New school superintendent signs contract

Christina Kishimoto

Christina Kishimoto, superintendent of a public school district in Arizona, has been selected as the new Hawaii public schools superintendent, the state Board of Education announced Friday.

She signed a three-year contract that begins Aug. 1 with an annual salary of $240,000, according to Department of Education spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz.

The superintendent of the Gilbert Public Schools district replaces outgoing Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi, whose term ends on June 30. Matayoshi was named superintendent in September 2010 and earns $200,000 a year.

The board plans to name an interim superintendent to serve during the transition month of July, the board news release said.

“In partnership with Chairperson (Lance) Mizumoto, the board, and Gov. David Ige, I look forward to implementing a vision of excellence for all students,” said Kishimoto. “I look forward to working hand in hand with Hawaii’s teachers, leaders, staff, parents, community members and student leaders to execute on this vision of high quality college, career and community readiness.”

The board, which selects the superintendent and makes policy decisions for the Department of Education, whittled down a list of 92 applicants to Kishimoto and Linda Chen, founder and managing director of Ikigai Educational Consulting, which provides educational consulting services to kindergarten to grade 12 institutions. Both candidates were interviewed by the board May 11 and made public appearances on Oahu.

“Because both finalists were so highly qualified, it was a difficult decision for the board,” said Mizumoto, who led the committee that conducted the search. “In the end, however, we felt that Dr. Kishimoto has the right combination of experience, knowledge and focus to implement the strategic vision for educational change set forth in the Governor’s Blueprint for Education and the BOE and HIDOE’s newly revised joint strategic plan.”

Kishimoto has been the Gilbert district superintendent since July 2014. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Barnard College, a masters in public affairs from the University of Connecticut and a doctorate in educational administration from Columbia University. In June 2014, she completed two years of board service on the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, an organization focused on student-centered practices and policies.

As superintendent and chief executive officer of the Gilbert school district with an enrollment of 36,500 students, Kishimoto managed an annual of budget of $305 million. She takes over the only statewide school system in the country, with 256 public and 34 charter schools with a total enrollment of 180,000 students and a nearly $2 billion annual budget.

Ige welcomed Kishimoto to the post while trying to marshal support for her and educational reform.

“While Dr. Kishimoto will lead the effort to remodel our school system, she will need the support of the entire community,” Ige said. “Together, we can ensure that those closest to our students are empowered to make decisions that provide the basics and add the new skills our children need to prosper in the future.”

“Mahalo to Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi, who led a reform effort that created a solid foundation upon which we will continue to build and improve,” Ige added.

The public schools teachers union, which earlier had expressed concern about the finalists being from out of state, offered to work with the new superintendent.

“Now that the superintendent has been selected, we look forward to the opportunity to work with her to change our test-and-punish culture, improve the special education crisis, recruit and retain teachers as well as strengthen Hawaii’s career and technical education programs,” said Hawaii State Teachers Association President Corey Rosenlee.

He noted Hawaii’s “unique school system encompassing rural and urban as well as small and large schools” and urged Kishimoto to choose “a strong local deputy to help her with our diverse culture and statewide school system.”

“One of the most important things we are looking for is to create a strong relationship between the new superintendent and HSTA so we can work cooperatively to improve public education in Hawaii,” he added.

* Lee Imada can be reached at leeimada@mauinews.com.

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