Students expected to quiz teachers on strike
By Tanya Bricking
Advertiser Staff Writer
Hawai'i's teachers strike may be over, but the strike talk is still going strong.
As classes resume tomorrow for nearly 13,000 teachers and 183,000 students in the state's public schools, the talk will extend farther than the teachers' lounges.
It will be the topic of discussion in Sai Tagovailoa-Amosa's eighth-grade special-education class at Ilima Intermediate School in 'Ewa Beach.
"We're going to have to talk about the strike," said Tagovailoa-Amosa, who assigned her students to keep journals during the three-week walkout.
"The students are going to have questions," she said. "They're going to want answers."
The end of the strike brings relief, Tagovailoa-Amosa said, but it also puts pressure on teachers to make sure their students can advance to the next grade.
Next door, at James Campbell High School, where about 10 teachers crossed the picket lines early in the strike, returning teachers also will be dealing with raw emotions.
"We're glad we didn't have to experience that," said Cori Ballou, a seventh-grade special-education teacher at Ilima Intermediate.
"The one (teacher) who crossed our line, we have questions, because he'll get the same benefits; but there's no lasting animosity," Ballou said. "We all became more politically aware. It was more like the school of hard knocks. It was maybe not the settlement we wanted, but we learned a lot and felt appreciated because of all the support."
The big issue teachers are now worried about is whether they will be able to salvage the school year.
"At this point, I'm just going to be positive and get back in there and be happy to see my kids," said Jeannie Lowther, a fourth-grade teacher at Benjamin Parker School in Kane'ohe.
At Kula Elementary School on the slopes of Haleakala on Maui, Principal Rene Yamafuji has had enough quiet time to herself.
She spent the better part of the strike repairing computers at her school, but she's eager for the 450 children to return.
"It will kind of be like the first day of school," Yamafuji said.
Terry Maddox, a kindergarten teacher at Kula, said 19 of her 22 students already can read, so she has no concerns about getting back on track.
Before she went on strike, Maddox told her kindergarten students, on a basic level, about what a strike was. She told them teachers wanted to be paid fairly for the work that they do. She mentioned that the treats, gifts and extra supplies in their classroom were paid for out of her pocket.
She also felt the pang of missing the kids when she ran into one of them at the ice cream section of the supermarket the other day, and he gave her a hug and said he missed her.
Beyond the excitement of going back to school, the real work starts now, said Dennis Hokama, principal of Roosevelt High School in Makiki. Hokama had time during the strike to clear off his desk, but joked that the next few weeks will be such a challenge that he may be forced to strike himself.
"Our focus is going to be to what extent we can utilize what time we do have," Hokama said. "All of those things that are extras will be significantly scrutinized. I think the teachers themselves are extremely conscious of the lost time."