Former BOE member speaks out as foundation suspends funds for superintendent search

Darrel Galera


EDITOR’S NOTE: Since the airing of this story, the Board of Education’s website says that the search committee is delaying the search process and did not post the position for applicants on Friday, March 10. Full statement is at the bottom of this post.

Payment of a major grant to the Board of Education has been suspended over concerns a board member who quit to apply for the superintendent position could have an unfair advantage.

The $50,500 grant was intended to pay for a search firm to find a new school leader.

Now the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation says it won’t be paying that unless the integrity of the process is assured.

On Wednesday, we looked into some lawmakers’ concerns over ethics guidelines, and the timing of Darrel Galera stepping down from the Board of Education to apply for the superintendent job.

He had been involved for months in various phases of the process to replace Kathryn Matayoshi when her contract expires this June.

The non-profit foundation had committed tens of thousands of dollars toward what it expected to be a “fair, open, and transparent” nationwide superintendent search. Now it has its own questions, and is holding off on paying up.

Terrence George, president and CEO of the Harold K. L. Castle Foundation said in a statement:

“At the request of the Hawaii State Board of Education, the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation approved a $50,500 grant to support a nationwide superintendent search that was fair, open, and transparent. Funds were to be used to cover the cost of a highly experienced search firm, hired by and reporting only to the Board of Education.

“Recent developments led the Foundation to have deep concerns that one candidate may have an unfair advantage over other applicants. Therefore, we have informed the Board of Education that we have suspended our grant payment. We remain hopeful that a solution can be found that restores the full integrity of the search process. Our students and our schools deserve nothing less.”

Galera declined to be interviewed on camera but sent an extensive letter, stating “any perception that the process is ‘rigged’ based on past events is wrong and erroneous.”

Galera said the board’s process “ensures transparency, fairness and inclusiveness.” His full two-page statement is also copied below.

Lawmakers also wanted to know what Gov. David Ige knew about Galera’s intentions and when, having just appointed Galera to the board in October.

On Wednesday, the governor told us he did not appoint Galera with the intention of him taking Matayoshi’s job, and spoke more with us Thursday.

Always Investigating asked Ige, did you know he was interested in superintendent before the resignation?

“No. I was not aware that he was interested in applying for the position,” Ige replied.

Now that he has expressed his interest, what do you think of his candidacy?

“Well I’ve always said that this is a prime opportunity, with all the work that we’ve done for creating a new blueprint for education, for us to find the best leader that can lead the transformation in education,” Ige said. “I hope that many people will apply, and I do trust that the board will do its responsibility to select the best candidate for the job.”

Galera quit before the Senate could weigh in on his nomination to the BOE.

He’s not the only one. Hundreds of other board and commission nominations haven’t been sent down for official Senate confirmation.

“This is very concerning and it casts a shadow of doubt over the entire advise-and-consent process for the administration,” said Sen. Jill Tokuda of the Ways and Means Committee. “It is why, from the Senate’s point of view, we have been saying over and over again, you have to do better. Give us those names so we can provide the public an opportunity to participate in the process.”

Always Investigating asked Tokuda, will you be naming a BOE replacement for Galera by the March 31 advise-and-consent deadline?

“Certainly that’s the objective,” Tokuda said. “The resignation did take us by surprise. It wasn’t anticipated, and certainly we will begin the process of identifying someone to fill that seat.”

In a statement, the Castle Foundation said, “Recent developments led the Foundation to have deep concerns that one candidate may have an unfair advantage over other applicants. Therefore, we have informed the Board of Education that we have suspended our grant payment. We remain hopeful that a solution can be found that restores the full integrity of the search process. Our students and our schools deserve nothing less.”

On March 10, the Board of Education updated their website with the following statement: “The Search Committee is delaying the search process while evaluating the current situation and working to resolve issues surrounding Harold K.L. Castle Foundation’s financial support of the Superintendent search process. As part of this, the position will not be posted today as originally anticipated under the search timeline. We appreciate the support of the foundation and are hopeful that the issues can be resolved and the foundation can continue its support of a fair and transparent search for the Superintendent. (March 10, 2017)”


March 9, 2017

Open Letter Relating to Superintendent Search and Selection Process

The purpose of this letter is to respond to questions and concerns relating to my decision announced on March 6, 2017 to resign from the Board of Education to apply for state superintendent position.

Any claim suggesting that the process is anything less than fully transparent, fair, open, and inclusive is erroneous.

My decision to apply for superintendent was my decision alone. It was not discussed with the Governor nor any member of the Board of Education, until I had already made the decision. Learning of my decision was a surprise to the Governor and to Chairperson of the Board of Education. And I believe that both Chair Mizumoto and the Governor would have preferred that I instead continued to serve as a board member. To be clear, there was no plan involving anyone else.

Any perception that the process is “rigged” based on past events is also wrong and erroneous.

(1) The passage of the federal ESSA law took everyone by surprise as did the Governor’s decision to form an education task force. Although I served as the task force chair, I was not the first choice nor the first person asked to serve as task force chairperson by the Governor.

(2) Although I was appointed to the Board of Education in October 2016, the new vacancy on the Board of Education in October 2016 was a complete surprise. The Governor did not ask for any board member to resign. And the rationale for my appointment was in large part to support alignment of the work of the BOE, DOE, and ESSA task force.

(3) Although I became a member of the board in October 2016, the discussion and decision to initiate a search for a new superintendent occurred before I joined the Board, before I was assigned to committees, and before I was a voting member of any board committee. Subsequently, I was part of a small committee to propose an overall process to be used with the key recommendations being that any such process be fair, transparent, inclusive, and involve a national search. This was preliminary and general planning that in no way provided any advantage.

(4) I was not a member of the Search Committee. Only the three members of the Board of Education Search Committee were involved in the current search process. This is in compliance with the state Sunshine Law. The remaining board members, including myself, were not involved in any decisions relating to the criteria, application and selection process prior to the time I announced my decision. Board members were recently interviewed individually to provide input into desired characteristics for the superintendent position, but I did not participate in such an interview. To be clear, there was no advantage as a result of my service as a board member.

These are challenging times where we see national leaders jump to conclusions, make hasty decisions, or quick judgments without first having the important information. So, there are important lessons here on effective communication and for making decisions and forming judgments based on facts and accurate information. This is what an education system should model.

It is important to emphasize that we have a Board of Education comprised of board members with the highest levels of professionalism, integrity, and commitment for what is best for all students. They deserve nothing less than our full confidence, unwavering trust, and deep appreciation for their voluntary service. The search process has been designed and implemented by the Board’s Search Committee with fidelity and integrity. It is a process that ensures transparency, fairness, and inclusiveness. It is essential that we have the strongest pool of qualified applicants, locally and nationally, so that board members and the process set forward can result in the best leader for our public schools.

The vision set forth in the Hawaii Blueprint for Public Education by students, teachers, principals, parents, and community members across the state is a bold and inspiring one. To achieve this vision, it will be essential that we as a statewide community, come together and provide visionary and courageous leadership to provide our students with what they deserve – the best public education system in the nation.

Sincerely,

Darrel Galera
Former member, Hawaii State Board of Education

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