Hawaii public school principals demand leadership change

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Graphic by Emily Metcalf
Graphic by Emily Metcalf

HONOLULU — Some school principals are asking the State Board of Education to remove Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi and her deputy, Ronn Nozoe.

The Board of Education is backing Matayoshi’s reappointment — even before testimony from the public or Department Of Education personnel — but the principals – retired and active — say the BOE has been less than transparent.


The state Board of Education, which oversees all of Hawaii’s public schools, will hold a meeting Tuesday to consider the appointment.

Matayoshi’s contract expires at the end of June. It would encompass four  years, if extended.

Most disturbing, both the board and Matayoshi’s administration have ignored a survey of 160 school principals that showed 88 percent are dissatisfied with DOE leadership, said Darrel Galera, a retired school principal from Moanalua High School and spokesman for the opposition group.

DOE Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi
DOE Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi

“We feel it’s shocking that the leader of the education system and her leadership deny and disregard such serious problems expressed by principals. You would need to have leadership that embraces the idea that you have to change the system. You have to empower schools. You have to empower principals parents and students so that change will happen.”.

Galera said the survey showed 65 percent of school principals fear retaliation if they speak up.

In the anonymous survey, principals acknowledged several leadership issues within the DOE, including problems implementing a new teacher evaluation system and the Common Core curriculum, both of which they said are hurting teachers and students. They say the DOE administration has a negative attitude, has hurt morale, is ineffective and doesn’t provide support or training for DOE personnel.

Just a year ago, the Board of Education gave Matayoshi an “exceptional” rating for her job performance.

The problems are exacerbated because Hawaii has just one school district, Galera said.

Galera said he was “disturbed” and “shocked” that neither the board nor DOE leadership acknowledged the results of the survey, even though he personally delivered them.

BOE Chair Don Horner
BOE Chair Don Horner

Board of Education Chair Don Horner’s comments indicate the board has already made up its collective mind about reappointing Matayoshi without public input.

“The Board of Education continues to have confidence in the Superintendent and the management team,” Horner said in a statement to the media late Monday.

Horner said the system has a “clear and comprehensive strategic plan” developed in conjunction with all stakeholders and said the plan and “hard work of the entire professional staff are demonstrating solid progress.”

“Change is not easy and requires listening, collaboration and adjustments, as well as accountability. The Board will continue to monitor the plan’s progress and together, we shall support the positive change within our schools,” Horner said.