The Hawaii State Board of Education on Thursday voted 8-1 to hire Keith Hayashi to lead Hawaii's public schools as superintendent for a term to begin July 1, 2022.
Hayashi, who was tapped from his position as principal of Waipahu High School to serve as interim superintendent on Aug, 1, 2021, was one of three finalists for the permanent position. The others were Darrel Galera, former long-time principal of Moanalua High School, and Caprice Young, former president of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education.
"This means a great deal. I'm honored to have the opportunity to lead our public schools in Hawaii. I know that all of us, working together, will make a difference in the lives of each and every one of our students," Hayashi told Board members following the vote.
Hayashi served as principal of Waipahu High since 2009 and previously served as interim deputy state superintendent from March–June 2017 and as interim state superintendent in July 2017.
As a principal Hayashi was most recognized for transforming Waipahu High into the state’s leading college and career high school as the first wall-to-wall national model academy high school. Under Hayashi’s leadership, the school also implemented the state’s first Early College program, resulting to date in over 3,000 Waipahu High students earning college credits and nearly 50 students earning associate's degrees while still in high school.
Former HIDOE Superintendent Christina Kishimoto decided not to seek a contract renewal after her four-year term ended in July 2021, prompting the Board to initiate a search for a new schools superintendent. The Board received a total of 35 applicants and narrowed the list to three finalists with the help of a national consultant and an advisory group made up of more than a dozen stakeholder groups including parents, teachers, school administrators, Hawaiian education, special education, charter schools, higher education and business.
The Board for the first time conducted its interviews and deliberations on the three finalists in public session during a May 19 special Board meeting that spanned 12 hours.
Finalists were tasked with giving a 15-minute presentation outlining how they would assist the Board with developing a strategic plan and designing an implementation plan to improve student achievement and equity. In his presentation, Hayashi shared that he is "firmly committed to working together to move from responding to the pandemic, with the initial goal of keeping schools open, to accelerating purposeful learning to achieve our shared vision."
Following the performance task, finalists fielded questions from Board members related to 11 core competencies in the Board-adopted job description for the superintendent position.
Board members cited Hayashi's student-centered approach to decision making, ability to foster trust and build relationships with internal and external groups, and track record of driving innovation to benefit students. Hayashi received overwhelming support from HIDOE leaders across the tri-level system in testimony from principals, complex area superintendents and assistant superintendents.
He was also credited as the only one of the finalists to lead during the pandemic, as principal of Hawaii's second-largest high school and as interim superintendent. Hayashi led the reopening and transition from distance learning to full in-person learning for the 2021-22 school year. He has faced both criticism and praise for enforcing health and safety protocols in schools, including a universal indoor masking requirement that helps keep students in school.
The Board will finalize an employment contract for Hayashi pending a clean background check.