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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Acting Hawaii schools chief wants to stay on

By Loren Moreno
Advertiser Education Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Acting Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi would become the first non-educator to run the state school system, if she gets her wish.

ANDREW SHIMABUKU | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Acting Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi, an attorney and former executive director of the Hawaii Business Roundtable, said yesterday she hopes to become the permanent chief of Hawai'i's public school system.

Matayoshi who was also director of the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs from 1995 to 2002 and held positions with the Honolulu Board of Water Supply and Hawaiian Electric Co. would bring a legal and business background to the state schools.

"She'd be the first non-educator to run the school system. Before that, it's always been an educator," said Rep. Roy Takumi, chairman of the House Education Committee. Takumi praised Matayoshi as "extremely smart and hardworking."

Matayoshi was appointed deputy superintendent just six months before Patricia Hamamoto's surprise resignation from the superintendent job last week.

Matayoshi announced her intention to apply for the top job at a news conference yesterday with state Board of Education Chairman Garrett Toguchi at her side.

The superintendent of schools position is completely under the control of the Board of Education, but Toguchi would not say whether the board intends to appoint Matayoshi as Hamamoto's successor. He said board members will likely hold a special meeting Monday to appoint Matayoshi as interim superintendent, and discuss the search criteria and process for selecting a permanent public schools chief.

"The work that Pat (Hamamoto) has done leads me to believe that yes, I would apply for the job. I would want to continue that work," Matayoshi said.

Since Hamamoto appointed her as deputy superintendent, Matayoshi had been the point person of several important education initiatives, including the state's application for federal Race to the Top competitive grant money. The state is eligible for some $75 million in federal education funds, but it would have to prove it is making progress in key reforms being pushed by the Obama administration.

The state's application for Race to the Top is due Jan. 19.

"The department is positioned to take advantage of the changes and reforms the superintendent has made over the past many years," Matayoshi said. "We have some really outstanding opportunities in the Race to the Top, and depending on the timing, it would be very unfortunate if there were a lapse in leadership and we were not able to proceed quickly with the race and the other reform efforts coming out of the U.S. DOE."

Matayoshi is from the Big Island and a Hilo High School graduate. She has a law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, and a bachelor's degree from Carleton College in Minnesota. She is on the board of Aloha United Way and Pacific Resources for Education and Learning, and is a charter member of the Hawaii P-20 Council.

While praising Matayoshi, Takumi of the House Education Committee also said the board should not rush a decision.

"I do hope they look for someone who expresses a willingness to continue the work that Pat Hamamoto did, and that is an emphasis on flexibility and authority for the schools," Takumi said. "I would hope that the next superintendent shares a belief that we ought to deepen and expand the efforts started by Pat."

Nearly half of Hamamoto's tenure was focused on implementing the state's reform of the public school system known as the Reinventing Education Act of 2004, or Act 51.

The legislation, which she supported, changed the way the DOE handled its budget, giving individual school principals control over their campus's money. It established School Community Councils, or school boards at each campus. It mandated a unified calendar for all public schools, reduced class sizes, and required the DOE to take over services previously handled by other state agencies such as bus service and the construction process, reducing the time it takes for schools to see repairs, maintenance and new construction.

Toguchi said he did not believe Hamamoto's departure would hinder current negotiations to reduce or end furloughs of school teachers.

Toguchi said a tentative agreement between the Department of Education and the Hawaii State Teachers Association to end furlough Fridays for the current school year is still alive. Gov. Linda Lingle had originally rejected a tentative agreement that would have used $35 million from the state's rainy day emergency fund. But following a meeting between school officials and Lingle's aides on Dec. 30, Lingle's administration said it would further examine the details of the plan.

Toguchi said a meeting with the governor's staff is likely to be held tomorrow.

"A lot of the work that is being done in negotiations is being handled by our labor relations staff, as well as board members and the superintendent," Toguchi said. "We've heard (the governor's staff) wants to meet again. ... I believe we're meeting on Wednesday."