Taking the Hawaii Superintendent Profile Survey

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BY CARSON HENSARLING – In the wake of former Superintendent Patricia Hamamoto’s December resignation, the Hawaii Board of Education has launched a Superintendent Search Process, which will eventually conclude with the hiring of a new Super in September/October.

But, before a new Super is selected, the BOE, (or rather consultant Lee Goeke, principal/owner of Human Resources Solutions for Public Education) has decided that he must hear what the public has to say on the matter.


A survey has been constructed that asks the public what qualities they think a Hawaii Superintendent needs. The deadline to complete this survey is July 31st.

Initially, I was a little perturbed by this. Shouldn’t the BOE know what qualities a Superintendent needs? Shouldn’t the BOE be able to take a student-focused approach to this process without someone holding their hand?

After I got over these initial frustrations, I decided that maybe this was in fact a good opportunity for participation in education reform, and maybe my thoughts would actually be taken into account and make a difference…maybe. So I took it.

Taking the survey felt like I was reading one of those ‘make your own adventure’ books, in which you decide whether your character is a good guy or a bad guy. It seemed like there were two paths made by my potential answers, one leading to a new Super who will manage the humongous DOE budget well, while leading the state in student focused education reform, the other leading to a Super who is entrenched in the politics of education administration, who is more focused on bargaining with unions, than on the students’ learning.

Here are a few of the ‘choices’ I made to help my Super turn out to be a ‘good guy’.

In section 1, I said that experience with “preparing and managing extremely large budgets (several hundred million),” was a very important quality, while “working with the legislature and working in a highly unionized organization,” were not important qualities. In section 2, I said that it was very important that the Super “serve as primary agent for innovation, reform, and change for the Department of Education,” while, it was not important at all that they “be hired from among current Department of Education employees.”

Moving down to section 4, I decided that the responsibilities of “services to students” and balancing the budget were very important while, “bargaining with unions” was not important at all. Finally, to conclude our adventure, section 5 asked me to rank the top 3 most pressing issues, requiring immediate action.

My top three were, in order, “budget cuts, persistently underachieving schools (turnaround plans and strategies), quality of teachers and principals (improved recruitment and improved development),” immediate action in relation to budget cuts would consist of finding an alternative solution that does not involve furlough Fridays. Had I chosen the other path, I could have said that the top three priorities were, streamlining the DOE, “relations with employees and unions, and securing additional funding (working with the legislature).”

While I may have made the choices that make my ‘character’ a ‘good guy’, who knows if we will be able to say the same thing about the BOE’s final decisions.