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Unions, teachers urge Board of Education to reject new contract for superintendent

Updated: Mar. 5, 2021 at 8:46 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - In extensive testimony Thursday, union leaders and educators called on the Board of Education to reject a new contract for Superintendent Christina Kishimoto.

During a board meeting, several teachers and principals criticized Kishimoto’s plans to return elementary school students for in-person learning.

“The directive to bring all students back to in-person learning for elementaries during the fourth quarter was announced last week to the public, without first seeking input from leaders,” said Derek Minakami, principal at Kaneohe Elementary School, in testimony to the board.

“Then two days ago ― once the horses have already bolted ― we were asked to share concerns. We’re then left to make plans without clear guidance, leading to a disparity of implementation, such as with graduation ceremonies, or the implementation of blended learning.”

Radford High School Principal James Sunday added: “The frustration is all in one direction. It was centered around communication, leadership and when you look at the big picture ... there’s a big morale problem.”

Kishimoto’s contract expires at the end of July. She had been working on a one-year extension to a three-year contract inked in 2017.

During the meeting, Kishimoto clarified that the start date for in-person learning for all elementary schools students isn’t yet decided.

She said it won’t begin at the end of this month but sometime during the final quarter of the school year, which begins March 22.

“It is much easier to close than it is to to reopen. We know every level of reopening has involved lots of work and lots of actions on the school level,” she said.

Some teachers think it’s still too early to reopen.

“The DOE’s sales pitch to reopen schools is like the mayor in ‘Jaws’ saying the beaches are open and people are having a wonderful time,” said Justin Huighey, a teacher at King Kamehameha III Elementary School.

In the end, the Board of Education voted to postpone a vote on renewing Kishimoto’s contract to a later hearing.

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