Monday, January 18, 2010
Should we be comfortable with the change of power in the Hawaii DOE?
by Larry Geller
Something doesn’t smell right at the Hawaii Department of Education. It doesn’t take a conspiracy theory to wonder about the sudden resignation of schools superintendent Pat Hamamoto, the anointment of short-term DOE employee and attorney Kathryn Matayoshi as the incoming sup, and the secrecy at the Board of Education about the deal. The BOE knew something, though we don’t know what or how much, because they declined to tell the public what was happening. So we found out the day before Hamamoto’s resignation became effective that leadership was being shifted to a relative newcomer.
Something is not right here, even if we don’t know what it is. It’s like opening the refrigerator door and the nose tells you that something has gone bad even if you don’t see it right away.
Or, stealing from Hamlet:
Something is rotten in the state of
I can’t put it better than this email circulated by a parent who suggests that usually it’s best if the person in charge is qualified and has come up through the ranks. Can we say either is true of Kathryn Matayoshi?
I have an advanced degree in a scientific field and tutor math privately. Many of my students ask why I can't be their regular math teacher at school.
The answer, of course, is that I have not taken any education courses. Therefore, I am not “qualified” to teach high school, even though I've taught in college and would be able to do so again.
This situation became even more dire under NCLB, where I watched several highly effective Educational Assistants (paraprofessionals) lose their positions because they didn't have college degrees in child development or early childhood education.
Therefore, it stinks to high heaven that not having an educational background is suddenly totally irrelevant for the top position at DOE.
Based on what teachers have told me, having ed courses is highly over-rated, but student teaching is very valuable.
Seventy-five years ago, it was the norm that CEOs had come up through the ranks of a company. It was thought that to run a company you had to understand the product and its uses. Nowadays, there's a school of thought that says if you've learned “management,” you can run any company knowing squat about how anything is made, used or marketed. However, I've noticed that these days the companies that are highly successful in the US are still being run by their founders - guys who know the product inside and out. After they retire or the company gets so big they're pushed out by management types, the business declines.
So I can't see DOE getting much better under Ms. Matayoshi. More legal perhaps, but not any better in student outcomes.
Is she going to make a dent in the illegalities discovered by the state auditor? I can't see it happening. There's way too much at stake for the beneficiaries of the graft. They haven't gotten away with it this long because there's people in government with a strong interest in honest government, have they?
To quote Frank de Lima, “For to get my kicks, I went into island politics. I got elected, I did my time, I wasn't indicted for one major crime. For the minor ones, they made me an honorable Bishop Estate Trustee”.
We've seen how entrenched this is already - people brought in under the Felix Consent Decree either got discouraged after a year or two and went to places where they didn't have to check their ethics at the door when they went to work, or they got co-opted with amazing speed, like past superintendent Paul LeMahieu.
Given this surprise, and the lack of answers to reasonable questions, isn’t it likely that there are a couple more surprises waiting to be discovered?
And what about the students: can someone without an educational background or experience in the DOE lead this massive bureaucracy to improvement?