Dear Governor Ige: September 28, 2016
Effective with the close of business September 29, 2016 I resign my position as a member of the Hawaii Board of Education.
I have served on the Board since April 2011, and I am very proud of the accomplishments of the Board during my tenure. It is for others to judge my own contributions, but I can say with certainty that I have contributed enthusiastically and to the best of my abilities. Until this year, my service on the Board gave me great personal satisfaction, even when the Board faced difficult decisions and tough circumstances. Unfortunately, your lack of faith in and support of the Board have sapped my enthusiasm to the point where I no longer can continue to serve with the positive attitude the position requires.
During your campaign for Governor you wrote that the Board of Education has failed to
provide effective leadership. That statement hurt, and it was very surprising to me, because just a few months earlier we met privately in your Senate office during the advise and consent process considering my nomination for a second term on the Board. During that meeting you asked me a few questions to which I responded mostly referencing the Board’s strategic plan, and absolutely no criticism of the direction or performance of the Board was mentioned.
Further, you voted to confirm both me and Board Chair Don Homer for second terms when our appointments were unanimously confirmed by the Senate.
Despite concerns voiced during the campaign about the performance of the Board, the first time you met with the Board was ten months after your inauguration, in September 2015. I was out of state at that time, but according to colleagues who attended, the meeting focused on the details of spending restrictions that you had placed on the Department of Education. You did not address your assessment of the Board’s performance, nor did you ask the Board to move in a new and different direction.
Under the Constitution and laws of our state, the Governor’s main role in education is to appoint the members of the Board of Education. (Even that power is limited as members must meet criteria established by law and can be removed only for cause.) The Board then hires the Superintendent (chief executive officer) and formulates educational policy. The most significant direct responsibility of the Governor in education is in approval of the budget that is submitted to the Legislature and in release of funds to the Department after the budget is enacted.
I believe that each and every Board member is dedicated to the mission of improving our public school system to the benefit of our students. Indeed, this has been true of all the Board members with whom I have served, regardless of who appointed them. At this point, you have appointed seven of the nine current Board members. I think that you need to support this Board whose members you selected and trust them to carry out their responsibilities outlined in the Constitution and laws of Hawaii.
Instead, on April 14, 2016, with no advance communication to the Board of Education, you announced the formation of the “Governor’s ESSA Team.” The stated purpose of the “ESSA Team” is to “develop a blue print for Hawai’i’s public schools that is consistent with ESSA and will maximize opportunities and possibilities for Hawai’i to transform education and to “be responsible for assessing the current public school system and identifying areas of need.” My view is that these tasks belong to the Board of Education and you have circumvented the Constitution and laws of our state by appointing your so-called “Governor’s ESSA team.”
Less than a month prior to your announcement, on March 15, 2016 you met with eight members of the Board (including me) to discuss the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the new version of the long-standing federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), that had been recently enacted to replace No Child Left Behind (NCLB). A representative of the National Governors Association was present and was effusive in praise of Hawaii (BOE/DOE/Governor) as a national model in having all stakeholders participate in important education decisions. At that meeting there was no indication that you intended to create your own team to address the opportunities presented by ESSA. You did not challenge the Board to take on the tasks
contemplated, nor did you seek input on the impending announcement.
In addition to bypassing the Board, calling the task force the “ESSA Team” is both curious and problematical. Federal law provides that the State Education Agency (SEA) shall prepare the state’s ESSA plan. Hawaii’s SEA is the Department of Education, not the Governor’s office. Furthermore, the Board’s direction to the Department is to use the (updated) strategic plan to guide its approach to the ESSA plan. As you know, the Board and Department are well into a yearlong process of updating the strategic plan a process that has included participation by a large number and wide range of stakeholders through a variety of activities.
On October 1, 2016 you are hosting the first of two meetings of Board members and your “ESSA Team”. According to information from the Board office, “The purposes of the meetings are to discuss the Governor's vision and to facilitate discussion and collaboration in the planning processes. This meeting of more than two board members is allowable as a permitted interaction of board members under HRS 92-2.5f.” To date, no agenda for this meeting has been transmitted to Board members. The timing of this upcoming private meeting implies that you may be attempting to merge the work of the ESSA team with the strategic plan update. Both efforts are scheduled for completion in December. If you truly respected the roles and responsibilities of the Board, you would have the ES SA team present its recommendations to the Board at a public meeting. If you had confidence in the Board, you would leave the final disposition of the ESSA team’s recommendations to the Board. Furthermore, holding such a meeting in private, prevents the public from observing, participating and influencing the outcome.
In short, my view is that your “Education Team” is the Board of Education which you appoint, and which is recognized by our Constitution and laws. Since you clearly have a different View, I can no longer continue to serve on the Board.
I wish the Board every success in pursuing the vision that “Hawaii’s students are educated, healthy and joyful lifelong learners who contribute positively to our community and global society” and achieving the mission that “we serve our community by developing the academic achievement, character and social-emotional well-being of our students to the fullest potential. We work with our partners, families, and communities to ensure that all students reach their aspirations from early learning through college, career and citizenship,” as both are so ably stated in the joint strategic plan.
Board of Education Member
Board of Education members
Superintendent of Education
Senate Education Chair
Speaker of the House
House Education Chair
PDF: LINK TO ORIGINAL
PDF: HRS 92-2.5f
SA: School board member quits, faults Ige
BACKGROUND: Jim Williams is retired Administrator and CEO of the Hawaii Employer-Union Benefits Trust Fund (EUTF). Currently, he is the Vice-chair of Voyager Public Charter School, and previously served as President and CEO of Royal State Learning Foundation; Interim Director and President of the Hawai'i State Teachers Association; and teacher at Kauanakakai Elementary School and Moloka'i High School. Williams’ appointment is for a three-year term.