Governor replaces school board chair who challenged public school leaders

Governor Green replaces school board chairman with a veteran businessman with few education credentials.
Published: Jun. 5, 2023 at 5:39 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Gov. Josh Green has decided there needs to be new leadership of Hawaii’s public schools and so is replacing School Board Chair Bruce Voss, an attorney known for challenging the department leadership, with a veteran businessman with few education credentials.

Warren Haruki, who recently retired as CEO of Maui Land and Pine and previously served as President of Hawaiian Tel and Verizon, will be interim board chair on July 1.

While some criticize the appointment as political, the governor says Haruki will help bring people together.

“The new incoming chair was highly recommended by some of the legislative leadership, which I appreciate, you know, I’m working collaboratively with them whenever possible,” Green said.

Along with Haruki, Green appointed Kahele Dukelow, dean of Arts and Sciences at Maui College and a former middle and high school teacher in the DOE.

Dukelow was recognized by the Native Hawaiian Education Council as Hawaiian educator of the year in 2019.

Current Board Member Shanty Asher, the Pacific Islander liaison officer at the city Office of Economic Revitalization, was appointed for another term.

Critics of the appointment cite Voss’ long tenure on the board which enabled him to pointedly challenge DOE leadership, demanding specifics in their plans and goals for public schools.

Voss’ replacement as chair concerned state Rep. Amy Perruso, a longtime observer of public school leadership.

“We are running the risk of having a lack of oversight and accountability for the department,” Perruso said, “and right when we need it most. We need to have more educated, knowledgeable oversight, not less.”

She added, “I worry that the new appointee is a political appointee.”

Supporters of Haruiki, including state Senate Education Chair Michelle Kidani, said his executive leadership experience is something the board could use.

“I think Bruce Voss has done a great job as board chair I have a lot of respect for Warren Haruki,” Kidani said.

“I think with the different relationships, and being able to ask board members to step up to the plate and do the jobs they are assigned to do would be helpful to all concerned including the superintendent.”

The governor said he expected Voss to stay on for the rest of his term.

Voss had no comment, but confirmed he will leave the board at the end of June.

“I was hoping he would stay around, I had a nice conversation with him,” Green said. “But you know, injecting new blood into boards is important.”

Green says he wants the board to be supportive of Superintendent Keith Hayashi, who just endured a tough evaluation. “I want to make sure we do offer adequate support, after spending a lot of time with Keith, going into schools, seeing how the principal’s respond to him, I want to give him a vote of confidence. And so I do think that having a lot of people that are supportive of him is important,” Green said.

It’s not usual for new governors to pick new leadership on key boards, and Green says that’s what he is doing.

“We put in new people in the BOE, we put in new people in the Board of Regents, and we will be putting some new board members on the Hawaii Tourism Authority in the coming days,” Green said.

Because the Legislature is not in session, the new appointees, including another to replace Voss as an at-large member, will not undergo Senate confirmation until next year.