Over time, HSTA expanded its efforts into many new areas where the Association could impact the status of teachers and students in Hawaii, both directly and indirectly.
Throughout this expansion though, the Association kept a watchful eye on the contractual agreement between teachers and the DOE. In 1976, a suspicious lack of grievances led the Association to mount a massive effort to canvas teachers on a one-on-one basis to measure their attitude toward and true understanding of the provisions of the contract.
In the largest project of its kind in the United States, a group of 1,000 teachers were trained as survey interviewers and together they gathered responses from more than 7,500 teachers, approximately 84 percent of all Hawaii teachers. Interestingly enough, one of the survey’s most compelling findings was that teachers truly believe in the grievance process as the only sure way to protect the rights of teachers and enforce the terms of the contract.
But contract issues were just a part of the whole picture.
Through membership, HSTA kept a finger on the pulse of teacher concerns, exploring in ever increasing range of interests and needs. In 1977, they began to challenge one of the silent after-effects of teachers’ long years of powerlessness, a profound lack of leadership and managerial skills among classroom teachers. The NEA had just instituted its Women’s Leadership Training Program and Hawaii jumped at the opportunity to join in. HSTA sent a group of teachers to participate in an intensive NEA seminar to prepare interested teachers to become trainers in the exciting new program.
The Association pursued the leadership program enthusiastically, seeing it as a constructive way to strengthen the leadership and management skills of women in teaching. Prior to this point, conventional wisdom generally held that it was neither practical nor necessary to provide teachers with leadership skills. The following year, the five members of the HSTA Women’s Leadership Training Cadre began conducting a series of 10-hour training seminars. Today, notable graduates of the Women’s Leadership Training Program include former Association presidents Sharon Mahoe and June Motokawa.
In practice, the value of empowering teachers as leaders became an advantage for Association members. Not only did it benefit the teachers themselves, it gave students, particularly female students, the opportunity to see many of their closest role models in the light of new confidence and new capabilities. Through the years, this program has continued to be one of the Association’s biggest “hits.” At last, teachers have been given the resources to realize their complete professional potential.
In addition to the start up of the Women’s Leadership program, 1978 also saw a massive push by the Association’s Political Action Committee. The committee initiated an endorsement program that put the full resources of the Association into researching candidate platforms and records and providing the membership with a fully informed position on each race. Once the endorsements were released, the committee organized hundreds of teachers to campaign for HSTA-endorsed candidates. The volunteers held signs, made telephone calls, canvassed and addressed campaign mailings to show their support for “education candidates” and their strong belief in the Association’s endorsement process.
In 1978, many of the Association’s strongest efforts shifted into high gear, with exciting results. The Violence and Vandalism project received a $30,000 grant from the federal Law Enforcement Assistance Administration and the U.S. Office of Education, along with a $5,000 grant from NEA. The primary grant provided for groups of teachers, counselors, students, parents and administrators and a Honolulu police officer to attend a two-week training program in California. The group went on to develop action plans to reduce violence and vandalism at their schools.
That year, the Association’s ongoing legislative lobbying effort yielded 166 new Special Education positions and 35 counseling positions, along with the development of a comprehensive job-sharing program. The job-sharing program brought teachers a decisive step closer to achieving sustainable balance between their professional and personal lives – with benefits for all.