Kishimoto has been an outspoken advocate for district schools over charter schools during her time in Gilbert.

Gilbert’s top school official is leaving to oversee the Hawaii State Department of Education.

Gilbert Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Christina Kishimoto will become Hawaii’s superintendent starting Aug. 1, 2017, following a job search that included nearly 100 applicants, according to the Hawaii Board of Education.

“It is with great excitement and honor that I accept this critical education leadership position for the State of Hawaii and the Hawaii Department of Education,” Kishimoto said in a statement. 

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Kishimoto said she plans to implement a “vision of excellence for all students” during her time in Hawaii.

“I look forward to working hand-in-hand with Hawaii’s teachers, leaders, staff, parents, community members and student leaders to execute on this vision of high-quality college, career and community readiness,” Kishimoto said.

An advocate for the district

Kishimoto has been with Gilbert since July 2014, and has been an outspoken advocate for district schools over charter schools. 

In December, she expressed frustration over a charter school being built on land that neighboring Higley Unified School District was dissuaded by the town from building on.

“We have the highest number of, and a growing number of, charter schools in our community, yet we have seats available in our (district) schools. There’s no unmet demand,” she told the Town Council at the Dec. 1, 2016, hearing.

Kishimoto said about 35 charter schools are currently operating in Gilbert, and urged the Town Council to think about its impact on district schools.

“I ask that you seriously consider the significant negative impact to GPS and Higley public schools if another charter school is approved in our district,” she said.

The Hawaii Board of Education said that passion for student success is part of the reason why Kishimoto was hired.

“We are excited to have someone with a track record of reducing achievement gaps and a commitment to school empowerment to lead our public school system,” BOE member Patricia Bergin said in a statement.

Bergin said Kishimoto will “bring fresh ideas to our system,” adding that Kishimoto “understands and respects Hawaii’s uniqueness.”

The selection process

As part of the selection process, the board conducted a background check and contacted district officials, former superintendents and others at the Gilbert district.

The board’s statement said that “various negative statements” made about Kishimoto during the selection process were found to be “either inconsequential or simply invalid.”

Before her work at GPS, Kishimoto served as the superintendent of the Hartford Public School District in Connecticut for three years.

During that time, she raised more than $60 million from philanthropic organizations, corporations and federal grants, and spearheaded a program that allowed parents to send their children to any school in the district.

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Kishimoto has more than 20 years of experience working in education, and has degrees from Columbia University and Barnard College.

The bilingual superintendent is of Puerto Rican descent, and was raised in the south Bronx area in New York City, New York. 

Gilbert school officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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