State Journal: Behind closed doors; Reform referendum?

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When Chairwoman Debi Hartmann announced to the public that the state school board had named Herman Aizawa to be Hawaii's next superintendent of education, she noted that it was not a tenured appointment.

"We could fire him tomorrow,'' she said at a news conference on April 30.

She has reportedly claimed the comment was meant lightheartedly; indeed, superintendents in Hawaii's unique statewide school district have routinely served without contracts.

But that statement, coupled with the board members' refusal to reveal how they voted on the appointment, has sparked an uproar.

The pressure is that much greater because voters will decide next fall whether to give the governor authority to appoint the school board, currently an elected body.

The board had voted to keep the tally a secret, but it was leaked to the local press that Mr. Aizawa was chosen by a narrow vote of 7 to 6.

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin then urged Hawaiians to call board members and demand that they explain "who they voted for and why.''

The board reopened the issue, but reaffirmed the decision to keep mum--by another
7-to-6 vote.

Mr. Aizawa, who has worked in the school system for 30 years, was previously the deputy superintendent and has served as interim superintendent since his predecessor resigned at the end of February.

Oregon's school-reform law has become the top issue in this year's election for state school superintendent.

The incumbent, Norma Paulus, says the 1991 law--enacted a year after she was elected--will base promotion and graduation on performance rather than "seat time.''

Beginning in the 1996-97 school year, students will have to earn a "certificate of initial mastery'' by demonstrating knowledge of core subjects and thinking skills, and will spend their final school years in specialized college-preparation or vocational programs.

The reform law is unpopular with many conservatives, who say it employs untested theories and emphasizes the wrong values, and with the state's largest teachers' union, which had little input.

Ms. Paulus is being challenged by two opponents of the law, and a conservative group is gathering signatures in an effort to place a repeal measure on the November ballot.

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