BOE approves strategic plan that’s short on specifics

The state Board of Education approved an updated strategic plan for Hawaii’s public schools Tuesday over the objections of public school teachers, the Hawaii Educational Policy Center and other groups who said it lacked specifics and needed to be delayed and re-written. The plan was full of big ideas and goals but there was little detail about badly needed support for teachers.

Corey Rosenlee, Hawaii State Teachers Association president, told BOE members Tuesday, “It’s too broad. It does not give enough specific proposals on how to fix these things.”

Rosenlee said the DOE strategic plan and the blueprint for Hawaii public schools put together by the governor’s Every Student Succeeds Task Force need to be integrated or “cross walked.”

“We need to make sure that the thousands of voices that were part of the process with the ESSA blue print are heard and implemented in the strategic plan as well,” Rosenlee added.

Important improvements for students, such as authentic assessments allowed under the new federal education law (ESSA), need to be “part of the strategic plan as well,” Rosenlee said.

Baldwin High English teacher David Negaard, told the BOE in testimony, “The strategic plan is not the bright, optimistic, ambitious and innovative plan our keiki deserve. Its imprecise objectives, internal and external inconsistencies and sad lack of implementation details make this plan unworthy of them.”

Vickie Kam, the curriculum and test coordinator at Ilima Intermediate, testified about the concerns of many teachers who want major changes to the DOE’s mandated curriculum.

Kam said, “What’s most concerning to me as a professional is I don’t see any changes in the curriculum or the expectations. I’d appreciate it if you deferred it until we talk more about the curriculum we’re being asked to use for our students. This is not the right vehicle to support them.”

“An important aspect is missing from the plan, and that’s why I’m asking you to delay. Teachers are missing,” said Lisa Morrison, the student activities coordinator at Maui Waena Intermediate.

“Anyone with more than five years of experience in the department is not included in the plan whatsoever. There’s no plan to retain teachers. Professional development has been suggested as the only strategy for how we’re going to keep teachers. I assure you we stay in spite of the professional development that’s offered” by the DOE, Morrison said.

Tracy Monroe, a social studies teacher Dole Middle School, also was critical of the singular focus on PD for teachers.

At previous PD sessions, Monroe testified, “We’ve been asked to create pacing guides that were very complicated, we spent hours and hours doing it. And we created some massive documents that went into binders or somewhere.”

“And yesterday I spent the entire day in a PD to create pacing guides because the outside provider who has a two-year contract said that the pacing guides we have are ridiculous and not usable, which we know because we haven’t been using them,” Monroe added. “So I pointed out to her that we were asked to create those pacing guides by the other people providing PD for us. So if that is what they’re giving us for PD, we do not want it.”

Andy Jones, an English teacher at Radford High, told BOE members, “It makes no sense to elevate professional development over the more crucial issues of salary, work environment and basic hallmarks of professionalization, including respect, trust and autonomy, which researchers cite as the primary factors behind teacher recruitment and retention.”

HSTA Secretary-Treasurer Amy Perruso, a social studies teacher at Mililani High, said, “The strategic plan reflects very little real change. It looks like aesthetically pleasing tinkering around the edges. I’m worried that the basic core principles, not only of the governor’s blue print but also of new Board (of Education) policy that followed from the end of No Child Left Behind, are not consistent with what I see and is not fully supported in the strategic plan.”

Those key principles, Perruso said, are school empowerment, innovation, culturally responsive curriculum, among others.

Board of Education members made several multiple and layered amendments to the plan without allowing additional public comment on the changes they were making on the spot. Amendments made by board members at Tuesday’s meeting added an indicator on the achievement gap, new portions on charter schools, Hawaiian language and bilingualism.

Only one board member, Attorney Bruce Voss, a former television and newspaper reporter who sometimes represents the news media in his law practice, raised questions about whether the board risked running afoul of the state sunshine law by substantially altering a proposal without allowing further public testimony before approving it.

In the end, the board unanimously approved the plan, saying it’s a work in progress and can be altered in the future.