Queen Liliuokalani Building
1390 Miller Street, Room 404
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
Thursday, April 4, 2019

Margaret Cox, Committee Chairperson
Patricia Bergin, Committee Vice Chairperson
Brian De Lima, Esq.
Kili Namau‘u
Catherine Payne
David Texeira (student representative)


Christina Kishimoto, Superintendent
Phyllis Unebasami, Deputy Superintendent
Chad Farias, Hilo-Waiakea Complex Area Superintendent
Esther Kanehailua, Hilo-Waiakea Deputy Complex Area Superintendent
Alison Kunishige, Executive Director
Kenyon Tam, Board Analyst
Regina Pascua, Board Private Secretary
Irina Dana, Secretary

I. Call to Order

The Student Achievement Committee (“Committee”) was called to order by Committee Chairperson Margaret Cox at 11:00 a.m.

II. *Public testimony on Student Achievement Committee (“Committee”) agenda items

Committee Chairperson Cox called for public testimony. The following people provided oral testimony.

Agenda Item
Linda ElentoPublic IV.A. Presentation on Complex Area Superintendent Report: special education and English learner in the Hilo-Waiakea Complex Area Comment

Linda Elento, member of the public, testified on the educational benefits that her son has received from having access to specialists in school and commented on information she believes is missing from complex area reports, including how schools could provide access to curriculum to students receiving special education services.

III. Approval of Meeting Minutes of March 7, 2019

ACTION: Motion to approve the Student Achievement Committee Meeting minutes of March 7, 2019 (Bergin/De Lima). The motion carried unanimously with all members present voting aye.

IV. Discussion Items

Phyllis Unebasami, Deputy Superintendent, introduced Chad Farias, Hilo-Waiakea Complex Area Superintendent (“CAS”), and Esther Kanehailua, Hilo-Waiakea Deputy CAS. She explained that the Department merged Hilo-Waiakea complex area and Kau-Keaau-Pahoa complex area because of the effects of the volcanic eruption. She noted that the Department kept the two CAS complex areas together to provide families with a seamless transition.

Farias stated that the Hilo-Waiakea Complex Area is comprised of 13 public schools, including four charter schools. He reviewed student demographics and detailed that for School Year (“SY”) 2018-2019, the complex area had an enrollment of 7,945 students overall, including 935 students who receive special education services, 40 students who receive both English learner (“EL”) and special education services, 397 students who receive EL services, and 6,573 students who receive general education services.

Farias reviewed special education demographics, including the five most prevalent eligibility categories. He noted that 50% of students who receive special education services have a specific learning disability, 13.14% have other health impairments, 13.06% have a developmental delay, 7.10% have autism, 5.24% have an emotional disability, and 11.46% fall under the remaining eight eligibility categories.

Farias reviewed least restrictive environment (“LRE”) data and noted that 55.24% of students spend 80% or more of the school day in the LRE, which is 7% below national LRE data. He highlighted that the complex area has spent a lot of time working with schools and has observed a slow but steady increase in the percentage of students who spend the day in the LRE. Farias detailed that the complex area is intentional in its efforts and reviews students’ needs and noted that the complex area is focusing on how it measures the LRE to prevent skewing the complex area’s data. He highlighted that the complex area is methodical and highlighted efforts to provide professional development and support.

Kanehailua reviewed the most common home languages of students who receive EL services, including Chuukese, Marshallese, Ilokano, Tagalog, and 24 other languages. She stated that the most common home language of students has changed over the years, and the complex area needs to ensure that it has systems in place to meet the needs of students receiving EL services regardless of shifting demographics. Kanehailua reviewed performance data and stated students receiving special education and EL services have improved English language arts (“ELA”) scores, but the complex area needs to continue to focus on the achievement gap. She noted that math performance is similar to ELA performance. The complex area is focusing on the achievement gap and how to provide access or specially designed instruction so that students can access curriculum.

Farias reviewed exit data and noted that 26% of students receiving special education services transferred to general education, 41.42% of students graduated with a regular high school diploma, less than 10% received a certificate, and less than 10% reached maximum age. He detailed that 0.6% of students receiving EL services exited the EL program during SY 2016-2017 and 3.7% of students receiving EL services exited the program during SY 2017-2018.

Farias reviewed teacher demographics and detailed that the complex area has 492 general education teachers, 98.2% of whom are licensed and 4.9% who are in their first year of teaching, and 106 special education teachers, 94.3% of whom are licensed and 6.6% who are in their first year of teaching. He stated that the complex area has had discussions about definitions of “licensed” and “highly qualified” and is reviewing in which areas teachers are qualified and licensed.

Farias reviewed the complex area’s vision and mission and highlighted that the complex area emphasizes accountability, compliance, and academic rigor. The complex area is intentional with Individualized Education Programs (“IEP”) and is reviewing data and how to grow rather than pursuing national trends. Farias reviewed the ways in which the complex area is attempting to close its special education achievement gap, including building staff capacity. He noted that the complex area hired two district educational specialists who have experience with IEPs and community relations. He highlighted that the complex area plans to be fully staffed once the school year begins and is reviewing IEP professional development modules to help teachers write clear goals in IEPs.

Kanehailua reviewed inclusive practices. She stated that the complex area is reviewing how to address standards, meet student’s needs, and implement instructional practices. She emphasized the importance of the complex area providing support to teachers to implement instructional practices and emphasized the importance of a cohesive process so that parents understand what is occurring.

Farias highlighted reading comprehension evidence-based programs and best practices. He detailed that the complex area is providing enhanced core reading instruction professional development and Sonday, which is a reading intervention system. Farias reviewed algebra readiness and noted that the complex area is developing math core and bringing schools of different levels together to customize mathematics so that schools could align programs and provide students with the same vocabulary from kindergarten through twelfth grade. He highlighted that the Hilo Complex received a Gear Up 6-16 grant, which starts with a current year cohort of seventh graders and uses this group to change practices. This grant forces conversation between middle schools and high schools and helps schools to commit to successfully graduate students by twelfth grade.

Kanehailua detailed that the Waiakea Complex is focusing on math core and algebra readiness from kindergarten through ninth grade. She highlighted that the complex areas are taking different approaches and would be able to share practices with one another. Farias stated that the complex area is committed to ensuring that schools have the resources that they need and highlighted that the complex area would learn from the information that schools gather as a result of these grants.

Kanehailua stated that the complex area is strengthening parent and community engagement and is reviewing responsiveness. She stated that the complex area’s goal is to create and support parent networks. Kanehailua detailed that autism consultant teachers have provided parents with training and parents have created their own informal network where they share information, ask questions, and connect. Kanehailua detailed that parents receive information through activities, newsletters, and mass emails. Farias highlighted several events that the complex area has held to strengthen parent and community engagement, including family community social events and autism community awareness events.

Kanehailua stated that the complex area is also strengthening engagement with parents of students who receive EL services. The complex area’s goal is to emphasize the whole child, celebrate where families are from, encourage them to share their cultures with others, and highlight the values different cultures bring to schools. She highlighted that the complex area holds EL parent nights where participants sing songs, recognize one another’s cultures, and share food. Kanehailua highlighted other community engagement efforts, including Micronesian Big Island United, Pacific Islander Department, the Parent Advisory Council, the Pacific Youth Empowerment for Success, and Complex-wide EL Parent Night. She stated that some of these groups have done outreach to resolve conflict in schools.

Farias detailed the population of students of Micronesian descent in the complex area and highlighted that the complex area is hiring individuals who speak the language and understand the culture. Kanehailua highlighted an individual who the complex area hired and noted that this person has connections with the Micronesian community, works with families, and focuses on how to help students integrate so they feel like they belong and have an important voice.

Kanehailua highlighted the Pacific Youth Empowerment for Success and detailed that its goal is to motivate and inform high school students of Pacific Island ethnicities about career opportunities, college readiness, and community readiness. The conference provides students with community models and brings individuals together.

Kanehailua showed photos of diversity celebrations, family nights, and EL nights. She highlighted teacher professional development, including cultural awareness, effective EL teaching strategies, such as Project GLAD, and standards-based implementation training.

Committee Member Brian De Lima emphasized the importance of families knowing that specialists who work with their children have empathy for their situation and emphasized the importance of collaborative partnerships between parents and IEP teams. He commented that data could skew the achievement gap to look favorable even if an achievement gap exists. Committee Member De Lima detailed social and emotional learning strategies at Mililani High School and asked if the complex area implements similar strategies.

Farias stated that the complex area works closely with other complex areas and is participating in similar grants. He detailed that the complex area is using screenings, hiring resource teachers, focusing on absenteeism, and initiating community engagement to address social and emotional learning. Farias stated that the complex area is sending messaging to principals and collaborating with community leaders.
Kanehailua stated that schools are a reflection of communities. She detailed the efforts schools are making to address trauma students might have from the one-year anniversary of the volcanic eruption and earthquakes, including responding to students in meaningful ways. Kanehailua highlighted that the complex area has been proactive about providing resources and preparing teams to address tragedy.

Committee Chairperson Cox asked whether a focus on social and emotional learning makes it easier for schools to implement inclusion. Farias stated that caring cultures and environments lead to improved test scores and inclusion implementation more so than competitive environments. He detailed that the complex area collected climate surveys and made changes based on the results to support teachers, be more trauma-informed, and change the culture of schools. He noted that schools are focusing on how to manage discipline and help teachers share classroom space. Farias emphasized the importance of common definitions, language, and beliefs, and emphasized the importance of consistent and persistent messaging.

Committee Chairperson Cox asked about the complex area’s professional development and allocation of resources and funds. Kanehailua detailed how she implemented inclusion in her school as a principal and emphasized the importance of schools building in master schedules to provide teachers with planning times and opportunities to discuss specialized instruction and student’s needs.

Committee Chairperson Cox asked if the complex area has found Stetson helpful. Farias confirmed that Stetson has been helpful and highlighted the importance of mentorship, consistent messaging, and intentionality.

Committee Chairperson Cox commented on the complex area’s EL exit data and stated that in the future the complex area should include how long students have been in Hawaii as part of that data.

Christina Kishimoto, Superintendent, stated that the Department asked Farias and Kanehailua to work together to unify both complex area districts and review systems of high quality academic support. She detailed that Kanehailua is filling a special role so that the complex area could review what the complex areas need to be successful moving forward. Kishimoto emphasized the importance of school design that includes equitable access, differentiating support, student voice, and community engagement. She detailed the Department and complex area’s plans to move forward and implement a kindergarten through twelfth grade lens related to transitions, planning, and academic structures.

V. Adjournment

Committee Chairperson Cox adjourned the meeting at 11:52 a.m.