Beyond The Maui News


405 Freeway At Night

405 Freeway At Night (from thirdape23, cc license)

Over the holidays, we packed up the family to visit my folks, do Disneyland, see old friends, and see what has changed in the last 15 years since we last lived in the Greater Los Angeles area.

All in all, a good trip. But, my first impression was set during the drive from LAX to my parents place in Oceanside: the drivers on the freeways are assholes. On Maui, it’s customary to back off on the gas to let someone slide into your lane. In L.A. (and I really should have remembered this) it’s customary to hit the gas before someone can slide  into your lane. This doesn’t help when you’re trying to merge from the FREAKIN’ ON RAMP.

All was well over the following week, until we stopped at the Trancas Canyon Starbucks for a snack during a drive through Malibu. During this trip, we worked at not using various Hawai’i idioms we’ve picked up over the last ten years, but my wife slipped when the barrista asked if she wanted whipped cream on her mocha. “No need, thanks.” “So, that’d be a no.” No, witch, that’d be a No Fucking Thank You, splash, Aloha. God help an ESL customer in that place. A quick google search suggests that shop is treated as more of a necessary evil than a hotspot for savoring one’s brew.

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The November Kihei Community Association meeting theme was public education, featuring a presentation by Group 70, which is working on the EIS for the future Kihei High School, and a panel discussion regarding the truncated 2009-2011 school years.

Kihei has long been agitating for a local high school, and most of Group 70ʻs presentation wasnʻt too much different from other high school plans Iʻve seen over the last ten years. The difference was that there are now hard start and completion dates: the summers of 2012 and 2014. My son will be out of college by that point, but itʻll still be a plus for the community.

KCA Education Panel, November 2009 meeting

From the left: KCA moderator A. Beerer, M. Cochran, B. Anderson, B. Wurst, R. Baker, G. Zarro, Y. Biegal, B. Bunting

The panel was a mix of education stakeholders:

  • Mary Cochran – Member, Hawaiʻi Board of Education
  • Bruce Anderson – Maui District Superintendent, Department of Education
  • Barry Wurst – Teacher, King Kamehameha III Elementary School, HSTA negotiator
  • Roz Baker – 5th District, Hawaiʻi State Senate
  • Gene Zarro – President, Kihei Charter School Board
  • Yvonne Biegal – Parent, Kamaliʻi School
  • Bridget Bunting – President, Kihei School PTA

The panelists were each given time for a five minute statement, and then answered written questions from the public. Comments that caught my attention included:

Mary – responding to a question regarding the ratio of teachers to support and admin staff. Her claim is that weʻre low compared to mainland school districts, and that 30% of the budget ainʻt a bad overhead rate. She also presented a laundry list of responsibilities a local school district would need to take over from the state. I think those considering the idea were already aware of this. Whether a local district would lead to lower overhead is an excellent question. However, as my wife the former DoE employee points out, the current system is very Oʻahu centric, and tends to shortchange the staff on the Neighbor Islands.

Bruce – thinking back to his days as a Makawao Elementary School principal, reminded us how many support staff are needed to run a school… which still begs the question whether his stated head count is absolutely critical during a budget crunch.

Barry – described the process that led to the HSTA voting to approve the furlough plan. During Q&A, he declined to guess at whether the membership would vote to approve reassigning professional development days as instruction time. Probably a good decision, since anything he says out of turn as an HSTA official can have a major affect on the membership. He noted that furloughs and layoffs will probably add to the existing high turnover among newer hires.

Roz – pointed out that we received several million in Federal education stimulus dollars, which the Governor used as an opportunity to transfer a similar number of dollars out of the DoE to other portions of the budget. She seemed to anticipate that the Legislature would hold a special session to discuss the Governorʻs latest school budget proposal.

Gene – pointed to the charter school as an example of local school control in action. He also noted one major benefit of the Hawaiʻi statewide school system: funding parity throughout the state. This is a major issue on the mainland.

Yvonne – in so many words, she labeled the thought that county-sized school districts couldnʻt be successful as B.S. Quite true. A very forceful delivery.

Bridget – touted the PTAʻs Furlough Fridays enrichment program, We Can Do It, which would provide a full school day of art, music, and other programs trimmed from the regular curriculum long ago. Some of her comments suggested that there had been some resistance to the program. She provided a URL which I didnʻt correctly record. Iʻll update this note when I get the correct information. Update: Mr. Waldenʻs post on redcounty.com looked to me overly conspiratorial. As the former DoE intelligence agent Iʻm married to suggested, if the Kihei School PTA is getting push back, the reasons are likely more pedestrian. A few years ago, the DoE took a stab at “local control” by shifting much of the budget responsibility down to the individual schools. This left the principals on the hook for balancing everything from teacher salaries to the electric bill. If they go over budget, there are consequences. If  the current 2009-10 budget depends in part on powering down the schools, flipping the switches back on might prove a problem. Also, the principals are on the same furlough schedule as everyone else, and may resist the idea of open classrooms when theyʻre not present to keep an eye on things. Just a thought.

The panel closed with Mary taking issue with some of Yvonneʻs statements regarding a Stateview vs. local school boards. Ms. Cochran has a reputation as a no-nonsense lady, and it certainly came across during the meeting. I havenʻt reviewed the Board minutes to know exactly where she stood while they reacted to this yearʻs budget cuts, other than a newspaper report that she had asked if the DoE administration could be trimmed. However, the decision made, it seems to me sheʻs sticking with it. Frankly, I would appreciate someone – anyone – in the furlough decision-making process conceding that they made the wrong choice.