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Conversation Surrounding Contract Renewal Becoming Distraction, DOE Superintendent Says

By Tiffany DeMasters
March 9, 2021, 6:00 PM HST
* Updated March 9, 5:28 PM
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Christina Kishimoto will not seek a renewal of her contract as superintendent with the Hawai‘i Department of Education.

Kishimoto made the announcement Tuesday, March 9, explaining to reporters over Zoom the conversation surrounding her contract went from no discussion to becoming a huge distraction.

Her contract ends July 30, 2021.

“The matter relating to my contract is a personnel and personal matter,” Kishimoto said, adding it’s important to her to keep the focus on the keiki.

Kishimoto has been scrutinized for her response to the COVID-19 pandemic by the Hawai‘i State Teachers Association, the Board of Education, parents and teachers. On March 2, HSTA president Corey Ronsenlee called on the BOE’s Human Resources committee to vote against a positive recommendation to renew the superintendent’s contract at their March 3 meeting.

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Ronsenlee said the union’s board of directors in August unanimously passed a no-confidence vote in Kishimoto’s leadership in safely reopening schools amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“We’ve just seen time and time again the lack of willingness to work with teachers in the union,” Rosenlee said of Kishimoto. “Time after time, she’s failed to communicate adequate and timely information to DOE employees.”

In response to HSTA’s recent criticism of her, Kishimoto said, the district and the union have for the most part worked together, adding she doesn’t agree with the narrative that is currently out there as it is inaccurate.

”We wish Christina Kishimoto success in her future endeavors while we look forward to working towards securing the schools our keiki deserve,” Rosenlee stated Tuesday in an email to Big Island Now.

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During the Zoom call, Kishimoto said she is proud of the work she accomplished in the four years as superintendent. In the remaining months, she added she’s committed to the transitioning of her position to the next superintendent, the safe reopening of schools and making plans for the summer.

For several months, Kishimoto has worked to safely continue the education of Hawai‘i’s children amid the pandemic. Schools were closed and nearly all students statewide have been educated through a distance-or blended-learning model.

There is hope to bring elementary schools back to in-person instruction by the next quarter.

“I’m proud of the work we’ve done,” Kishimoto said. “Nothing about this has been easy.”

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a reporter for Big Island Now. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat.
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