Press Room


For Immediate Release

January 30, 2012

Rep. McDermott: after 9 years of development, new principal evaluation process still flunks

Honolulu – Last week the State Department of Education finally released the criteria for principal evaluations which were agreed to by HGEA. See the Comprehensive Evaluation System for School Administrators (CESSA) at:

“I have read this document cover to cover; it is glaringly short of specific quantifications and long on subjective evaluations. It has no teeth, and therefore little real justification,” said Representative Bob McDermott.

It took nine years to complete a simple 30 page agreement, which is a staggering example of the dysfunction that we are accepting and tolerating each and every day from our educational system. To put it in perspective, The Sistine Chapel ceiling, painted by Michelangelo took seven years to complete. Additionally, the document was agreed to and released mid-year, yet the process was set to begin last fall. It makes no sense; the principals already have grounds to dispute a poor evaluation due to the faulty implementation of the new agreement. This is a huge embarrassment that reflects on the current culture of our aimless and flawed system.

The Evaluation of principles is broken down into two areas, starting with the area of Student Achievement. Seems pretty straight forward right? Wrong. This portion of the evaluation only counts for 50% of their review and includes not just test scores and graduation rates; it also contains such highly subjective measurements as the ambiguous Professional Portfolio of Artifacts, use of grading policy, special recognition and accomplishments; and multiple measures of student learning. This is the tough part of the evaluation.

The second part of the evaluation goes from bad to laughable. The “hard hitting requirements” like keeping a professional journal; reflection time; interviews/questionnaires, observations, news clippings, and letters of support, to name a few, all seem designed to give poor performers ample wiggle room to keep their job despite poor performance.


It gets even worse, I have zero confidence this document can be complied with legally by either party due to the amount of paperwork and time required by each party. Pages and pages are devoted to counseling, conferencing and the back and forth communications. The administrative load for both parties is neither practical nor workable. It was destined to fail.

This entire exercise, and the absolutely unacceptable time it took to complete, is yet another case for principals to be removed from the Union. They should be given more authority and ownership, and then held to rigorous, clear, clean, crisp performance metrics.

Let me suggest the following: We give every principal a substantial per year raise while removing them from collective bargaining while preserving their civil service protection. We then measure them on some pretty straightforward things like graduation rates, attendance rates, discipline issues, and finally the much maligned standardized test scores. We compile the respective measurements in all of the above criteria, using a three year average to determine the starting baseline, and then look for improvement.




For Immediate Release

March 15, 2012

Improvements to Campbell High School a top priority

By Representative Bob McDermott (House District 40 – Ewa, Ewa Beach & Iroquois Point)

My first CIP (Capitol Improvement Project) requests for House District 40, the Ewa area, were focused on Campbell High School. After a series of meetings with school administrators, teachers and the Department of Education engineers, I came to several conclusions. First, a new second high school is not needed, but major improvements to Campbell High School’s existing facilities are long overdue.

When it comes to investing in our future, I cannot think of a better place to start than our public education system. There is no reason why we shouldn’t be investing in improvements to our school’s physical infrastructure. I have made reforming the educational system my number one goal as a state legislator.

There have been several projects started, but not finished at Campbell, including extensive improvements to the electrical system. Years ago new transformers were installed in anticipation of renovation to the electrical distribution systems. These transformers have been sitting unused for almost ten years. This type of false start is both wasteful and misleading. Not only is momentum lost, but piecemeal execution makes any project end up costing much, much more than it should. I have asked for $5 million, to complete the entire second phase of the electrical build-out. My colleagues in the State Legislature have urged me to lower my sites and ask for smaller CIP requests,

but I would rather take the time to identify what our district really needs.

We will rally to move Campbell High School back up the priority list for air conditioning. It is ridiculous that Campbell has dropped out of the top ten schools in need of air conditioning statewide.

A proposal was submitted to cover costs for a new surface for the football field, which will bring our field up to the same standards as other public high schools in
Hawaii. Also funds were identified to renovate the old Ewa fire station, so it can be used as new EMS center that would service our community.

You have my assurance that, in spite of these tough times and tight budgets, I will continue to work so that our community will not be slighted when it come to getting our fair share of capital improvement projects.




For Immediate Release

February 19, 2012

It is time to settle the teachers’ contract!

Honolulu – It is long overdue to settle the teachers’ contract. Making them grovel over less than a 2% increase (when health care costs are factored in), while at the same time proposing an expensive new preschool program is breathtakingly insulting. This reinforces the belief among teachers that they are not appreciated and they are made the perennial whipping boys for all of the systemic shortcomings that produce public dissatisfaction. The teachers are by and large dedicated professionals who feel underappreciated and this preschool maneuver by the Governor offers them solid evidence that they are indeed taken for granted.

I have spoken to many teachers and while pay is an issue, another important issue is that they are also suffering from a morale problem. Aside from antidotal discussion with teachers, one need only look at our absenteeism rate as documented in a report by the Center for American Progress. Written and released

in November 2012, it showed about half of Hawaii teachers had more than 10 absences, the second-highest rate in the nation. Or, one could look at our teacher attrition numbers (excluding retirements), we lose about 10% of our full complement each year; the total annual costs associated with teacher turnover in Hawaii alone, excluding retirements, is estimated to be $23,895.228.00 per annum according to the Alliance for Excellent Education. Will Okabe, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, said “there’s no question” that teacher absences affect student learning. One can also safely assume that high teacher turnover,

particularly at our “at risk” schools, lowers our student achievement outcomes. Both of these are indicators of poor morale and lack of job satisfaction.

Moral is affected by many things. However, we know what needs to be done. We must include more professional mentoring time for teachers. Increased planning time is needed because, although we have curriculum standards, we have no standard curriculum. We can reduce their workload by enforcing a hard cap on the number of students per classroom. Teachers need to have a say in school policy.

And finally, they need to believe that the school (and parents) stands with them, shoulder to shoulder, when dealing with problematic student behavior.

In return, the teachers will gladly accept reasonable evaluation standards. They want to be measured so that they can improve as professionals and root out the teachers who do not perform. The loss of good teachers is devastating to the taxpayers, schools, educators, students and the communities that they serve. We need to pay them what they are worth and grant them a 4% raise, and address the morale issues.

The time to settle is now.



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