On January 14, 2017, Gov. David Ige promised to reshape the Department of Education in remarks he made at the 3rd Annual Hawai‘i School Empowerment Conference at the Hawai‘i Convention Center. The conference was sponsored by the Education Institute of Hawai‘i, a non-profit organization committed to improving public education in Hawai‘i. The annual conference aims to increase awareness and deepening understanding of the effort to improve public education through school empowerment and innovation in learning. Here is the transcript of the governor’s remarks:
Coding. Robotics. Digital media. International education exchanges. None of these programs were offered when I attended public schools in Pearl City, and it’s impossible to predict what fascinating opportunities await students in coming years.
What I can tell you is this: The success of today’s students in the future workplace and in our communities requires the transformation of a school system designed over a century ago.
That’s why I asked members of the community and Board of Education to develop and implement a plan to transition from yesterday’s system to one that truly prepares students to think creatively and to be innovators. I asked board members to design a system that encourages teachers and principals to make meaningful decisions about curriculum and instruction, educational programs, and expenditure of schools funds.
The Board responded to my challenge. They worked with the community to develop a new blueprint and strategic plan for the department. They courageously determined that transformation requires a fresh mindset, starting at the top. And they initiated a search for a new superintendent. I fully support this decision. We need to find a leader who is committed to exploring unconventional options in the quest to prepare our students for the future.
I want students, parents, teachers and other educators to be assured that my goal is to reshape the department so that it supports the dreams and aspirations of each student. I believe those closest to the students understand best how their students should be educated. That is the type of system we are working together to achieve.
The community supports this goal as evidenced by the tremendous participation in last summer’s Education Summit and dozens of follow-up meetings in communities throughout the state. I am proud of the work my volunteer team, parents, teachers, business leaders and community members have done to create a Blueprint for Hawaiʻi’s education system. I asked them to think big, and they did. I can tell you, there is no shortage of innovative thinking in Hawaiʻi.
My passion for education isn’t new, and the solutions I am promoting now aren’t a surprise to anyone who has been recently engaged in the dialogue on education. I campaigned on this issue and education remains my top priority.
We don’t know what the next technological wave will bring. But we do know that Hawaiʻi’s public education system must be set up so teachers are able to exercise their professional judgement and employ tools that enable student success.
Students who design robots in elementary school will build the communities of the future. Students who experience what it’s like to be innovators and entrepreneurs in high school will drive the state’s new economy. Students who travel with their class will collaborate with their peers around the world to solve global challenges. It is our responsibility to provide them with a robust learning experience so they can achieve rewarding and successful lives.