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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 19, 2001

Island Voices
Schools: Start from scratch

By Dr. Drake Beil
Management consultant and strategic planning specialist.

The irony of the statewide teachers' strike is that we can give the teachers as much money as they want, or give them more than they want, and it still won't improve the quality of education in Hawai'i.

To paraphrase "A Nation at Risk," if a foreign nation took over the Hawai'i educational system and did this to our children, created the educational results we have seen for the last 20 years, it would be considered an act of war.

It's sad that money is at the center of this strike, rather than student or community needs. It's sad because this money won't solve the problems with the state public educational system. It won't change the bureaucracy and its hidden treasures. It won't even buy books for the kids.

Strategically, you can look at the job of public education as matching a set of resources against a set of needs. There are specific segments of people who have different educational needs, from preschool kids to elder adults, and the job is getting the resources where they'll do the most good.

Actually, we have plenty of money and plenty of talent to do the job. We have over $7,000 per kid when you add up all the funding sources. It is the ineffective allocation of our limited resources that is the problem.

Maybe the best thing that could happen would be for Judge David Ezra to take over the system based on the contempt the state educational administrators have already demonstrated for years. With their actions, they have said we can't or won't help the Felix kids as we have been mandated to do, and we're not going to start now. Perhaps that's the same attitude they have for the rest of the system. It would explain the results. A redesign is required.

The Model-T we have now will not get our kids into the present, much less the future. Our school system needs to evolve into an integrated social system with open access, ongoing education, community programs, outreach opportunities, clear accountability and local control. Our statewide system is the last in the country, and for good reason. It doesn't work well and never will. How many years of the same results does it take to prove it?

Much more important than the inevitable short-term settlement, let's get more utilization from our schools in the future. Use the campuses for adult learning, for community learning, for athletic and social development, and for health and human services throughout the year. I envision placing child-care programs, elder-care programs, welfare and food stamp centers, local health clinics and government ombudsmen all in the same location to act forcefully for the citizens in coordinated support efforts. One-stop shopping for the community is the goal.

One of the most difficult things social workers have to deal with is outreach to people who qualify for, and need, support. Let's make each school an ongoing community resource, with activities in the evenings, on the weekends — really, all the time. Make each a safe, secure haven for the community and re-engineer the service delivery process. We can save millions of dollars of unnecessary government office rental space, buff out the school's facilities with the same money, and deliver better service to our citizens if we expand the campus concept and relocate all appropriate government service agencies.

Put the bureaucrats where they have access to the children and especially to their attending families. With more responsible adults on campus, more positive role models and service providers available at the "Community School," the easier it will become to regain and retain control, enforce safety and enhance educational opportunity.

The new facility could be managed by a school-community board that would include members from each of the stakeholders, similar to the way the school/community-based management program is supposed to run. But now, you'd have a full-blown community resource, serving specific members of the community and bringing everyone together with educational, social, health and athletic programs.