Rep. Mina Morita's Blog


Ike Kuokoa – Liberating Knowledge

Posted in Education,Environmental Protection,Events,General,Oceans/Water,Sustainability by Mina Morita on November 6, 2011

Last week I had the pleasure of giving Dr. Puakea Nogelmeier a ride to a friend’s house for a dinner party.  Although on sabbatical this year, he is feverishly organizing to launch a volunteer drive to typescript Hawaiian -language newspapers to make the entire collection word-searchable.  No language skill is necessary and forgive me for not using okina and kahako in my blog.

I don’t have a scanner so I’m going to practice my typing and accuracy, the desired skills needed for this project, by retyping parts of the brochure describing the project:

Awaiaulu: Hawaiian Literature Project

Ike Kuokoa – Liberating Knowledge

Over 125,000 pages of Hawaiian-language newspapers were printed from 1834 to 1948, equaling a million or more typescript pages of text.  Perhaps the largest native-language cache in the western world, the newspapers were an intentional national repository of knowledge, opinion and historical progess as Hawaii moved through kingdom, constitutional monarchy, republic and territory, yet only 2% of that collection has been integrated into our English-speaking world today.

75,000 of the newspaper pages have been converted to digital images.  15,000 of which have been made into searchable typescript, but 60,000 pages remain unsearchable.  For a decade we have used OCR and paid operators to make quality searchable text, educating every person connected with the process.  The 15,000 pages showed the world the importance of this resource, but funding has continually dwindled.  We face closure of the project or export of the work to Asia.  Instead, we are enlisting an army of volunteers to type those pages word-for-word and make them all searchable.  We plan to liberate knowledge from the archival dust because knowledge liberates everyone.

Volunteers Needed – Be a part of this historical Hawaiian legacy effort

No Language Skill Necessary!

Mounting a locally-based volunteer drive will be a massive effort, with thousands of volunteers and a central coordinating hub to engage volunteers and guide production for reliability and accuracy.  The cost is higher than exporting the work and the effort is daunting but this allows for community engagement, personal investment in Hawaiian knowledge and Hawaii-centered kuleana in the product, supported by hands around the world.

Ike Kuokoa launches on November 28, 2011 (La Kuokoa since 1843) and will finish 60,000 pages on/before July 31, 2012 (La Hoihoi Ea).  Up and web-searchable by La Kuokoa 2012.

For pre-registration and more information go to:  www.awaiaulu.org

My understanding of the volunteer effort is that a volunteer will “check-out” a newspaper page.  The volunteer will then typescript each article and return the page to the archive when pau.  The articles from the page will be reviewed for accuracy and, if necessary, returned to the volunteer to make corrections.  When completed the typescripted newspaper page will be credited to the volunteer as an acknowledgement of the volunteer’s participation and the volunteer may then “check-out” another page to be typescripted.

Puakea tells me that the Hawaiian Civic Clubs, Kamehameha Schools Alumni Classes, hula halau from around the world are among the groups challenging each other to amass volunteers for this effort.  He estimates that at least 3,000 volunteers are needed.

Most importantly, this cache of over 100 newspaper publications helps to reveal various viewpoints of Hawaiian life during a 100 year period.  Such insight has been invaluable.  For example, of particular interest to the University of Hawai‘i Sea Grant College Program (UH Sea Grant) are articles touching on marine ecosystem management in Hawai‘i, traditional and introduced fishing practices, climatic conditions, and storms and other significant weather events.  Read more about this particular project here.

I excitedly signed up, hope you will too.

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Appointed vs. Elected Board of Education

Posted in Education,Elections,Legislation/Capitol,Uncategorized by Mina Morita on October 17, 2010

I am voting “yes” on the appointed school board question.  Hawaii’s families need to hold elected officials accountable for our public education system, however, under the current structure it is very difficult to hold anyone accountable.  We can’t say we hold our elected Board of Education members responsible because most of us don’t even know who the BOE members are and many voters don’t even vote in the BOE races.  At least with an appointed school board Hawaii’s families can point directly to the Governor and the Legislature.

Several weeks ago I wrote about what makes a great school.  Here is an excerpt from that post:

Since 2002 the Lingle-Aiona administration tried to peg school reform on one issue, locally elected school boards. The Chair of the House Committee on Education, Representative Roy Takumi, has studied the issue of school reform extensively.  What is clear is governance of a school system (local versus state board of education) has little to do with successful schools.

Throughout the country, successful schools have these common characteristics:  (1) Principals with effective leadership qualities, (2) Skilled and dedicated teachers, (3) Involved parents and active community support, (4) An Articulated Curriculum, (5) A Safe and Healthy Learning Environment.  Using this framework, I have supported legislation that brought funding and decision-making directly under local school control, worked to reduce class size, add more money for textbooks and modernize computers and technology infrastructure, tried to address the teacher shortage by providing fair compensation to retain and attract skilled and dedicated educators, established a Principal’s Academy to enhance leadership skills, established and adjusted the weighted student formula to adequately address a student’s special needs.

Today’s Star-Advertiser story on this issue sort of misses the point.  It’s not about the BOE, it’s about the best structure that can support transformation at the school level.  Yes, there can be bad, political choices made for BOE appointees but, hopefully, there will be checks and balances to minimize that possibility.  The Legislature tried to address this concern but Governor Lingle vetoed the bill that would have set-up the statutory framework for the selection/appointment process in anticipation to the possible passage of the appointed school board constitutional question.  House Bill 2377, which I co-sponsored, would have set-up a selection committee using the Hawaii P-20 Council to submit a list of potential candidates.  The Governor would have to select an appointee from this list of candidates who are then subject to the advice and consent of the Senate.  This process is similar to the Judicial selection process.

I cannot defend an elected BOE as a “democratic” process especially when voter apathy is so great.  No amount of voter education or money can “fix” this problem in a timely way.  The future of public education is at stake, the future of our children is at stake.  Democracy will not survive if public education is not our most important priority.  So please vote “yes” on the appointed school board question and remember, a blank vote is counted as a “no” vote.

Growing Our Own Teachers On Kauai

Posted in Education,Events,Kauai by Mina Morita on September 19, 2010

I like it when people stop to talk story with me at the grocery store or post office.  I usually get caught up on or a new issue is brought to my attention.  Yesterday at Foodland-Princeville was no exception.  George Corrigan, the President of the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay, was at the entrance encouraging people to participate in Give Aloha, Foodland’s annual community matching gifts program which runs from September 1 to September 30.  For every customer’s $1.00 contributed, Foodland will match up to $249.00 to a non-profit.  The non-profit George was advocating for is Growing Our Own Teachers On Kauai, which started out as a community service project of the Hanalei Rotary.  The purpose of this non-profit is to provide needed financial aid to teacher candidates who live on Kauai and aspire to become teachers in Kauai schools.

In Hawaii, and nationally, there is a severe shortage of good, qualified teachers.  In the past, the State Department of Education actively recruited teachers from the mainland paying relocation bonus resulting in few longterm benefits to our public education system. Now, through distance learning we can “grow and nurture” potential teacher candidates within our own communities and the retention and commitment to teaching within our communities is much more successful.  A critical partner in this effort is the University of Hawaii, College of Education with its Statewide Teacher Education Program, which offers distance learning on its neighbor island campuses rather than having teacher candidates relocate to the UH Manoa campus.

Growing Our Teachers On Kauai steps in, providing financial assistance, at a critical juncture for these teacher candidates:

Most local teacher candidates have to pay for their own college education.  They do it by working a full-time job or several part-time jobs.  Many candidates have families of their own or are the sole income provider for their families.  They have to balance family, work and school at the same time.  With tuition, plus books, a computer, software, supplies, and other associated expenses, the costs are approximately $5,000 per semester or $20,000 for the two-year program.

In spite of all this, there are many local teacher candidates who have the motivation and dedication to tough it through.  Until that is, their final semester.  At that time, they must quit their jobs and serve full-time in the classroom with their mentor teacher, Monday through Friday, everyday.  Teacher candidates do not get paid for student teaching and the commitment to teaching is full-time.  Many teacher candidates cannot afford to finish that last stretch to become a teacher.

I guess the first question a person would ask a Legislator like me is why don’t these teacher candidates get a stipend.  I don’t know the answer to that question except this is another expense that has to compete with all the other general fund needs of our State.

As I was going through the Foodland checkout line I spotted this Time magazine cover.  Right below the bus window it says “It Starts With The Teachers”.  Since 2002 the Lingle-Aiona administration tried to peg school reform on one issue, locally elected school boards.  The Chair of the House Committee on Education, Representative Roy Takumi, has studied the issue of school reform extensively.  What is clear is governance of a school system (local versus state board of education) has little to do with successful schools.

Throughout the country, successful schools have these common characteristics:  (1) Principals with effective leadership qualities, (2) Skilled and dedicated teachers, (3) Involved parents and active community support, (4) An Articulated Curriculum, (5) A Safe and Healthy Learning Environment.  Using this framework, I have supported legislation that brought funding and decision-making directly under local school control, worked to reduce class size, add more money for textbooks and modernize computers and technology infrastructure, tried to address the teacher shortage by providing fair compensation to retain and attract skilled and dedicated educators, established a Principal’s Academy to enhance leadership skills, established and adjusted the weighted student formula to adequately address a student’s special needs.

There is no doubt that so much more has to be done to transform and improve public education in Hawaii and I can’t thank the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay enough and its support of Growing Our Own Teachers on Kauai in helping to address one of the most fundamental challenges to our public education system, attracting and retaining skilled and qualified teachers in our rural communities.  So until September 30 double your contribution to this worthy non-profit by making a donation while checking out at Foodland.

In Memoriam – Dr. Stephen Schneider

Posted in Clean Energy,Education,Environmental Protection,Sustainability by Mina Morita on July 20, 2010

Typically, climate change is not a top of mind issue for me because if we keep to the implementation of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative objectives we can anticipate greenhouse gas emissions reductions of 38.7% below 1990 target levels by 2020 (GHGTaskForceworkplans).  But today I found two climate change concerns disturbing and sad.

First, I heard this story on Poison Ivy Growing Faster, More Virulent because of rising carbon dioxide levels and forest disruptions.

Second, climatologist Dr. Stephen Schneider died yesterday.  The brilliance of Dr. Schneider was his ability to explain the science and political complexities of climate change in plain English.  I first met Dr. Schneider when we were both participating in a 2007 conference convened by Blue Planet Foundation at Ko Olina.  By chance, the night before the conference started, I sat next to him at dinner not knowing anything about his background or accomplishments.  Had I known I probably would have been too intimidated to carry a conversation with a Nobel Prize winner.  He was funny, delightful and unassuming.  His presentation on climate change risk management and its solution reflecting our value judgement was practical and thought provoking and has helped me to better frame energy/environmental issues.  I could not find his video on the Blue Planet website but I did find a similar presentation without the powerpoint on YouTube.

After the Ko Olina conference, Dr. Schneider made several other trips back to Hawaii to lecture and had hoped to vacation on Kauai.  His passing is a huge loss for humanity.  Here is an excerpt from Peter H. Gleich, Co-Founder & President of the Pacific Institute, post:

But his contributions extend far, far beyond his superb science: Schneider was perhaps the most important communicator on climate science issues to the public and to policymakers. Steve was committed to challenging those who deny the realities of climate change because he understood that their abuse and misuse of climate science threatens the health of humans and the planet itself . . . He taught me and many others he mentored to understand and honor the science, but he also taught us the importance of speaking up in defense of the integrity of science and the public interest.

@sos808

Posted in Education by Mina Morita on April 11, 2010

Follow and support the parents vigil and demonstration to end school furloughs on twitter.  Since I had to stay on Oahu for the weekend conferencing on House Bill 2421 I plan to check in on the demonstration at 5:30 p.m.

Sit-in Update

Posted in Education,General,Issues,Legislation/Capitol by Mina Morita on April 9, 2010

The Honolulu Advertiser reports that the sit-in may go through the weekend. I haven’t been upstairs today to see what’s going on but here is the full text of the Governor’s statement which she posted last night.  It is my understanding that the Governor has not been physically present in the negotiations between HSTA and the BOE.  I asked a friend, who is very knowledgeable in the dynamics of negotiations and knowing that her position is well-represented at the table anyway, if her calling a meeting with the parties and being physically present would make a big difference.  He said of course it would.  He said the Governor calls a meeting and you go, mainly out of respect for the office she holds.  But the important point here is that she has been reluctant to call-in the parties to meet. 

This kind of recalcitrant positioning only leaves the those who care about their children’s education feeling ignored and frustrated.  Here is a statement from Michael Doyle of Save our Schools, Defend Hawaii’s Education: 

Good afternoon! 

My name is Michael Doyle and I am writing to you to ask any legislators who are interested in helping to save education and the future of Hawaii to attend a press conference today, Friday April 9th at 4:00pm in the Governor’s office. 

Save our schools has been sitting in the Governor’s office since Wednesday at 2:30pm This morning Governor Lingle spoke with the press to give a statemnet on the issue, but has refused to speak to us on the issue. 

The press confrence is in response to her statements and lack of leadership on this issue. 

I hope that you will be able to make it and give your input. 

Thank you for your support. 

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend the press conference but I think it would just a kind gesture for the Governor to acknowledge that there are a group of people several feet away, on the other side of walls and doors who are representative of many other families in Hawaii who expect real leadership in resolving this pressing issue.  Their position at the bargining table is not represented and she has a duty to make sure that it is.

Kodomo no tame ni (for the sake of the children)

Posted in Education,Legislation/Capitol by Mina Morita on April 8, 2010

Went up to the fifth floor of the Capitol to the Governor’s office to visit the parents and children who are staging a sit-in in the Governor’s reception room until they get an opportunity to meet with her. The story is in this morning’s Honolulu Advertiser.

After 4:30 the parents and children are all locked in the reception room area with no access to bathrooms and no air-conditioning. It is a very sad situation because the parties that should be locked in a room together are the HSTA, Board of Education and the Governor. All three parties need to come to an agreement to end furlough days. The Legislature has shown willingness through various bills setting aside money to fund an agreement but the parties must first reach an agreement.

HSTA members will be visiting the Capitol tomorrow to get Legislators to sign pledge cards supporting the HSTA-Board of Education agreement. The easy thing to do would be to sign the pledge card but the real action that needs to take place is opening up negotiations with the Governor. As many have said before me, the real losers in this whole fiasco is Hawaii’s children.