Hamamoto breaks silence for first time since retirement decision - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Hamamoto breaks silence for first time since retirement decision

Pat Hamamoto Pat Hamamoto

By Duane Shimogawa - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - She was in the middle of a budget crisis, Furlough Fridays and bitter collective bargaining. Yet Pat Hamamoto says none of that had anything to do with her decision to walk away from her job as state superintendent.

Hamamoto says she's been thinking about retiring for a year now. She gave no specific reasons other than it's a personal decision and that she felt it's the right time.

As the public schools system goes through one of its most turbulent times in recent memory, its chief is stepping down.

"I've done my part as the change agent, I've worked through it, prepped the ground, put in the foundations and now the next team will come and take it to the next level," she said.

On Sunday, Hamamoto spoke to the media for the first time since she made her decision to resign or retire as she calls it.

"I'm really sorry that it came out that I resigned, because it wasn't a resignation, so much as it was part of a process to get to the retirement," she said.

She says she thought about retirement in June, but she wasn't quite ready just yet.

The Board of Education appointed the 65-year-old former McKinley High School principal to the position in 2001.

While on the job, Hamamoto has seen the ups and downs of the public school system, including the No Child Left Behind Act, a teacher's strike and the Felix Consent Decree, which forced the state to update its services to special needs students.

"People in the classroom are focused on teaching and learning and children are getting the care they need, that to me is the most important thing," she said.

Hamamoto's resignation became effective on New Year's Eve. She had nearly two years left in this four-year contract, which expired in October of 2011.

She feels the ongoing teacher furlough talks will work itself out.

"I believe the teachers will come through and they'll do whatever it takes that they have to do to make sure that our kids are well-taken care of," she said.

Taking care of kids is what Hamamoto has been doing in one way or another in the public school system Since 1975, where she began teaching at Highlands Intermediate in Pearl City.

Now it's her turn to turn the page to a new chapter in her life.

"The doctor called and said, 'We have an appointment for you, what day would you like?' I say, well, what's available? You can just schedule me," she said with a grin.

Hamamoto says she's looking forward to spending more time with her family, reading to kids and working with the blind.

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