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  • 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 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

  • Hawaii Loses Money as International Student Population Shrinks

    · By Manjari Fergusson

    Universities are ramping up efforts to attract foreign students who contribute to the state’s economy.

  • Would Gay Marriage Bring the ‘Homosexual Lifestyle’ to Hawaii Students?

    · By Anita Hofschneider

    State officials dismiss fears that legalizing same-sex marriage will affect school curriculum.

  • Hawaii Teacher: Creating The Perfect Bubble For Better Learning

    · By Michael Wooten

    The classroom would be a focused place where students deserved a higher level of respect and attention.

  • Hawaii Preschool Plan in Crunch as Advocates Vow to Restore Funding

    · By Alia Wong

    House Finance Committee eliminated $32 million needed to fund School Readiness program.

  • Can or No Can? Pidgin Speakers in the Workforce

    · By Alia Wong

    Will eradicating Pidgin from schools make students more career ready?