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Governor Message: Our Public Schools

Posted in August 2017

Gov-Ige-speakingAs thousands of public school students return to the classroom this month, we are marking a new day for Hawai‘i’s public schools in a variety of ways. We have a new schools superintendent, cooler classrooms and a new four-year teachers’ contract.

This next stage for our public school system is an important one. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has given the states more authority to set their own priorities in public education. In that light, we are moving forward with new superintendent Dr. Christina Kishimoto, the Board of Education and myself, all on the same page. I truly believe that we’ll see the greatest improvement in student achievement when the schools are empowered to innovate and take responsibility for the results. We must change our system from a culture of compliance to one where schools feel their voice matters. Schools must have access to resources to design what will work best for their students, teachers and communities.

Superintendent Christina Kishimoto
I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Kishimoto last month. She has the same core values as those of us who grew up in Hawai‘i and have children in the public school system. She understands that public education is the great equalizer and fundamentally important so that all children can pursue their dreams. Dr. Kishimoto’s track record includes closing gaps in student achievement and committing to school empowerment. She plans to go out into our communities to listen and learn, and I hope to accompany her on several of those visits.

In case you don’t know about her background, Dr. Kishimoto grew up in New York. She was a student in the New York City public school system in the ‘70s and ‘80s when education was in crisis. She lived in Section 8 low-income housing after her parents migrated from Puerto Rico. Dr. Kishimoto went on to earn a doctorate in education administration from Columbia University and has focused on how schools can be designed to help students from any socio-economic background achieve success.

Dr. Kishimoto would like to focus on the following areas:

  • School design: A process that can improve student learning – from creating a positive school culture to structuring a classroom for student success.
  • Student voice: Developing a positive process that incorporates more student feedback to improve what works in the classroom.
  • Teacher collaboration: Providing more opportunities for teachers to work together to share ideas and determine how resources can best be used to impact the classroom.

Dr. Kishimoto is credited with turning around struggling school districts and improving graduation rates on the mainland. She has headed two school districts in Arizona and Connecticut. We welcome her to Hawai‘i and are excited to work with her as we strive to improve our public school system.

Cool the Schools
It’s taken awhile, but I am encouraged that the Department of Education says it plans to exceed my goal of cooling 1,000 of the state’s hottest classrooms in energy-efficient ways by the end of August.

The $100 million appropriated by the 2017 state Legislature has paid for equipment and installation costs for air conditioning and other heat abatement measures for sweltering classrooms across the state. The goal has been to cool the classrooms while remaining “energy neutral” to offset electrical costs and energy use.

The result has been an ingenious combination of cooling strategies that include solar-powered high-efficiency air conditioning, tinted windows, nighttime heat flushing and ceiling fans, covered walkways, awnings, heat reflective material and added trees on school campuses.

We hope this effort results in a more comfortable teaching and learning environment for our dedicated and hardworking teachers and staff, and thousands of students who head back to the school this month!

                                                                       

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  • Posted in: August 2017