Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Hawaii schools improve, but truancy still a problem, House to gauge support for gay marriage, safety check fee to rise, Honolulu resists new voter registration system, Caldwell picks new chief of staff, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

Hawaii governor Neil Abercrombie
Hawaii Legislature


State House Democrats are meeting this week to determine whether there is enough support among members to approve a gay marriage proposal. Speaker Joe Souki (D, Waihee-Waiehu-Wailuku) said Monday that the Demo­cratic leadership plans to meet Wednesday and expects to call all members to a caucus to determine the count, which insiders say is close. The Senate has the votes to pass a bill. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii's Department of Education on Monday released its first report card of how public schools are doing under a new accountability system, made possible by a federal waiver from certain provisions of the No Child Left Behind law. A key result is that nine schools serving a large number of children from low-income families are among 14 considered the highest-performing and highest-growth schools. The results also show that a majority or the state's lowest-performing schools showed growth after receiving targeted support. Associated Press.

Four out of every 5 public schools singled out for restructuring under federal standards last year earned improved standings on a new accountability system that looks beyond standardized test scores. The state Department of Education on Monday released the first results using its so-called Strive HI system. Star-Advertiser.

Nearly two out of every 10 of Hawaii’s public elementary students missed school last year at “chronic” rates that the Department of Education says strongly indicate which kids are at high risk for falling behind and dropping out. Eighteen percent of elementary school children were chronically absent last year, meaning they missed 15 or more days of school, according to data released Monday that outlines the first annual results of the DOE’s new so-called Strive HI Performance System. Civil Beat.

State Department of Education Deputy Superintendent Ronn Nozoe, along with Superintendent Kathyrn Matayoshi, were eager to share information on the new Strive HI Performance System for the 2013-2014 academic school year. Strive HI replaces the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Nozoe says it's a far more precise tool for measuring how well a school performs. Hawaii News Now.

The Strive HI performance system evaluates Hawaii’s public and charter schools. this new system replaces the federal No Child Left Behind law and analyzes student achievement and growth in reading, math, science, graduation rates and attendance. KHON2.

Hawaii's economy will enjoy steady growth through at least 2016, helped by solid visitor spending and continued job growth, the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism reported Monday in its latest quarterly forecast. One of the keys to the forecast is lower-than-expected inflation, which encourages greater household spending and business investment. Star-Advertiser.

Honolulu has declined to collaborate with the state on its new online voter registration system. Since the city is already managing the state ID system and processing state driver's licenses — key databases for verifying voter identification — state officials were hoping the city might be inclined to help implement the new registration system, too. No luck. Civil Beat.

Hawaii drivers should expect to soon pay a little more to ensure their vehicles are road-ready. A six-month backlog in updating safety inspection reports in the vehicle registration database has prompted the state to move to an electronic system that will add $4.49 to the cost of an inspection and create new requirements for inspection stations. West Hawaii Today.

The head of the state prison system said changes have been made to make sure another murder defendant doesn't escape while being transported to court, but Hawaii News Now found some public safety employees not following proper procedures. Hawaii News Now.

Evan Dobelle, the former University of Hawaii president who was run out of Hawaii in 2004 after university regents had enough of his exorbitant credit card bills and extravagant spending, seems to be at it again. Dobelle, 68, is under scrutiny again for his lavish spending at Westfield State University in Westfield, Mass., where he’s been president since 2007. Hawaii Reporter.

Ex-UH president under scrutiny again. Evan S. Dobelle's expenses draw fire at his current Massachusetts college post Dobelle agreed to a settlement to leave UH in 2004 under a cloud of questions about his travel expenses and other spending from his expense account at the UH Foundation. Boston Globe.

An effort by Native Hawaiians to form their own government has signed up fewer than 20,000 of the 200,000 people it is seeking, but organizers are undaunted. The initiative known as Kana’iolowalu launched in July 2012 after enactment of a state law recognizing Native Hawaiians as the only indigenous people of the island. Associated Press.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie has appointed Wallace Ishibashi and Patricia Sheehan to the nine-member Hawaiian Homes Commission. Civil Beat.

State roundup for August 20. Associated Press.

Oahu
Ray Soon, a well-connected, Harvard-educated private consultant, will take over as Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s chief of staff on Sept. 3. Caldwell’s administration confirmed the hiring to Civil Beat on Monday, ending months of speculation about who would fill the role as the mayor’s on-the-ground, political lieutenant at Honolulu Hale. Civil Beat.

Residential electric rates rose on Oahu in August from July in part because of higher fuel costs, Hawaiian Electric Co. reported Monday. Star-Advertiser.

Kaiser Permanente's Moanalua Medical Center & Clinic, citing studies that show patients recover faster if they are surrounded by family and friends, began 24-hour patient visiting hours Monday. Prior to the new policy, Kaiser Moanalua allowed visitors from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Star-Advertiser.

About 60 percent of the units in The Collection were snapped up during an opening sales weekend that had people lined up before dawn for first crack at the 397 apartments in A&B Properties’ 43-story condominium project in Kakaako. Pacific Business News.

A Circuit Court jury will resume deliberations this morning after spending all day Monday trying to decide whether State Department special agent Christopher Deedy should be convicted or acquitted of murder. The jury does not have the option of convicting Deedy on a lesser charge of manslaughter despite a Hawaii Supreme Court decision that makes clear that jurors should be given that choice when there is a "rational basis" for the lesser offense. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii

More than 200 people staged a peaceful protest on Monday outside Hawaii Electric Light Co.’s Hilo headquarters to express displeasure with the utility’s plan to expand geothermal energy development on the Big Island. The protest was organized by Puna Pono Alliance, an environmental group opposed to geothermal expansion. Many of the demonstrators wore T-shirts with the group’s logo on the front and “SAVE POHOIKI” on the back. Some had taken part in a three-day march to Hilo starting Saturday from Pahoa High School. Tribune-Herald.

University of Hawaii at Hilo students have a new dormitory to live in. The 300-unit Hale Alahonua residence hall is the first student housing built on campus in more nearly 25 years. Associated Press.

University of Hawaii at Hilo celebrated Monday morning the dedication of its newest facility, Hale ‘Alahonua Student Residence Hall. Today, the $32.5 million building, located on Kawili Street across from the main campus entrance, is set to begin moving in up to 300 of this year’s newest crop of students within its trio of of three-story wings, along with large common areas and exterior courtyards. Tribune-Herald.

Two Hawaii Island conservation projects are getting a financial boost from the federal government. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awarded the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry and Wildlife about $500,000 for projects to reintroduce the alala, or Hawaiian crow, to the wild on the Big Island, as well as work in the Ka‘u Forest Reserve. West Hawaii Today.

Maui

In the seven months since the Maui Police Department started its Crisis Intervention Team, specially trained officers have responded to at least 66 police calls involving mentally ill people in crisis. Maui News.

A final judgement in the amount of $246 million was entered in tax appeal court against nine Online Travel Companies selling Hawaiʻi hotel rooms, according to information released by the state Attorney General’s Office. Maui Now. 

Kauai

Results from newly revised Hawaii Department of Education standards show that Kapaa Middle School is ranked third on the island for academic performance and achievement. Kapaa Middle School Principal Nathan Aiwohi has worked to bring his school out of its restructuring classificiation under the No Child Left Behind Act ever since his tenure began in 2007. In the years since, students fell short of reaching that goal even though they meet many of the state’s reading and math benchmarks on their annual assessment tests. That was, however, until last year. Garden Island.

Not too long ago, Kawaikini charter school had classes under large tents. Today, the Hawaiian immersion school’s 125 students learn in style, inside two state-of-the-art energy-efficient buildings and several structures on a 10-acre property next to Kauai Community College in Puhi. Garden Island.