BOE rates superintendent ‘effective,’ but questions lack of student data during shutdown

The HIDOE said if a teacher or student announced symptoms while at school, Dept. of Health's...
The HIDOE said if a teacher or student announced symptoms while at school, Dept. of Health's guidance would be followed.(HNN)
Updated: May. 22, 2020 at 1:50 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Board of Education rated Superintendent Christina Kishimoto “effective” Thursday in her annual evaluation, but raised concerns about a lack of data on how public schools are faring and how many students actually participated in distance learning while campuses were closed.

Kishimoto was evaluated on five standards, and was rated “effective” or “highly effective” on four of them.

But on the standard covering operations, resource management and personnel, board members gave her a “marginal” rating, pointing to ongoing concerns about everything from teacher recruitment to the lack of a solid plan on school impact fees. There were also concerns about backlogged repairs at school facilities.

Board members were particularly concerned about the superintendent’s failure to show that big ideas and initiatives are actually resulting in progress. And they said the dearth of data on how many students participated in distance learning was a significant gap that undermined public confidence in the schools system.

“We need data on how many students actively participated in learning on a daily basis in distance learning during the shutdown. We don’t have that,” said Board of Education member Bruce Voss, adding that the state Department of Education also hasn’t produced metrics on its strategic plan goals.

BOE member Kili Namauu added: "I have great faith in the superintendent under these very dire circumstances (However), the data is missing and people are trying to ascertain how well is our system doing and it’s impossible ... without having that important information.”

Board members said they also recognized the difficulty in leading one of the nation’s largest school districts through the COVID-19 crisis.

Hawaii’s 180,000 public school students didn’t returned to campuses after a lengthened spring break, instead transitioning to remote learning. But what that learning looked like varied widely from school to school and student to student, especially because not all families had access to computers or wifi.

In closing remarks, Board Chairwoman Catherine Payne said, “We wouldn’t anyone listening into this or reading about it later thinking that we have doubts about the capability of our superintendent. To lead this system is very challenging."

Last month, Kishimoto said she was not collecting data on the number of students participating in distance learning because she didn’t want to distract principals when they were already overwhelmed.

Speaking to the board at a virtual meeting Thursday, Kishimoto noted that the Department of Education is surveying students, parents and teachers to better understand what the final months of the spring term looked like for them — and what they would need going forward.

She did not specifically address the lack of real-time data on students participating in remote learning.

“I think in the middle of this crisis, I’ve led with continued boldness,” she said, adding that the department’s data systems and data sharing have “not been great.

Prior to the board meeting, Kishimoto rated herself “highly effective” in her self-evaluation.

In testimony, several educational organization pointed to potential areas of improvement for the Department of Education and its superintendent but didn’t explicitly criticize her leadership.

This story will be updated.

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