Wahiawa, Kailua teacher win primary state House races

Former HSTA secretary-treasurer and current board member advance to general election in November

A science teacher from Kailua and a social studies teacher from Wahiawa advanced in Saturday's primary election, winning the Democratic nominations for seats in the state House.

Former HSTA state secretary-treasurer Perruso ousts incumbent

Amy Perruso, a social studies teacher at Mililani High who just finished a three-year term as HSTA secretary-treasurer, triumphed over an incumbent to win the Democratic primary for the House seat that represents Wahiawa and Whitmore Village. Perruso beat Lei Learmont by nearly 7 points. Learmont had been appointed to the district 46 seat earlier this year.

"I ran for office because the children in our public schools need strong advocates. Teachers have always stepped up to do this work, and entering the political arena in this way, as teachers who are union leaders, is a natural reflection of how teachers lead in our community and the ways in which our union advocates for the common good," said Perruso, who has taught in Hawaii public schools for 18 years, and at Mililani High since 2004.

"Public schools are at the heart of our community, because they are the sites where we cultivate our hopes and dreams about the future, and we are running for office because the Legislature is a place where the common good can be furthered," added Perruso, who teaches A.P. U.S. History, A.P. Government, and Pre-A.P. Modern History of Hawaii/Participation in Democracy classes at Mililani.

She said she is grateful to her co-workers and friends in public schools who worked tirelessly on her campaign.

"My fellow educators organized my sign waving, created my signs, waved signs, canvassed, cooked for volunteers and generally went above and beyond as all amazing teachers do," Perruso said.

Perruso said she benefitted from See Educators Run training put on by the National Education Association last October in Chicago. She also learned a lot from Kuleana Academy, a four-month leadership development and non-partisan candidate training program hosted by the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) in partnership with other leading public interest organizations in the islands.

Interested in volunteering for Perruso's general election campaign, when she takes on Republican John E. Miller? Email her at: amyperruso@gmail.com

Pregitzer wins Kailua primary race

"As a teacher going on 15 years now, education is my life and passion," said Kalaheo science teacher Micah Kalama Pregitzer, who won the Democratic primary for the state House seat that covers Kailua and Kaneohe Bay. He earned more than twice as many votes as Miles Shiratori in Saturday's contest, pulling in 50.4 percent of the vote compared to Shiratori's 24.8 percent. 

"I, as I know most educators do, live for my students and to see them grow and become successful in whatever they choose to do in life," said Pregitzer, who represents HSTA's Windward Chapter on the union's Board of Directors. 

"I first got involved with HSTA to try and improve the conditions at my school.  But as I got more involved, I started to see that the issues we were dealing with were much larger and widespread than just Kalaheo High School," Pregitzer added. "With HSTA, we worked to try and pass common sense policies and legislation that would improve education in Hawai'i, but time and again we were met with an unwillingness to change from the state, for no good reason other than a fear of something different.  So I made the decision to throw my hat into the ring and try to make changes that actually make sense from the state level."

This school year, he teaches AP Biology, Honors Biology, Biology and Health at Kalaheo. He has also taught Health Services, Clinical Health, Honors Chemistry and Chemistry. He did his student teaching at Castle High and has taught at nearby Kalaheo ever since.

"The support I have received from teachers and HSTA has been inspirational and a huge help to my campaign," Pregitzer said. "From donations and volunteering for sign waving and door-to-door canvassing, to spreading the word about my campaign to friends and family and uplifting messages of support, I could not have made it this far without the teachers' help."

This November, Pregitzer faces veteran incumbent Republican Cynthia Thielen.

"I look forward to the next part of my campaign to the general election," Pregitzer added. "I know that with the support of my fellow teachers and HSTA, we can start to make meaningful changes for education in Hawaii."

If you'd like to volunteer for his campaign, contact him at pregitzer4kailua@gmail.com or on his Facebook, Instagram or Twitter pages.

Author: Keoki Kerr

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