Independent organization wants schools to have more power, not t - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Independent organization wants schools to have more power, not the DOE

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A public school shouldn't have to wait four years to get an improvement made, yet in some cases that happens. That is one reason why a new group is challenging the Department of Education.

"Those vehicles should have been here four years ago. This is how long and frustrating it can be for the system to be responsive," said Darrel Galera, who recently retired as Moanalua High School principal.

Galera is referring to the needed repairs to the school's football field that are finally getting done. It's one example of the red tape educators encounter in all facets of their jobs. He is now leading a new privately funded research think tank called Education Institute of Hawaii. 

The Institute is a privately funded group run by current and former educators and administrators. Twenty-seven members flew to the mainland to study other school districts. Today it held its first conference aimed at empowering schools. It wants principals and teachers to have more of a voice over funding and resources. They feel the Hawaii Department of Education is just too big.

"The only way to get high performance and strong results is when decisions are made by the people who are actually doing the work," said Galera, who was 2010 Hawaii High School Principal of the year and 2004 Central Oahu District Principal of the year.

"It shouldn't be a dictatorship, that's a good bottom line," said Randall Roth, Education Institute of Hawaii President.

"When you look at empowerment, especially in a district like Hawaii with 255 schools, one size does not fit all," said Ray L'Heureux, former DOE Assistant Superintendent, who is now a member of the Education Institute. "When you start talking about 21st century education, it's 2014. We need to get on with that whatever that means."

Hawaii is the ninth largest school district in the country with 180,000 students and 25,000 employees, just over half of whom are teachers.  The DOE says 94 percent of the nearly $1.8 billion budget already goes to schools.

"We're making progress but we need to continue to reexamine and continue to make progress in ways that are efficient and focuses on student achievement," said Brian De Lima, Hawaii Board of Education Vice Chair. "There are continuous changes that are going to be made in terms of policies and programs because that's our practice to reexamine and implement changes that make sense that empower students to do what? To get student achievement up."

The Institute says it's not just about decentralizing the DOE.  It's about changing the culture of the system.  A survey taken last April found 65 percent of principals are afraid to speak up against the DOE for fear of retaliation.

"The urgency is we have to collaborate and work together now. We need to make the changes now. We have a new Governor. He will start office on Monday. We're very hopeful," said Galera.

The new Governor's wife Dawn Ige is also an educator and was Darrel Galera's vice principal.  Educators are anxiously awaiting Governor elect Ige's plans for education and if the Education Institute will have an ear at the Capitol.

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