By In Hawaii

The Social Failures Behind the Death of Iremamber Sykap

Here’s what we know about the shooting of 16-year-old Iremamber Sykap.

On April 5, Sykap was driving a stolen car along with five others between the ages of 14 and 22. Following a police chase, officers shot at the car, and it crashed into a drainage ditch near McCully. Sykap was taken in critical condition to the hospital, where he died.

According to Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard, the car was connected to several crimes leading up to the fatal shooting, including an armed robbery in Moiliili just 20 minutes prior, though no guns were found at the scene of the crash.

We don’t know much about Sykap the person just yet, but we know he was born in Guam and was the youngest of eight children. We know from his sister that “he would make you laugh at your lowest.” We know from his teacher that he was friendly and playful, and that he loved his family deeply. And we know from the gatherings at the place of his death that he was loved, too.

We also know he had a history of criminal behavior that resulted in multiple arrests.

It can be hard to square these two accounts of Sykap, especially since we tend to think of criminal behavior as a function of personality: people who do bad things are bad people, like cartoon villains. In reality, criminality is often directly tied to whether or not one’s basic needs are met…

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By In education, Hawaii

To Test Or Not To Test

In a few weeks, schools will start administering the Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBA) to students in third through eighth grades, as well as high school juniors. For the uninitiated, these are the standardized tests designed to measure student competency of Common Core standards.

This year, since students are returning on a staggered, blended schedule, students will take the SBAs for two hours per day over the course of two weeks.

Teachers, too, have been dedicating a number of hours to the test, with meetings about protocol and procedure as well as a surprisingly thorough training module to become certified to run an official test.

This is not a complaint – all of it was genuinely useful and necessary – so much as an accurate accounting of how much total time these tests require.

The purpose of standardized tests is to see what students know and what they don’t know under a given set of standards, then to track that progress over time. But after a pandemic year, this data serves another purpose: delineating the learning gap that has almost certainly occurred during distance learning…

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By In Hawaii

The Small Wonders Of Knowing Your Home

Ulu A‘e Learning Center Executive Director Miki‘ala Lidstone made an interesting comparison between the windward and leeward sides of Oahu in an interview with Civil Beat last week.

“We don’t have a lot of (Hawaiian) names for our rains because it doesn’t rain that much (in Kapolei),” she said, adding that it’s not like that in Kailua. “They have a lot of names for rains — we don’t. But you know what we do have? We have a lot of hills.”

This echoed around my head as I was in Kailua helping my parents salvage soaked belongings in their house after a torrential intruder whose name I do not know barged in and alerted us to a leak somewhere in the roof. The hills of Kapolei are no doubt more mannered acquaintances.

The days of heavy downpour reminded me just how inextricable rain is from life on this side of the island, and how essential it is to its — and our — character. Rain comes in a menagerie of personalities. It can be a gentle patter that helps you fall into a deeper sleep, or a deluge that turns your waking life into a nightmare. Which made Lidstone’s sentiment all the more compelling…

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By In Hawaii

The DOE Is Looking In The Wrong Places To Trim The Fat

One aspect of life in Hawaii that has remained unchanged through the pandemic is the looming threat of budget cuts in education. This is not for no reason: education gobbles up a substantial chunk of the state budget, consistently comprising one of the three largest government expenses in the state every year. It’s sensible, then, to look to the Department of Education for fat to trim in fiscally perilous circumstances.

This time around, however, there’s a new wrinkle to the discussion: pay differentials for Hawaiian language teachers, special education teachers, and teachers who work in remote school districts.

These additional salary bumps range anywhere between $3,000 and $10,000 per year, and went into effect in January 2020 — right before the pandemic hit.

In a Feb. 9 letter to school leaders, DOE Superintendent Christina Kishimoto wrote that these pay differentials have “produced the desired and intended effect of lowering vacancy and retention rates for these high-need areas,” but we “can no longer afford,” them so there is “no choice but to discontinue these shortage differential payouts.”

Trying times call for re-evaluation, and it’s reasonable to scrutinize these pay differentials. If expenses can’t be justified, then perhaps they deserve to be on the chopping block.

But it’s crude analysis to think they are merely a function of some rudimentary supply-and-demand bargain. That’s not entirely untrue, but it is incomplete. The real question is why these are hard positions to fill in the first place, and why they require additional incentive…

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By In Hawaii

The Closure Of Small Private Schools Is A Blow For Education In Hawaii

Learning about the imminent closure of St. Ann School was like meeting a long-lost cousin for the first time in hospice care. I had never heard of St. Ann – let alone its storied history dating back to King Kamehameha III – but was saddened nonetheless to hear that this semester will be its last.

I feel a kindred connection with the small private schools of Hawaii. There are schools like St. Ann scattered across the islands, most of which are unknown to most people. I attended a few of them, including Lutheran High School, which closed for good in 2016 due to low enrollment…

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