HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - With their new contract still in limbo, thousands of Hawaii teachers hit the streets before school on Tuesday to express their frustration and put pressure on the state to make more progress in negotiations.
"Unfortunately, because of the low salaries, we can't fill positions. When we can't fill positions, it's our students that suffer as a result," said Jared Winquist, a science teacher at McKinley High School.
Officials with the Hawaii State Teachers Association said they were frustrated by the slow pace of the talks and the absence of key members of the state's negotiating team.
"We have really big issues that we need to discuss such as special education, class size, teacher retention and recruitment and empowerment, and unless we have this robust conversation, we're not going to be able to fix these problems," said HSTA president Corey Rosenlee.
A few Board of Education members are participating in the negotiations.
"I appreciate their stance and their passion and understand how frustrated they are," said BOE member Hubert Minn, an alternate member of the board's negotiating team.
Mike McCartney, Gov. David Ige's chief of staff, responded to the HSTA's criticism with this statement: "The Board of Education, schools superintendent and the state's chief negotiator have always been represented at the bargaining table. The chief negotiator will become more involved in discussions with the HSTA once the Council on Revenues makes its revenue forecast on March 13."
As the negotiations continue, the BOE is reviewing results from a new survey on the most important qualities needed in the next superintendent. More than 1,700 teachers, parents, and others responded.
"Understands or demonstrates the ability to become familiar with Hawaii's people, culture, history, environment, geography, and politics" took the top spot on the list of desired characteristics.
"Somebody who has been in education that doesn't treat education like a business," said Shaun Kamida, a McKinley High School teacher.
The superintendent's position is expected to be posted on Friday and the deadline to apply is April 6.
The board is scheduled to interview the final candidates in mid-May.