HONOLULU — Dozens of Hawaii Department of Education employees are on paid leave pending investigations that can drag on for several years.
The department, in responding to an open-records request, said that it knows of 57 active cases where employees are on department-directed leave or leave pending investigations, with the oldest dating back to 2011. There are six cases dating back to 2012, with the remainder from 2013 and 2014.
“When the teacher is out being accused of a certain wrongdoing, the person taking his or her place may not be a certified teacher,” said Wil Okabe, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association. “Nobody in the department or HSTA or teachers themselves wants to have a bad teacher in the classrooms. As long as we focus on the importance of getting the teachers back into the classroom, to have a qualified teacher, that is the most important thing.”
But Randy Perreira, executive director of the Hawaii Government Employees Association, the union representing principals and some staff, said there are concerns the department doesn’t have the human-resources capacity to conduct timely investigations.
“I can tell of at least one or two cases where an employee has been out on leave (for) a couple months and we don’t believe they’ve begun investigating, frankly,” he said.
Schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi said the department made a funding request to the state Legislature for positions to handle the investigations.
“We did get one position funded. But in the meantime, what we did was we looked at our budget in the office of human resources and found some vacant positions and utilized some money to hire two individuals, and we have a third we’re recruiting for now,” she said.