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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, April 10, 2001

Love still stronger than strike

 •  Strike negotiations to resume
 •  UH coaches say going to work is difficult
 •  Advertiser special: The Teacher Contract Crisis

By Timothy Hurley
Advertiser Maui County Bureau

WAILUKU, Maui — She's a teacher. He's an administrator. She's walking the picket line. He's crossing it every day to take up his post as school principal.

While Charlotte Nomura pounds the pavement outside the State Building in Wailuku with other teachers on strike, her husband, Ken Nomura, crosses the picket line daily to report to work as principal of the school. He not only supports the teachers' concerns but soothes his wife's aching feet with regular foot massages.

Tim Hurley • The Honolulu Advertiser

Can this marriage be saved?

No problem, according to Charlotte and Ken Nomura of Wailuku, who say their 32-year union is as strong as ever despite being on opposite sides of the teachers' strike. Charlotte Nomura is a resource teacher, while husband Ken is principal at Lahaina Intermediate School.

"There doesn't seem to be a problem,'' said Charlotte, whose job includes working with other teachers to help students meet performance standards. "I do my thing and he does his.''

"There's no fighting at home,'' said Ken, who, as a principal, is represented by the Hawai'i Government Employees Association.

The veteran administrator is quite sympathetic to his wife's cause. As a former teacher, he knows how hard she works. "They deserve what they're asking for,'' he said.

Ken's support even extends to giving Charlotte foot massages when she comes home from a long day on the picket line.

On the first morning of the strike last Thursday, Ken brought pastries to strikers on Charlotte's picket line at the State Office Building on High Street in Wailuku. On Friday, he brought sushi. Later in the day, he and fellow Lahaina Intermediate administrators and cafeteria workers joined to offer plate lunches for the striking teachers at that campus.

Ken said it doesn't bother him crossing the picket line to report for work.

"In my position, I know I need to be in the school. It's the direction of the (principals') union and the superintendent. I'm responsible for the others who work here. But every morning I stop out of respect at the line. I say, 'Hello, good morning.' ''

The Nomuras aren't the only teacher/administrator couple in the public school system. There are a half-dozen such situations on Maui alone.

During the last statewide teacher walkout, a two-week episode in 1973, both of the Nomuras were relatively inexperienced teachers on Maui, with meager salaries and two small children at home. While the strike helped to boost camaraderie among the teaching staff, the loss of income was tough.

"I'm just glad there's some income this time,'' Charlotte said.

Practically the whole family is involved in this strike. Their son, Cory Nomura, a computer science teacher, is walking the picket line at Maui High, while two of Ken's sisters-in-law are doing the same at Baldwin High and Wailuku Elementary. A niece has joined the strike at Lihikai School in Kahului.

"I just hope it ends soon, although it doesn't look like it,'' Ken said. "If this goes on, I don't know how it's going to pan out. There are a lot of young teachers. They have bills to pay like everybody else. If this is extended, it's going to be a rough time.''

On O'ahu, Peter Manicas, director of liberal studies at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa and his wife, Kenoe, a teacher at Moanalua Elementary School, have lost both incomes because they are on the picket lines for the University of Hawai'i Professional Assembly and the Hawai'i State Teachers Association. "We're going to have to cut back," Manicas said. "We're going to have see how long it goes."

Advertiser staff writer Jennifer Hiller contributed to this report.

Correction: Charlotte Nomura is a Department of Education resource teacher who has been walking the picket line at the State Building in Wailuku. Because of an editor's error, a photo caption in a previous version of this story incorrectly stated the site.