By Shelly Harris
University of Hawai`i system officials are working side-by-side with the Hawai`i Board of Education and Department of Education to ensure public-school students are better prepared for the competitive and arduous task of succeeding in college.
UH President David Lassner is helping to strengthen the pipeline to higher education by serving as a member of the recently formed Advisory Group to the Hawaii Board of Education Search Committee for Superintendent. The BOE says the Advisory Group is composed of “individuals representing stakeholder groups, such as parents, teachers, and school administrators.”
A Feb. 14 UH press release said Lassner “encourages input from the university” in the process to select a replacement for outgoing Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi.
“Members of the UH community have a unique perspective on the state’s only public school system: many UH students are recent graduates who understand how public school prepared them for higher education; the faculty have many public school graduates in their classes and labs; and many faculty and staff are parents of public school students,” the release said.
The Advisory Group was established by the Search Committee to assist the committee in identifying final candidates for superintendent, according to BOE website. Lassner was unavailable for comment at press time and didn’t attend the BOE General Business Meeting on Tuesday night on O`ahu.
In an interview with Ho`oulu on Tuesday night, UH Director for Communications Dan Meisenzahl said Lassner has no direct role in the hiring decision of the new superintendent and is not part of the BOE’s policy-making process.
Meisenzahl said Lassner’s participation is similar to other UH-DOE partnerships. For instance, UH Manoa’s School of Education collaborates with many Hawai`i public schools.
The university leadership recognizes collaboration with the public-school system is important to Hawai`i’s students, Meisenzahl said.
New and innovative teaching methods and curricula are made possible through the Hawai`i P-20 Partnerships for Education program. Hawaii P-20 exposes elementary-school students to the university, “so more Hawaii students are thinking of college from a young age,” Meisenzahl said.
The UH system also provides “dual credit” classes, which allows many high-school students to take college-level classes, saving both time and finances spent on college.
Dr. Patricia Halagao, an associate professor at the UH Manoa College of Education, serves with Lassner on the Advisory Group. She jointly submitted written testimony for the BOE’s meeting on Tuesday night, successfully advocating for an emphasis on experience in “educational equity” in the new job description for state superintendent.
The testimony signatories included Cheri Nakamura, who also serves as a member of the Advisory Group and is Director of the Hui for Excellence in Education, a coalition committed to working collaboratively to identify opportunities to improve public education in Hawai`i. Nakamura, a graduate of UH Manoa’s Shidler College of Business, attended Tuesday’s BOE meeting and provided an oral version of the testimony.