Hawaii's new charter school leader pledged yesterday to look past problems experienced by her predecessors and push for equitable funding and better facilities for the state's 28 alternative public schools.
Reshela DuPuis, 53, of Wahiawa was appointed executive director of the Charter School Administrative Office on Tuesday by the Charter School Review Panel.
It was the first such selection for the panel, which took the power of approving and revoking charters, as well as choosing the top charter school official, away from the Board of Education through a bill passed by the Legislature.
DuPuis, a former education director at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and administrator with Kamehameha Schools' Na Lau Lama Hawaiian Education Initiative, replaces Maunalei Love.
DuPuis' appointment also comes about two months since Love, who barely held onto the interim job for a year, threatened to resign in September over disagreements with some members of the charter review panel.
Love had been chosen interim head after the school board fired Jim Shon in a closed-door meeting in September 2006. The board ousted the former state legislator without publicly giving a reason, sparking protests in the charter community.
DuPuis promised to foster "a productive and positive relationship" with the panel's 12 members.
"I support the review panel absolutely," she said. "I think we have excellent members. We have excellent leadership."
Ikeda to serve as BOE chairwomanDonna Ikeda, a former Democratic state legislator, has been elected chairwoman of the Board of Education.
She took the top post from school board member Karen Knudsen, who will now serve as first vice chairwoman. Big Island board member Herbert Watanabe remains in his position as second vice chairman.
Ikeda, a school board member from 2000 to 2002, was re-elected last year to an Oahu at-large seat. Previously, she served for 22 years in the state Legislature, including as chairwoman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
She was the only person in the 14-member school board nominated to the chair on Thursday during a meeting at Koloa Elementary School cafeteria on Kauai.
John Thatcher, former president of the Hawaii Association of Charter Schools -- now the Hawaii Charter Schools Network -- praised DuPuis' experience working with native Hawaiians. "I saw her initial resume and application, and it looked impressive," he said, estimating that about 30 people applied for the job.
DuPuis, a Leilehua High School and University of Hawaii graduate, declined to talk about her contract, including duration and pay. Love was making $85,000 a year.
One of DuPuis' first big tests will likely involve lobbying lawmakers for money.
Charter schools, which enjoy autonomy from the state Department of Education on curriculum, spending and personnel decisions, have struggled with less per-pupil funding than regular public schools. Charter schools get about $8,000 per pupil, up from previous years but still below the more than $10,252 allotted for traditional K-12 students.
The Lingle administration trimmed a proposed $71.9 million charter schools budget in late November to $56.1 million for the 2008-09 school year, said Bob Roberts, chief financial officer for the charters. Charter school enrollment should reach 7,591, he said.
"We are hoping that through the legislative process that ... some adjustment (in funding) is made," Roberts said.