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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, October 18, 2002

Island Voices
DOE chief is a trusted agent of change

Herb Watanabe is chairman of the Board of Education.

State Rep. Colleen Meyer's Sept. 30 attack on the integrity of Superintendent Patricia Hamamoto demands a response.

Hamamoto opposes creation of multiple local school boards because they would add tremendous costs and new layers of bureaucracy to Hawai'i's public school system. Meyer dismissed the superintendent's position and asked if we can "trust the opinion of a 20-year veteran" of the Department of Education.

Trust? The resounding answer is "Yes!" Pat Hamamoto, who actually has been in the DOE for 27 years, spent nearly 22 of those years at the school level as a teacher and principal. When she speaks as a career educator, she knows what she's talking about.

Meyer contended the superintendent was trying "to stay in power" and was resisting change to protect the "status quo." More nonsense.

The superintendent is appointed by the Board of Education and her position is not threatened by shifting political winds. She has three years remaining on her contract, and that contract is renewable, regardless of who is governor. If major governance changes advance in the Legislature, they would require voter approval of constitutional amendments, and therefore would be years down the road.

And Superintendent Hama-moto is certainly not afraid of change. In her first weeks heading the school system, she initiated and directed a major change in the DOE's organization to create smaller, more localized and responsive administrative units built on school complex areas. This has radically changed the whole way the DOE governs — and supports — its schools. She is actively advancing standards-based reform, which is changing everything about teaching, learning and accountability.

In steering the public school system, there is no such thing as "status quo." The Felix Consent Decree required a profound shift in the operations and mindset of Hawai'i's public school system, and Pat Hamamoto is the one who successfully led the system to substantial compliance.

The federal No Child Left Behind Act is another factor that is shaking the foundation of local school systems across the country, and Hawai'i's statewide system, again under Pat Hamamoto, is not shrinking from that challenge.