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Hawaii Unveils Plan To Restructure Administration

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One whole segment of the Hawaii school administration would be turned topsy-turvy, under a plan now under consideration by the state board of education.

As a result of the proposed restructuring, hundreds of curriculum and instruction and staff-development administrators who have been supervising school personnel would instead have to answer to them.

The outgoing state superintendent of schools, Charles Toguchi, introduced the restructuring program late last month. It has been sent to a committee of the board for review.

The plan--called Project Ke Au Hou, Hawaiian for "A New Age''--is intended to reduce bureaucracy and continue the system's decentralization efforts.

Hawaii--which alone among the states has a single, statewide school district--has been moving since 1989 toward community- and school-based management.

If the new system goes into effect, 329 administrative positions at the district and state level would be transferred to local learning-support and technology-information centers.

An additional 531 positions could follow, officials suggested.

Change in Philosophy Sought

Each "school complex,'' made up of a high school and its feeder schools, would have its own learning and technology centers.

Councils of representatives from school committees, including teachers, school administrators, parents, and students, would run the centers. Among other responsibilities, the councils would make funding decisions.

"There's a vast amount of expertise in the classrooms ... and no opportunity for those experts to have a broader impact,'' said Thomas Yamashita, the director of the department's management and compliance office and the head of Project Ke Au Hou.

What Mr. Yamashita and others are hoping is that the reconfiguration will be accompanied by a "change in philosophy'' in the state department, placing more decisionmaking power in the hands of administrators and educators at the school level.

Currently, for example, administrators at the central-office level might design and plan a language-arts curriculum. School-level people would then be trained to use the curriculum.

Under Ke Au Hou, however, that curriculum development would occur at the learning-support centers.

Information-technology centers would provide schools with access to information networking, technological training, and classroom materials.

'Momentum Is Moving'

Still, efforts to reduce bureaucracy may be in vain, according to Sharon Mahoe, the president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association.

Ms. Mahoe pointed out that under the new plan, which creates 14 school regions of 12 to 25 schools each, the state would have to create at least three new administrative positions at each region: an associate superintendent and business and personnel managers.

Ms. Mahoe said that, while the H.S.T.A supports the restructuring effort, union officials have reservations about how the implementation process will unfold.

Board approval of the project seems likely, Ms. Mahoe said.

"It seems like the momentum is moving for the change,'' she observed, noting that there is a great deal of public support for restructuring.

One group that may not be so enthusiastic, however, is made up of the middle-level administrators whose jobs will be shifted around in the process.

"There's quite a bit of interest to look for other jobs'' on the part of some of the administrators who would be shifted from the state and regional levels to the school level, Mr. Yamashita said.

If approved, Project Ke Au Hou would be implemented in two phases between this year and 1996.

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