Facing growing frustration over pandemic response, superintendent to step down in July

State Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto stands in a reconfigured classroom at Kapolei...
State Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto stands in a reconfigured classroom at Kapolei Middle School. The desks are spaced for social distancing.(Image: Hawaii News Now)
Updated: Mar. 9, 2021 at 3:26 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Embattled Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto told the Board of Education she will not seek to renew her contract when it expires in July.

Speculation swirled over whether she’d be offered a new contract amid harsh criticism from the Hawaii State Teachers Association over her leadership during the pandemic.

“What I am seeing is an unnecessary distraction to what we need to be focused on,” she said. “It’s really in the interest of not having my contract be a distraction to keeping our eyes on the work that has to happen for students that’s leading to this decision.”

Most recently, Kishimito faced heat for mixed messages over how to reopen schools to in-person learning.

She said she’s proud of the work her teams did to keep students and school employees safe during “an extremely difficult period,.” and wants to leave in a respectful manner.

“We talk about ourselves as the Aloha state. We need to model that in all of our conversations and how we transition. And that’s my commitment,” she said.

The teachers union and the union that represents public school principals both urged the BOE not to renew her contract.

“To have my contract discussed and commented on in some very disrespectful ways only ends up reflecting on the district, on the good work we’ve done, on the kids, on our families. I’m not interested in that,” she said.

HSTA President Corey Rosenlee wished Kishimoto success in her future endeavors.

“We look forward to working towards securing the schools our keiki deserve,” he said.

Kishimoto took over the role of superintendent in 2017. Her term expires July 30.

“It has been my great privilege to serve the students of Hawaii the past four years. This is a generation of students who will lead as global change-makers with great aloha,” Kishimoto said.

She also notified Governor David Ige and DOE employees about her decision.

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