We have a month left in the Legislative session and it has been a learning experience for me getting to know the dynamics among our lawmakers, our policy makers and leaders at the state and school levels, especially given Hawai‘i’s unique structure: the only combined Local Education Agency and State Education Agency in the nation.
During the 2018 State Legislative session, my team and I have been making the case for a number of initiatives and resource needs based on feedback from the Board of Education (BOE), districts and schools — priorities identified by our leadership. In addition, the Hawai‘i DOE is involved in hundreds of legislative resolutions and measures, most of which have been introduced by community stakeholders. This is a challenge in that it requires significant effort to align these proposals, as much as possible, with our priorities.
Since January, we have addressed a range of issues from teacher shortages to insufficient funding for English language acquisition services. A prominent focus for me is Special Education and English Learners so we can close the achievement gap for these student groups.
Concurrently, I report bimonthly to the BOE on our action items to implement strong, engaging school design models that reflect business and industry opportunities, college and career readiness, community impact, and a lifelong love of learning.
I have great appreciation for the direction the BOE provides.
As we continue to hear from our constituents and local leaders on their legislative requests, we will use the Strategic Plan’s expectations of innovation, equity, and excellence as our guide. Our work is to ensure that daily school needs are met while staying on track to become a model public school system that serves ALL students.
The challenge we face is in balancing immediate wants and needs internally and externally, as we become more outward facing in serving our school communities and the public.
I find myself asking — How do we ensure we are not caught up in bureaucracy and live up to our mission? How do we engage student voice and the community meaningfully?
As the session winds down, we will continue lobbying for our budget requests so that we may move forward in meeting the needs of our schools and students.
Dr. Christina M. Kishimoto