Why fund the search for a new state superintendent when we support the current superintendent? This question has been frequently raised with me as news of our recent grant to help the State Board of Education hire national search firm Ray & Associates becomes public.
True, we enjoy a close and productive working relationship with the Department of Education. We have long supported Superintendent Matayoshi’s efforts to attack persistent K-12 achievement gaps, to build up the capacity of leadership at every level of the Department, and to prepare more students for the rigors of college. Dramatic increases in NAEP scores have followed, thanks to the hard work of teachers and students and the leadership of administrators. Results like these make us question why the state is bound and determined to head in a different direction.
But that choice is up to the gubernatorially appointed Board, not us. Ultimately the state’s top educator is a political position. And we have a moral obligation to work with whomever is in the superintendent role for the betterment of Hawaii’s students. Gains in college preparedness, matriculation and completion remain fragile. Frankly, we worry deeply about what a leadership change will mean. Can we maintain the focus on equity and excellence across a $1.6 Billion enterprise with 20,000 employees and 256 regular public schools spread across seven islands?
The Board of Education’s newly extended Strategic Plan improves the odds of remaining committed to equity and excellence for the long term. By supporting a transparent and professional executive search that unearths highly qualified candidates from across the nation – ideally with Hawaii ties – we increase those odds further.
Fault lines created by the non-renewal of Superintendent Matayoshi’s contract are troubling. Leaders are needed who can navigate across these boundaries, keep the focus on children, and prepare the school system to both aspire towards big goals AND do the hard work it takes to actually attain those goals. Sometimes we come to realize the differences are not as stark as first imagined. And we certainly are reminded that the only ones really hurt by adult differences are children. Onwards.