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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, November 2, 2001

Hamamoto named interim schools chief until August

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser KauaÎi Bureau

'ELE'ELE, Kaua'i — The state Board of Education expects to keep interim schools chief Patricia Hamamoto in place until August 2002, and is in no rush to appoint a permanent superintendent.

Patricia Hamamoto became interim schools superintendent when Paul LeMahieu resigned last month.

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The board met yesterday in its first regular meeting since the abrupt resignation last month of Paul LeMahieu as superintendent of education. There was no apparent urgency to fill the seat on a permanent basis.

"I'm not pushing," said Board of Education Chairman Herbert S. Watanabe at last night's meeting, held at 'Ele'ele Elementary School.

"We have given her (Hamamoto) an interim appointment until August. I want her to do the job," he said.

In fact, a new schools chief might be named before that, but just as likely might not be selected until a little after August, he said.

Board member Keith Sakata said he would like a search for a new superintendent of education to begin soon, but feels there's some groundwork to be done first.

One of the main issues is the salary of the schools chief, he said. While the Legislature authorizes the board to pay up to $150,000, LeMahieu was making a fraction of that — $90,000.

"We're going to have to consider the superintendent's salary. I'm going to be pushing for $150,000," Sakata said.

Other board members have said that even that figure may be too low if Hawai'i expects to compete with Mainland school districts.

While the issue of a permanent successor to LeMahieu is being considered, there are urgent issues that require a steady, secure administration — notably the Department of Education's compliance with the Felix decree and its stance in the upcoming legislative session, Sakata said.

Hamamoto needs a strong administrative organization to handle the challenges, he said.

"It's really important that she get her team together real quick," Sakata said.

Hamamoto herself had hinted last week that she had a person in mind, saying she wanted a deputy with "a long positive history."

She found him in the Department of Education's elementary school principal of the year, Clayton Fujie.

The board voted last night to name Fujie interim deputy superintendent.

Fujie, a former history teacher and coach, has headed Noelani Elementary School in Manoa since 1986.

When he was awarded principal of the year honors, his boss, Honolulu District superintendent Raelene Chock, said that "Clayton's strength is his deft use of interpersonal skills."

Sakata said the new administrative team is likely to enjoy strong support from within the schools community. He said he did not know whether Hamamoto would be a candidate for the permanent superintendent's job.

On another issue, some board members said they were still trying to find ways to present LeMahieu with a severance package, which some feel he is due even though it was not contained in his contract.

Board members reportedly had seen an Attorney General's office opinion requested by the board, indicating that state funds could not be used for the purpose.

The severance was not on the agenda for the board's public meeting, but was expected to be discussed in executive session