HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state has selected Christina Kishimoto as the new superintendent of Hawaii's public schools.
Kishimoto signed a three-year contract and will start on Aug. 1, 2017. Her annual salary starts at $240,000 -- $40,000 more than outgoing schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi.
"Because both finalists were so highly qualified, it was a difficult decision for the Board," said BOE Chairman Lance Mizumoto, in a news release. "In the end, however, we felt that Dr. Kishimoto has the right combination of experience, knowledge, and focus to implement the strategic vision for educational change set forth in the governor's Blueprint for Education and the BOE and HIDOE's newly revised joint strategic plan."
Kishimoto currently serves as superintendent of the Gilbert Public Schools district in Arizona.
Matayoshi's contract ends June 30.
The board said it plans to name an interim superintendent for July.
Kishimoto was one of two finalists for the spot. The other was Linda Chen, an education consultant and former schools official.
After the finalists were announced, some expressed disappointment that no Hawaii-based applicants had made the list.
In a news release, Kishimoto said she's excited to be taking on the new role.
"I'm not afraid of hard work or a lot of work. But I also want to make sure that we get to do it well. And we can only do that by knowing each other and helping each other," Kishimoto told Hawaii News Now.
In Connecticut, Kishimoto's contract wasn't renewed, and she's clashed with the school board in her present job in Arizona.
That, plus her not having a teaching background, raised serious doubts during the selection process.
But the board dismissed them as "inconsequential" and "invalid."
Teachers union president Corey Rosenlee said she'll get a chance to prove herself.
"At this moment it's hope. We hope that it's going to be a collaborative process, that Dr. Kishimoto will involve teachers in those decision making processes, The superintendent is going to have to go out and see our diversity to truly understand some of our problems," Rosenlee said.
Ray L'Heureux of the Education Institute of Hawaii said rolling out the state's education blueprint will be central to Kishimoto's tenure.
"There's a lot of hard-working people that put a lot of work into the state's plan and the governor's blueprint," he said.
In a statement Gov. David Ige said Kishimoto's success "will be our success. She will need the support of the entire community."
"I'm going to build my team based on who's there. My hires will all be from within," Kishimoto said.
Hawaii's public school system is among the largest in the nation, with more than 180,000 students. It's also the only school district that's statewide.