June 21, 2010
Breene Harimoto resigns from BOE
Today Board of Education Leeward District Member Breene Harimoto submitted his resignation effective June 30, 2010.
Harimoto said “I have been truly blessed to have been able to serve on the Board of Education. I have done my best to serve the people of the State of Hawaii with honor and integrity in support of our public schools. I have contributed much but so much more must be done. I will continue to be a strong advocate for our public schools.”
Harimoto served on the BOE for 8 years and was chairman in 2004 and 2005. He was appointed by Gov. Cayetano to fill a vacant seat in May 2002 and was elected that same year to serve out the remaining two years of the unexpired term, then subsequently was re-elected in 2004 and 2008.
Early last year when the budget cuts began, Harimoto voluntarily stopped receiving the $100 per meeting stipend that each BOE member receives. In his letter to Board Chair Toguchi last year, Harimoto said “Waiving my stipend is a personal decision of conscience to me. During this economic crisis in our state and throughout the nation, I just feel that this is something that I must do as a leader when we are making decisions to cut positions and programs, and perhaps salaries of our employees.”
Gov. Lingle will appoint someone to fill the vacancy until the November elections. The person elected will serve out the remaining two years of Harimoto’s term. Harimoto said “I pray that Gov. Lingle will appoint someone who will set the bar for what may soon become an appointed board”.
During the past year, Harimoto publicly disagreed with BOE leadership over many key issues, including the handling of Superintendent Pat Hamamoto’s resignation and the appointment of Kathy Matayoshi as Interim Superintendent, plans for a national search for a permanent Superintendent, lifting the cap on the Superintendent’s salary, cutting school level programs and funds, and furlough Fridays. Harimoto was often a dissenting vote on the BOE. In January, Harimoto called for Chair Garrett Toguchi’s resignation. At the June 17 board meeting, Harimoto expressed continuing frustrations with the culture of divisiveness on the board and the failure of board members to hold Chair Toguchi accountable for what he termed violations of board by-laws, board policies, and Sunshine Law.
After resigning from the BOE, Harimoto will advocate for certain issues relating to public education. He plans to participate in public discussions regarding the proposed constitutional amendment to change the BOE to an appointed board and continue to raise public awareness of student health and wellness issues. He will continue to serve his community as the Executive Director of the Pearl City Foundation – Momilani Community Center.
Harimoto recently announced that the Pearl City Foundation will step forward to provide resources to continue the DOE’s Parent Project in Pearl City next school year. Earlier this year, the BOE voted to cut all funds for this and other programs. Parent Project is a successful program that provides parents with the skills they need to more effectively handle their children who are out of control or have self-destructive behaviors such as alcohol or drug addictions. At the June 17 BOE meeting, Harimoto called on all community organizations to help their neighborhood schools through this difficult period of continuing budget cuts. “There are so many needs, but if every organization helps with one little thing, all the little things would add up to a huge help to our schools” Harimoto said. Pearl City Foundation also has plans to construct a senior center and preschool on the grounds of the Momilani Community Center.
Harimoto will run for the Honolulu City Council’s District 8 seat to be vacated by Gary Okino, who cannot run for re-election because of term limits.
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