The Hawaii Board of Education voted Tuesday afternoon to begin the search for a new schools superintendent to replace Kathryn Matayoshi.
Matayoshi’s contract ends next June. She sat down with KHON2 to discuss her accomplishments, why the Board of Education would not renew her contract, and what may lie ahead.
The day started with a blessing of the new Farrington High School auditorium and ended in a Board of Education meeting. Finding her replacement was on the agenda, despite a glowing evaluation two months ago.
She says when the board talked with her, it praised the progress at schools, liked her initiatives and her executive team, but told her it would not renew her contract and would start a search process.
“Was it a surprise for you?” KHON2 asked.
“We’ve had differences of opinion from at least some criticism,” Matayoshi replied. “During the governor’s campaign, he made it clear there were things he wanted to change in the DOE. I think that he believes passionately in public education and he has now appointed most of the board members so I think that’s sort of the beginning.”
“Has the governor ever spoken with you about this?” KHON2 asked.
“I did speak with the governor and he did express a desire to have a new direction,” she said.
And so, in eight months she will leave after six years as superintendent.
“Does it make it more difficult for you to continue for the next several months?” KHON2 asked.
“It’s an awkward situation, because some people think I’m gone or I’m going to be leaving soon, and I really have until the end of June to stay focused on a certain key things that I want to make sure that we have very solidly in place,” she replied.
Those “key things” include the Hawaii Keiki program, which brings health services to schools through partnerships with the University of Hawaii School of Nursing and community health centers, and a project based on business partnerships, a.k.a. phase two of the New Skills for Youth grant that prepares students to be career-ready out of high school, for those who want to go straight into jobs in Hawaii without a bachelor’s degree.
“This is an opportunity like healthcare to bring people together and help our students, so I’m really excited about that,” Matayoshi said. “It’s something I think I can do well because I have a lot of contacts and a lot of friends in the business community, a lot of experience there.”
“Do you wish you had more time to continue even more what you have started?” KHON2 asked.
“I think there’s a certain sadness in not having a few more years to keep on going and make sure some of the changes and opportunities are really going to be there for future classes of students,” she said.
For example, the DOE secured a waiver to create an assessment in Hawaiian for Hawaiian language classrooms, but it’s not a long-term waiver so more extensions will be needed.
Matayoshi says she’s proud of efforts that will make a difference for students in the long haul, like a focus on science at a time when few sciences classrooms were in decent shape. Now Kailua High School has a new science building, and there’s a new facility at Stevenson Middle School.
Matayoshi says she wasn’t planning to retire, but now she could, or she may accept opportunities coming her way.
Or she may write a book.
“And maybe allow my experience to inform others and maybe a vacation,” she said. “I’m planning a few vacations, yes, I’m hoping so.”