasons for bullying, such as race, gender and sexual orientation.

    This is particularly important, advocates say, when it comes to issues of sexual orientation and gender identity because the challenges facing those students can be severe and overlooked.

    In addition to giving agencies a definition to work from, HB 819 would have formed a state task force to oversee bullying training and created a model bullying policy for groups and agencies to use.

    The biggest change for Hawaii in the bill, however, was a requirement that any agency or entity that deals with youths and receives state or county funding would have to create a bullying policy and

  • Brigham Young University Gets New Leader in Hawaii

    · By Jessica Terrell

    A former college administrator from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah will be taking over as president of BYU-Hawaii starting in July.

    John Tanner, who worked his way up from English professor to department chair to academic vice president at BYU-Provo, succeeds current-President Stephen Wheelwright.

    Brigham Young University enrolls about 2,800 students at its campus in Hawaii.

    Tanner  is currently second in command at an auxiliary branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that oversees Sunday school programing.

    “I am inspired by the vision that prophets have had for BYU–Hawaii,” Tanner said in a press release. “I intend to build on that wonderful legacy of aloha and learning and service that exists here to bless the international Church.”

    Tanner will be the 10th president the university has had in Hawaii since opening its doors in 1955.

  • Hawaii’s Preschool Open Doors Funding May Continue

    · By Jessica Terrell and Marina Riker

    When legislators worked out a last-minute agreement on Friday that might maintain current funding levels for Preschool Open Doors, it ended months of suspense for low-income parents and early childhood education advocates.

    The negotiations to find $6 million for the program — which helps low-income families pay for preschool — came near the end of a legislative session that saw little action on early childhood education.

    Former Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s push to expand access to early childhood ed largely collapsed in November with voter rejection of a constitutional amendment that would have allowed the state to spend public funds on private preschools.

    A preschool student plays in a Honolulu park.

    PF Bentley/Civil Beat

    What Gov. David Ige’s priorities are for early childhood education moving forward will likely be part of upcoming larger discussions between the administration and cabinet, said Laurel Johnston, Gov. Ige’s deputy chief of staff.

    “I think (Gov. Ige) wants to look at it more broadly,” Johnston said.

    In the meantime, his office is still working to find a new leader for the Executive Office on Early Learning,  formed under Abercrombie to lead the charge on expanding learning opportunities. The office has been without an executive director and most of its staff since December.

    The governor’s office has been interviewing candidates to head the office, but suffered a setback earlier this week when a candidate turned down the job because they weren’t ready to leave their current position, Johnston said.

    A strong director in that office — which will soon transition from

  • Heald College Ceases Operations With One Day’s Notice

    · By Jessica Terrell

    Students at Heald College in Honolulu are urgently seeking answers on everything from tuition refunds to transfer options after the for-profit college abruptly ceased operations Monday.

    The college was one of 28 campuses across the country operated by parent-company Corinthian Colleges to shut down Monday. The closure — which comes just one week after the start of spring quarter — impacts about  1,050 students in Hawaii.

    “It’s going to mess me up on the job market,” said Heald student Charles Haislip, who expected to graduate with an associate degree in criminal justice in July. “That part is really frustrating, and I am really upset about it.”

    Students were informed of the closure by email Sunday.

    Heald College in Honolulu.

    “This is not how I would like for you to have heard this difficult news,” Honolulu Campus President Michael Van Lear said in a letter to students posted on the campus’ Facebook page. “I, too, learned about our closing Sunday morning.”

    Students are being told to attend a campus meeting on Wednesday or Thursday to pick up transcripts and find out what their options are moving forward. Students will not be able to get a copy of their diplomas, according to Corinthian’s website. Instead, transcripts will note any degree earned.

    The closure comes less than two weeks after the U.S. Department of Education slapped Corinthian with a $30 million fine for misleading students about its job placement rates.

    The college tried to find buyers for the 28 campuses, but was unable to do so “largely as a result of recent state and federal regulatory actions,” Corinthian Chairman and

  • House, Senate Lawmakers Debate Education Bills

    · By Nathan Eagle

    It’s crunch time at the Capitol.

    House and Senate lawmakers are working to reach an agreement on well over a dozen different education bills affecting kids in preschool all the way up through the university level.

    Conference committee members said Wednesday that they were close on most of the bills.

    Rep. Roy Takumi speaks during a joint House-Senate conference committee meeting on education bills.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    Rep. Isaac Choy and Sen. Brian Taniguchi are the lead negotiators on many of the higher-ed bills, including an omnibus measure that makes comprehensive changes affecting the entire University of Hawaii system.

    They are reconvening for many of their bills at 1 p.m., Monday.

    Rep. Roy Takumi and Sen. Michelle Kidani have the lead for bills affecting the Department of Education, ranging from proposals to combat bullying to restructuring early childhood education and creating financial incentives for teachers.

    House Bill 11 would give teachers a bonus for maintaining their national board certification and teaching at a school that could use a good educator.

    There’s debate over whether the Legislature should retroactively give some 54 teachers a $5,000 bonus that they should’ve gotten last year but didn’t because lawmakers accidentally didn’t renew the program in the craziness that ensues at the end of each session.

    The conference committee is reconvening at 2 p.m. Friday to hear HB11 and several others.

  • Student Group Hopes to Cool Schools Down

    · By Jessica Terrell

    The first time Allie Saunders visited James Campbell High School in Ewa Beach, she was overwhelmed by just how hot it was inside.

    “I wasn’t even doing classwork,” Saunders said. “And I felt like my brain was melting.”

    Temperatures at Campbell, which is one of 242 public schools in Hawaii that lack central  air conditioning, can often reach the 90s during hot months.

    No one should have to study in those conditions, said Saunders, who attends a well-air conditioned private school. That’s why she and four fellow high school students are launching Fahrenheit73, a new fundraising campaign aimed at installing air conditioning in at least one classroom at Campbell and raising awareness about the issue.

    Saunders said the students — who are all  fellows at the Center for Tomorrow’s leaders and attend schools with air conditioning — were inspired to launch the project after reading Civil Beat’s coverage of the issue last year.

    Campbell High students rally for air conditioning in September 2013.

    Alia Wong/Civil Beat

    “We thought that since it’s our generation and our age group, that it would be good if we addressed it ourselves,” said Saunders, who serves as the group’s spokesperson.

    The students are holding an Earth Day launch party for the project on Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Kakaako Agora. Tickets are free and can be reserved here. Donations can be made online through May 16.

    As of Tuesday afternoon, the fundraising website showed $2,270 in promised donations, but the students have closer to $10,000

  • Denby Fawcett: Doing it Right at Waikiki Elementary School

    · By Denby Fawcett

    It might astonish you to know there is an academy of rigorous learning on the lower slopes of Diamond Head where children as young as 5 gather to discuss philosophic ideas using the Socratic method.

    This is Waikiki Elementary School, a public school so successful that it has a waiting list of more than 200 children.

    And for two years in a row, a teacher at Waikiki Elementary has won the coveted State Teacher of the Year award.

    Catherine Caine, this year’s awardee, has taught at Waikiki Elementary for 23 years, mostly to second grade students. Caine’s colleague, math and science teacher  Matthew Lawrence, won the award last year. Both of them are National Board Certified Teachers.

    Caine  is the first teacher in the state in more than a decade to be among four finalists for the National Teacher of the Year award to be announced in Washington, D.C., later this month.

    Caine and I are acquaintances from yoga classes at the Open Space Studio across the street from Waikiki Elementary. We usually see each other upside down in downward dog poses or rising up from the floor in cobra positions.

    Catherine Caine, Waikiki Elementary schoolteacher and 2015 Hawaii Teacher of the Year, dances in a zumba class held in the school’s cafeteria.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    When she told me about her teaching award, I was curious to find out more.

    I asked to meet her at the school. Caine suggested that I also interview some of her teaching colleagues. I assumed she wanted to share the

  • Ige Names 3 New Members to Hawaii Board of Education

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Gov. David Ige named three new members to the state Board of Education on Tuesday, all subject to Senate confirmation.

    The governor turned to former teachers who previously served on the board for two of the appointments and a banker for the other. The three nominees would replace members whose terms are set to expire June 30.

    Lance Mizumoto, president of Central Pacific Bank, would replace at-large member Keith Amemiya.

    Maggie Cox, a retired educator twice elected to the board before it was became gubernatorially appointed, would replace Kauai member Nancy Budd.

    And Hubert Minn, a former teacher and elected board member, would replace Oahu member Cheryl Lupenui.

    Gov. David Ige, pictured here in February, appointed three new members to serve on the state Board of Education on Tuesday, subject to Senate confirmation.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    Ige, a product of the public school system and husband of a longtime educator, said his focus is on empowering teachers, principals and staff at the school level.

    “These nominees share my core beliefs and values,” he said. “They will be open, collaborative and represent the best values of Hawaii in their aloha for the students, teachers, principals and staff, and for each other.”

    The Senate has extended until Wednesday the deadline for the governor to make appointments this session to his Cabinet and state boards and commissions.

    Ige said he hopes to fill his remaining Cabinet positions, the head of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, and possibly others by the end of Wednesday. The other outstanding appointments include members of

  • Anti-Bullying Measure: A Bill Whose Time Has Finally Come

    · By The Civil Beat Editorial Board

    Like so many other social challenges in Western culture these days, our understanding of student-on-student bullying, its causes and its effects has increased dramatically in recent years.

    In part, that understanding is the costly byproduct of efforts to make sense of numerous tragedies nationwide involving school violence, from the Columbine, Colorado, shootings to a seemingly endless string of bullying-related injuries and suicides. Federal statistics show that bullying affects about one-third of all school-age kids nationwide; schools, students, parents and government agencies are more sensitive than ever before to the destructive effects and are doing more to address them.

    At the federal level, President Obama upped the ante four years ago by hosting the first White House conference on bullying and launched the StopBullying.gov website, a collaboration of the U.S. departments of Education, Health and Human Services and Justice meant to widely disseminate information on bullying awareness and prevention. Last year, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Health and Human Services Department released their first uniform definition of bullying to guide surveillance and research efforts on the subject.

    Nationally, about one in every three students are victimized by physical or online bullying. Hawaii students experience those issues at a greater rate than the national average.

    Twentyfour Students via Flickr

    Private organizations have joined the fight with new vigor. Groups like the Trevor Project and the National Bullying Prevention Center and many more have leveraged greater public focus on the problem, often enlisting high-profile corporate and

  • Nozoe Leaving Hawaii DOE for Post at Federal Level

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Hawaii’s chief academic officer is leaving the state Department of Education next month for a job in Washington, D.C.

    Ronn Nozoe, Hawaii DOE deputy superintendent since 2010, has been appointed to serve as deputy assistant secretary for policy and programs in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education at the U.S. DOE, school officials announced Friday.

    Hawaii DOE Deputy Superintendent Ronn Nozoe, pictured here in March 2014 at an educational talk at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, has accepted a job with the U.S. DOE.

    Eugene Tanner/U.S. DOE

    “His experience as a teacher, principal, superintendent and state leader make him well qualified to help the U.S. Department of Education’s effort to partner with states and local districts to help ensure all students are successful,” Deborah Delisle, assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, said in a release.

    State DOE Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi and U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono also praised Nozoe for the work he’s done in Hawaii and his potential at the federal level.

    “Ronn has been a great asset in our state and served our students and educators well,” Hirono said. “I know he’ll be a wonderful leader in the U.S. Department of Education, implementing policies that will help students be successful nationwide.”

    Nozoe’s last day in his current job is April 24. The DOE has started an internal recruitment process to fill the position.

    “At the heart of any real change and improvement are deeply committed and selfless people who are willing to put the cause — in our case, kids — before their individual

  • Youth Get Glimpse of Future on Job Shadowing Day

    · By Cara Phillips

    Waking up at 4 a.m. was definitely not on my list of fun things to do this spring break, but I’m so glad I did. I experienced the amazing opportunity of accompanying a woman who spends every morning on my television screen. Lost in the excitement of being with KITV’s Morning News Anchor Lara Yamada, the memory of lugging myself out of bed was soon forgotten.

    I was lucky enough to be one of four students invited by the Sustainable Hawaii Youth Leadership Initiative (SHYLI) to join its third-annual Job Shadowing Day. On March 17, Sherry Anne Pancho, Juanito Moises Jr., Alex Siordia and I took a big step closer to our future careers. Each of us was given the chance to be mentored by professionals in our fields of interest.

    Oceanit graciously hosted our two aspiring engineers, Sherry and Juanito. Sherry wants to be a bio-medical engineer, designing prosthetics. She was moved after a neighbor, whose legs were lost in the war at Afghanistan, passed away. “I want to help the people facing life-threatening situations like that.” Sherry was touched when Ocean it engineer Frank Price explained how he designs lasers that improve brain function.

    Participants in the Sustainable Hawaii Youth Leadership Initiative: from left, Oceanit Director Ian Kitajima, State Director for Sen. Mazie Hirono Alan Yamamoto, Marianne Larned, executive director of SHYLI and students Juanito Moises Jr., Cara Phillips and Sherry Anne Payson. Oceanit Founder Pat Sullivan is on the right, and student Alex Siordia takes part from Washington

  • Kim Coco: Contradictory Efforts on School Bullying, Workplace Harassment

    · By Kim Coco Iwamoto

    Two legislative bills, House Bill 819 and Senate Bill 1012, have crossed over the bicameral divide. One addresses bullying of children and the other, harassment of employees.  If you skim each bill, you might assume they are written to have the similar effect of reducing discrimination and increasing civility. You would be wrong.

    HB819, “relating to bullying,” would protect youth from being bullied by holding schools, state and county agencies and other programs that receive state or county funds, accountable for enforcing anti-bullying policies and procedures.

    However, SB1012, “relating to employment,” would protect employers from being held accountable when they do not effectively enforce anti-harassment laws in the workplace — including laws prohibiting sexual harassment.

    A bill currently before the Legislature would do more to ban bullying of children, but a separate measure would paradoxically lessen the penalties for harassment in the workplace.

    Diego Grez via Wikimedia

    The anti-bullying bill made it through four committee referrals so far with only one vote against it. Rep. Bob McDermott has entertained a very public fixation with gays and anuses since his return to office so his knee-jerk opposition was predictable.

    The bill prohibits bullying based on many pertinent classifications: race, color, religion, ancestry, sex including gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, disability and “any other distinguishing characteristic.”

    However, McDermott is so consumed with his personal crusade that he has overlooked the victims of bullying who may live in his district. Surely some of his constituents were bullied when they were children or have kids

  • Hawaii Legislature Should Expand Preschool Programs

    · By Jonathan Gillentine

    Young children need a solid foundation in order to be successful learners, especially as they approach the age of kindergarten. Families and the community as a whole must ensure that preschool children have a strong foundation for learning, a foundation that supports their social, emotional, linguistic, physical, and cognitive development.

    While we have made gains as a state, there is much work to be done to prepare our youngest scholars. That is why it is important for the Legislature to pass Senate Bill 844 and its companion in the house, House Bill 820, which will provide a critical expansion to preschool programs already started.

    Preschoolers at Seagull Schools

    Alia Wong/Civil Beat

    This school year, Hawaii began to provide public preschool through legislative funding of $3 million. The effort was initiated, in part, due to the change in the entry age for kindergarten. Children who reached the age of 5 by July 31, 2014, could start. Children who turned 5 on August 1 or later (many call them the Fall Fives) had to wait another year to enter public school. Those keiki who were not eligible to enter kindergarten were targeted for this new preschool program.

    Unfortunately, funding only provided 21 classrooms across the state. With a maximum of 20 children per classroom, only a mere 420 children could attend, far short of the thousands of children who were eligible by the change in age requirement for kindergarten entry.

    We must continue what we started. SB 844 and HB 820 will

  • Aiona, Ige Largely Like-Minded on Needed Education Reform

    · By Alia Wong

    Editor’s Note: Civil Beat asked Mufi Hannemann, the Hawaii Independent Party candidate for governor, numerous times throughout September for an interview for this story but he was never available. 

    Hawaii is the only state that isn’t broken up by multiple school districts. That means Hawaii — whose population of roughly 1.4 million people makes it the 11th smallest state —  actually encompasses one of the largest school districts in the country.

    The ninth largest one, to be exact, costing taxpayers nearly $1.5 billion dollars annually for operations alone. Together, the Department of Education and charter schools are the state’s single biggest expense. 

    The state’s school district serves more than 185,000 students (and their parents) and roughly 25,000 employees, a little over half of whom are teachers. From Niihau to Keaau, that district comprises a hodgepodge of cultures and income groups, school contexts and learning needs. 

    And according to both Duke Aiona and David Ige — the Republican and Democrat vying to be Hawaii’s next governor — therein lies one of the greatest challenges facing public education in the state.

    Kindergarten students at Ala Wai Elementary School on August 21, 2014

    PF Bentley/Civil Beat

    In fact, the two candidates have a lot in common when it comes to assessing Hawaii’s public schools. One of the only education issues on which they appear to disagree strongly is the proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the state to amend Hawaii’s constitution and permit the allocation of public funds for private