Thursday, January 21, 2021

*The Board did not meet at a physical location. As part of the response to the threat of COVID-19, Governor David Ige issued a Seventeenth Supplementary Proclamation dated December 16, 2020, suspending Hawaii Revised Statutes Chapter 92, Public Agency Meetings and Records, to the extent necessary to enable boards as defined in Section 92-2, to conduct meetings without any board members or members of the public physically present in the same location, among other things.

Dwight Takeno, Chairperson
Kaimana Barcarse, Vice Chairperson
Margaret Cox
Lynn Fallin
Kili Namauʻu
Catherine Payne
Kenneth Uemura
Bruce Voss


Christina Kishimoto, Superintendent
Cynthia Covell, Assistant Superintendent, Office of Talent Management
Brian Hallett, Assistant Superintendent, Office of Fiscal Services
Fred Murphy, Principal, Mililani High School
Hunter Harris, Student Representative
Alison Kunishige, Executive Director
Kenyon Tam, Board Analyst
Regina Pascua, Executive Secretary
Lady Garrett, Secretary

  1. Call to Order

Committee Chairperson Dwight Takeno called the Human Resources Committee (“Committee”) Meeting to order at 9:32 a.m.

II. Approval of Meeting Minutes of November 19, 2020

Committee Chairperson Takeno called for public testimony on this agenda item. No one provided oral testimony at this time.

Committee Chairperson Takeno asked Committee members to review the minutes of the Committee’s November 19, 2020 meeting.

Committee Vice Chairperson Kaimana Barcarse moved to approve the Committee’s meeting minutes of November 19, 2020. Committee Member Kenneth Uemura seconded.

Committee Chairperson Takeno asked if there were any objections to the motion. No Committee member raised objections, and the motion carried through unanimous consent from all members present (Committee Vice Chairperson Barcarse, Committee Members Cox, Fallin, Namauʻu, Payne, Uemura, and Voss).

ACTION: Motion to approve the Human Resources Committee Meeting minutes of November 19, 2020 (Barcarse/Uemura). The motion carried through unanimous consent from all members present.

III. Discussion Items

Committee Chairperson Takeno called on Christina Kishimoto, Superintendent, to provide a statement from Governor David Ige.
Kishimoto provided an announcement from Governor Ige which stated, “Due to the pandemic and subsequent reductions in revenues we anticipated that the Department of Education, which is the largest general funded Department, would have to take a ten percent cut to its budget; however, with additional federal funds and more optimistic projections from the Council on Revenues we are able to reset the Department’s target reduction to 2.5 percent. This represents $123 million that can now be restored to classrooms so our students can be set to the path of prosperity and success.” She stated that this means the request to the Board of Education (“Board”) will have to consider how it will now use a restoration of $123 million to the base budget for next school year and the ongoing conversation on the entire Department’s budget needs.

Committee Chairperson Takeno called for public testimony on this agenda item.

Julie Reyes Oda, Nanakuli High and Intermediate School, testified there is inconsistency in how the principals provide reports; for example, Aiea Elementary School detailed each position that will be eliminated, whereas Waipahu High School simply stated that budget restrictions significantly impact operations. She stated that given Governor Ige’s announcement, all of the funds should be restored to the schools.

Cheri Nakamura, HE‘E Coalition, testified they are pleased to hear Governor Ige’s announcement and stated that it is troubling to hear that the Department is projecting a reduction of over 1,000 positions due to the 10 percent budget reductions. She strongly advocaced that federal funds go back to the school level to restore previously cut positions and shared that the Department’s process did not have strategic parameters in place, such as maintaining classroom teachers and health and safety maintaining resources .

Corey Rosenlee, Hawaii State Teachers Association, testified that important questions still need to be answered because there is still a $164 million cut, which resulted in the reduction of 688 teachers positions and if there are two years of losses, this will have a devastating impact on schools.

Susan Pcola-Davis, member of the public, testified that she strongly opposed the Department’s plan and asked how the reductions were determined for complex areas because it seemed like the complex areas and schools were not provided any direction regarding prioritizing. She also stated that students will suffer and teachers are suffering.

Committee Chairperson Takeno called Cynthia Covell, Assistant Superintendent, Office of Talent Management (“OTM”), to present on the Department of Education’s (“Department”) reorganization plan to preserve classroom instruction.

Covell stated that Brian Hallett, Assistant Superintendent, Office of Fiscal Services (“OFS”), in addition a Complex Area Superintendent (“CAS”) and principal are also available to answer questions. Covell stated that the overall guidance to schools was to preserve as much capacity as possible to provide quality educational services to our students. She also stated that due to the size of the reductions, schools needed to make difficult choices regarding their financial plans. She stated that the Department will continue to analyze financial plans and in light of Governor Ige’s recent announcement, will be evaluating the restoration of positions. Covell stated that the plan presented reflects a summary of school and complex area input. She explained that the memorandum includes an aggregate total of 1,338 positions identified for reductions (1,317 at the school level and 21 positions at the Complex Area) and that the Department will return in March to request approval on potential positions for the personnel reduction in force.

Committee Member Catherine Payne asked if the principals will still need to account for the loss of 86 percent in order to move forward in the schools academic and financial plans, given the $100 million reduction of the Department’s budget last year. Covell stated that based off of some quick calculations, that statement is correct.

Committee Member Payne stated that schools are cutting health and physical education and if schools do not provide these services, they will be in violation of Board policies. Covell replied the state level will continue the analysis regarding the magnitude of the cuts and that the Department will follow-up with CASs.

Committee Member Margaret Cox expressed her hope that the financial numbers will improve given Governor Ige’s announcement and she would like to be clear that regardless of what the cuts are, that the Department should take care of personnel first and stuff later and rely on teaching skills to help students. She stated that cutting teaching positions will increase class size, which will make kids fall further behind. She also advocated for keeping as many of our licensed teachers as possible, especially those certified in special education and expressed concern for seniors.

Covell agreed and noted that personnel are critical to provide needed support to students.

Committee Member Lynn Fallin stated that it is important that the Department provide clear guidance to the schools on behalf of the Board. She also noted that it was helpful for her to understand that of the total number of positions being cut, 798.5 were teachers; however, she would like to know more detailed information , like how many of those teachers provide services for grades K-12, special education, juvenile justice, or alternative learning centers. She noted that during the Legislative Senate Committee on Ways and Means hearing, Senators raised concerns regarding class size, so it would also be helpful to know how the cuts will impact class size, in addition to health and safety concerns. Covell replied that as the Department has a better understanding on the actual positionsit will provide more details and class size impacts.

Committee Member Bruce Voss stated the $123 million restored and the $54 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (“ESSER”) funds from Congress appears to be enough to cover school level reductions in EDN 100 and could eliminate school level cuts for the next biennium budget. He asked how the restoration of funds will impact the schedule for principals and when the schools will need to do their updated financial plans, He also asked whether uncertainty for staff can be alleviated. Covell replied that CASs have been provided advance notification and the timeline typically needs to be done in accordance with the posting of vacant teacher positions and that discussions with agency partners is necessary, if any adjustment is needed.

Committee Member Voss stated that principals have already told some teachers that their positions will be cut and asked if the process Covell described will begin now. Covell replied that the Department will have more conversations with principals will so they will know what is being asked of them.

Committee Member Payne stated numerous testimonies have been submitted and her understanding is that the details of the position cuts were made public and shared on the Boardʻs website before principals had the opportunity to notify some of the individuals in these positions; this caused a lot of turmoil and trauma. She noted that it is important for principals to be in communication with staff and for them to be sensitive. Payne expressed appreciation for comments relating to the importance of personnel over “stuff.” Covell stated that the Department will continue to have these conversations and that the Department is hopeful that it will receive some budget relief.

Committee Member Kenneth Uemura detailed that at the December 17, 2020 Human Resource Committee meeting, he shared what the committee should see in the form of the organization plan that rises to the challenge of preserving our core mission of teaching and learning. He stated that at that meeting, he emphasized that the presentation should be on preserving classroom instruction: temporary or permanent closure, consolidations, reorganization, restructuring, or merger of offices, programs, services, and positions for Complex Area and School levels. Committee Member Uemura noted that the Department’s presentation today described positions that would be eliminated from complex area and school levels, but not in the context of a reorganization plan to address and adjust to declining revenues.

Committee Member Uemura noted that the Department and Board must face the reality that State revenues are lower than what it was before COVID-19 and that the federal funds that are being used to fill the gaps will end. He noted that when the federal aid stops the Department will need to address a funding cliff. Committee Member Uemura further stated that the Department will have to make do with the funds that are available and cannot be satisfied with explaining away the reductions and its impact because the students will suffer. He explained that the Department should focus on being proactive on how it will realign to meet student needs and that permanent changes to the Department’s organization are necessary. He expressed appreciation for the restoration in Governor Ige’s announcement today, but the Department is still facing a $43 million shortfall, $102 million that was cut from the Department’s budget in July, and underfunded areas that total close to $95 million.

Committee Member Uemura requested that the Board and Department prepare themselves for the fact that funding levels will be lower and the Department needs to be more efficient.

Covell stated that the Department needs to consult with the unions as part of its reorganization process.

Committee Member Uemura stated he is looking for a strategic plan on how the Department will move forward to create a budget that supports a Department that can operate with the lower level of funding available now. He also stated that creating this strategic reorganization plan cannot be done in isolation.

Covell explained that the Department has made incremental consolidations and reorganizations to adapt to changes and rebalance needs. Committee Member
Uemura stated that the Department should be focusing on its mission and core first, instead of letting the budgets drive decisions and that he is not in agreement with the plan the Department shared.

Covell replied that the Department looks at the strategy and vision to build capacity by doing reorganizations and does not simply look at budgets given how COVID-19 has changed everything. Kishimoto stated that when she started, the Department underwent a reorganization to divide the work of the state office into seven key areas and that she identified a major priority around modernizing the Department’s systems; however, with the new impacts of COVID-19, the Department has had to deal with capacity changes.

Committee Member Uemura stated that COVID-19 drives a lot of the changes and he expects that the Department will not to use COVID-19 as an excuse. He requested information on the total impact to the Department and would like the Department to have a vision on how it can move forward and structure its plan so the presentations and re-organizations adhere to the plan. He also stated he is requesting this so that he understands the Department’s ultimate goal.

Kishimoto stated that she already presented a reorganization plan when she first started and that she does not intend to do another reorganization plan. She stated that her understanding of the process was that the Department should evaluate whether the COVID-19 and financial crisis is forcing the Department to organize differently.

Kishimoto stated that the approach is to gain clarity on the base budget in order to move forward; however, if committee leadership would like to revisit this, the Department can prepare a plan and that she would like direction.

Committee Member Uemura asked the Department to reexamine the Department in totality and to have a forward look. He stated that if Kishimoto’s response is that she does not intend to do this, I has a problem with this.

Committee Member Fallin asked whether the reorganization plan includes metrics around the impact of consolidating.

Committee Member Namau‘u stated that the Department and Board should continue conversations about reorganization and how to better support schools.

Committee Chairperson Takeno stated that the Department provided a reorganization plan two to three years ago. He further noted the Department should provide the Board with an overall explanation of its objectives and plans to make the Department more efficient. Committee Chairperson Takeno also stated that it is clear if the Department has a plan, it would need to revisit the plan and align to the situation especially when looking at the possibility of a funding cliff.

Committee Chairperson Takeno stated that the Department should require schools to provide consistent responses and that schools need to get a prescriptive directive on what should be communicated and included in their reports.

Kishimoto stated that the COVID-19 is causing the Department to examine priorities based on fiscal outlook to impact delivery of services.

Committee Chairperson Takeno asked when the Department will give the Board a review of the overall strategic plan for any type of reorganization. Kishimoto replied that the Department will come back in April since, at this time, the focus is on vaccines, bringing students back to classrooms, and the work at hand.

Committee Chairperson Takeno noted that this is not in reaction to budgetary cuts and is relevant to operational efficiencies.

Committee Member Uemura stated that the reason for asking for this reorganization plan is because the funding will not be what it was in the past and a strategic plan will give the schools the guidance they need.

Committee Chairperson Takeno requested a presentation to make the Department more streamlined and efficient, by at least the third week of February. Kishimoto replied that this timeline is not realistic and would like enough time to do her due diligence to put together a framework and to manage what the Department will be doing over the next few weeks.

Committee Chairperson Takeno stated that the conversation needs to happen sooner rather than later.

Committee Member Voss stated that students need to be back in the classroom and expressed agreement that the Board needs to be clear with the Department.

IV. Recommendation for Action

Committee Chairperson Takeno called for public testimony on this agenda item.

Susan Pcola-Davis, member of the public, testified that this reorganization will increase costs depending on the individuals selected to fill the new positions and their placements on the salary schedules. She asked why did Department waited until a budget crisis to do this.

Committee Chairperson Takeno called on Covell to present the Department’s reorganization plan for the OFS, Accounting Services Branch.

Hallett explained that the reorganization reduces the number of positions from 97 to 89 positions, that the Department is asking to repurpose positions and intends to fill these positions under better fiscal conditions. He stated that the reorganization will result in a net savings for the Department to allow for greater capacity and allow the Department to focus on reporting for clarity.

Committee Member Payne moved to approve the reorganization of OFS, Accounting Services Branch as described in Kishimoto’s memorandum, dated January 21, 2021, and attached as Attachment 3. Committee Member Barcarse seconded.

Committee Member Uemura expressed concern because the reorganization plan was created in isolation from a larger strategic reorganization plan and created positions from vacant positions. He stated he is not in favor of approving the reorganization and will be voting no or asking to defer until the overall reorganization plan is presented.

Committee Member Payne expressed concern and asked about the consequences of not approving the reorganization.

Committee Member Fallin asked whether this is in the final process and whether the unions have been consulted. Hallett stated that the reorganization has gone through the consultation process with unions.

Committee Member Fallin stated the proposal does not explain efficiencies, how schools will get things faster, or how business processes will be more efficient so certain approvals are no longer needed.

Committee Chairperson Takeno deferred further discussion and action on this agenda item to the general business meeting later in the day due to time constraints.

V. Late Public Testimony on Board Agenda Items

Committee Chairperson Takeno called for public testimony from any individuals who did not have an opportunity to testify on earlier agenda items. No one provided oral testimony at this time.

Committee members received written testimony before the meeting. The following is a listing of the people who submitted written testimony before the meeting.

Agenda Item
Susan Pcola-DavisIII.A. Presentation on Department of Education's Reorganization Plan to Preserve Classroom Instruction: Temporary or Permanent Closure, Consolidations, Reorganization, Restructuring, or Merger of Offices, Programs, Services, and Positions for Complex Area and School levels
Cheri NakamuraHEʻE CoalitionIII.A. Presentation on Department of Education's Reorganization Plan to Preserve Classroom Instruction: Temporary or Permanent Closure, Consolidations, Reorganization, Restructuring, or Merger of Offices, Programs, Services, and Positions for Complex Area and School levels
VI. Adjournment

Committee Chairperson Takeno adjourned the meeting at 11:36 a.m.