Neither Linda Chen or Christina Kishimoto, the two finalists for state schools superintendent, have ever worked in Hawaii's public education system – or even lived here in the islands.
"I am disappointed," Sen. Michelle Kidani said.
Kidani, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, says three of the final eight candidates that were put before the Board of Education's selection committee were high-ranking administrators within Hawaii's Department of Education.
Two complex area superintendents and one assistant superintendent were among them.
"One of the reasons why I wanted a local candidate is it's very difficult in our society, in our culture, to get past the fact they're not from here, for the people that they have to deal with," Sen. Kidani said.
Kishimoto, one of the finalists, has been criticized for some of her policies as the superintendent in Gilbert, Arizona. A previous contract, in Hartford, Connecticut, wasn't renewed.
Chen's resume, meanwhile, includes a tenure as chief academic officer for Baltimore City's public schools that lasted only two years.
Despite the criticisms, former teacher union negotiator Joan Husted warns not to rush to judgement on their abilities based on what could be perceived as "excess baggage."
"If you look at all of our superintendents, virtually all of them had some baggage of one sort or another," she said. "And you have to look at it from the context in which it happened. So give them a chance."
Whichever candidate is chosen will oversee the tenth largest school district in the country.
"We want someone who is a participant in the blueprint process, creating an education blueprint for Hawaii. We want someone who is connected to the communities here. We want somebody who is visionary and transformational," HSTA Secretary-Treasurer Amy Perruso said.
Chen and Kishimoto will meet with lawmakers, the teachers union and other educational stakeholders before the Board of Education makes its decision on May 11.