The TRUTH about DOE!
‘I Lost 3 Years Of My Passion’: Popular Deaf School Principal Gets His Job Back
A veteran deaf educator — hired to lead the Hawaii School for the Deaf and the Blind in 2016 — was demoted by the area superintendent in 2019 without proper cause.
By Suevon Lee of Honolulu Civic Beat
The Hawaii Department of Education acted in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner when it demoted and reassigned the principal of the Hawaii School for the Deaf and the Blind to a lower-level position at a different school three years ago, an arbitrator hearing a grievance in the case concluded late last month.
In a 34-page decision issued on Feb. 24, independent arbitrator Theodore Sakai found that the DOE failed to conduct an investigation into the concerns raised by the complex area superintendent who recommended the move and produced “insufficient evidence” to justify the reassignment and demotion of longtime deaf educator Angel Ramos.
The decision, released to Civil Beat by the DOE in response to a public records request, highlights the department’s failure to look into the basis for the concerns about Ramos brought by Rochelle Mahoe, complex area superintendent for the Farrington-Kaiser-Kalani district, and ultimately signed off on by the state’s top superintendent.
The decision also underscores the disruption caused to the Hawaii School for the Deaf and the Blind, a roughly 60-student school at the base of Diamond Head that caters to students who are deaf or hard of hearing, as a result of Ramos’ removal.
The Oahu campus of Hawaii School for the Deaf and the Blind serves deaf and special education students on a referral basis. John Hill/Civil Beat/2017
The decision stems from the reassignment of Ramos by Mahoe in August 2019 from his leadership of HSDB to a vice principal role at Kalakaua Middle School in Kalihi, which does not offer programs for the hard of hearing. Mahoe based her decision to reassign Ramos on a performance review she wrote for the 2018-19 school year that cited problems such as a lack of leadership, a lack of concern for the safety and well-being of students, mismanagement of finances and disregard of DOE policies.
The Hawaii Government Employees Association, the union that represents principals and other administrators, filed a grievance on behalf of Ramos alleging violations of multiple provisions of the group’s collective bargaining contract with the DOE. HGEA argued that the move was disciplinary in nature and that DOE failed to show just cause for demoting Ramos. The union also argued that Mahoe had “a subjective bias” against Ramos.
The DOE took the position that the transfer was proper since it was performance-based, arguing that Ramos failed to correct “a vast number of deficiencies” that had been flagged during his three-year tenure.
However, Sakai, the former director of the Department of Public Safety and an arbitrator mutually agreed upon by both parties, sided with the union and Ramos, saying Mahoe provided “no reason for the transfer” and “did not specify which policies and procedures that she wanted (Ramos) to learn.”
“Absent an articulated justification or plan for what (Ramos) was supposed to do while on this (demoted) status, it appears that Mahoe simply wanted to remove (him) from HSDB without thought to the impact (on the principal),” Sakai wrote.
Sakai also found that DOE’s failure to conduct an investigation, “even though one was specifically required by its own rules,” made the decision “unfair and renders (DOE’s) action arbitrary and capricious.”
Sakai ordered DOE to “immediately reinstate” Ramos to his former position and issue any back pay owed as the result of the salary reduction the principal experienced when he was shifted to a lower-level position for three years.
Mahalo from Dr. Ángel M. Ramos PhD
Aloha, everyone. I will be back soon as HSDB principal, NOT as principal of a hearing school. I want to be very clear – I will be back as principal of HSDB.
It’s been a long time. Almost three years. During that time you have supported me and encouraged me. Thank you, thank you, thank you for all your support. Your support really helped me survive. The past three years have not been easy. Let me explain what has happened during that time. When DOE removed me from HSDB in August of 2019, and placed me in a hearing school, I filed a complaint with my union, HGEA. They reviewed my complaint and said “DOE is wrong!” Stacy Moniz, the union Advocacy Chief, filed a grievance with the DOE. The grievance process, which is complicated, lasts a long time. The grievance process has three steps, and in each step the decision is made by a neutral, fair person. Step 1 we lost. Who decided? My boss. The same person who filed the complaint against me, the same person who recommended my demotion. Neutral and fair? Not. I obviously lost. On to step 2. We lost. Who was the neutral and fair person? DOE admin. Neutral and fair? Not. Step 3 was arbitration, with the Hawai’i Labor Relations Board (HLRB) assigning an arbitrator who was neutral and fair. He listened to both sides. The arbitrator just announced his decision - put Dr. Ramos back as HSDB principal. YEAH!!!
My wife and I are thrilled. I know the Deaf community is thrilled. The students are thrilled. Does this mean HSDBSoar is over? No. HSDB Save Our Angel Ramos is over, yes, I am back as principal of HSDB. But HSDBSoar is now starting. You need to make sure that HSDB is managed by, and decisions made, by people who are experts in Deaf education. You cannot allow people who know nothing about Deaf education, who do not care about the students and the school. You need people who care and love the students and school, and make sure that HSDB SOARS! YOU need to do it. I will be here to support you and make sure that we work together.
One more thing. You need to continue to work with hearing people. Who supported me and fought DOE for three years? The union, all hearing people. Stacy Moniz and his assistant, Jessie Sliva, worked hard and fought for me. They never gave up. Please continue to work together. You will succeed in making HSDB SOAR and become the best school for Deaf and hard of hearing students in Hawai’i and one of the best schools in the U.S.. Again, thank you, thank you, thank you from my heart. Mahalo.
As Seen on TV
Video by Patrick Kuehn - Thank you!
By Jolanie Martinez
Published: Feb. 26, 2022 at 7:51 PM PST|Updated: Feb. 27, 2022 at 2:20 AM PST
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The former principal of the Hawaii School for the Deaf and Blind is getting his job back.
In 2019, the state Department of Education complex superintendent recommended that Angel Ramos, who was principal at the time, be demoted. The department brought in a temporarily assigned principal and transferred Ramos to another campus. At that time, DOE said they would not talk about personnel matters. But a state arbitrator has now said he must be reinstated.
Ramos says he’s thrilled to be returning to the Hawaii School for the Deaf and Blind. He said it’s the start to a new beginning and is ready to rebuild the school again. “To be honest with you, three years has been tough ... but I’m happy it’s over,” said Ramos. Ramos is looking forward to seeing his students and teachers again. “I missed everything about the school,” said Ramos, who is deaf and fluent in ASL.
Students and staff say the school regressed after he left. “When Dr. Ramos left, of course, all the students were sad,” said HSDB student Eva Silva-Ewan. “You know, our mental health went down. We weren’t happy as we used to be, sometimes people were missing classes.” And now they’re looking forward to seeing him around campus again following a state arbitrator’s orders. “He’s very encouraging to students,” said HSDB student Dane Silva-Ewan. “He encourages them to do well and do their best in school.”
“I am very happy, I am excited that he will come back to where we left off, we may have to play a little bit of catch up,” said former Vice Principal of Steve Laracuente. “Because it looks like this school has stopped a few programs.” Moving forward, Ramos and his former colleagues want to establish their own board of directors with majority of them deaf. “People who are experts in deaf education, representatives from the deaf community, perhaps even students who can give feedback to the school on how they can improve.” “We must get away from DOE management, make us independent,” said Ramos. “Let us run the school, we know what’s best for deaf students.”
A spokeswoman from DOE released the following statement:
“The Department is in receipt of the arbitrator’s report and is reviewing and discussing next steps. We cannot discuss further details of this personnel matter at this time.”
Copyright 2022 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.
Bill for new governing board advances
Bill for new governing board advances. (Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Saturday 2/1/20)
Advocates seek greater oversight of Hawaii School for the Deaf and Blind.
By Susan Essoyan. (email@example.com)
A bill to ensure that deaf educators and community members are involved in oversight of the Hawaii School for the Deaf and Blind passed the first hurdle at the Legislature on Friday.
House Bill 2421 would create a board of trustees - which would include people with expertise in deaf education and American Sign Language, as well as a parent and a graduate- to independently govern the public school,
A dozen deaf advocates pushed for the change at a hearing off the Committee in Human Services and Homelessness, which passed the measure. The school on Leahi Avenue, with 62 students in kindergarten through 12th grade is overseen by the Honolulu District Office of the Department of Education under the direction of a complex-area superintendent.
Like a Hawaiian language immersion school, the school thrives when led by administrators fluent in American Sign Language, which is the first language of its students, according to written testimony from Brian Nakamoto, a teacher and alumnus. “The problem here is our current Department of Education does not have a clear understanding of how bilingual-bicultural curriculum of American Sign Language and English work in our deaf school,” he wrote.
“We did have a deaf principal that worked with us from 2016 to 2019, we saw a golden age at HSDB. During that golden age, we assembled our robotics team, secured the spot a the co-host for West Regionals Academic Bowl competition to be hosted in Honolulu for the first time, saw growth in our students” Lexile and…academic performance levels, improved the morale among students and staff, and many more.”
But that principal, Angel Ramos, was abruptly transferred to a different school Aug. 1 and replaced by a principal who does not know sign language. The decision provoked an outcry and public rallies on Ramos’ behalf by members of the school community.
Under his leadership the Hawaii School for the Deaf and Blind had received national accreditation for the first time in its history, on July 1, through the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Zachary Rest, a 2019 graduate of HSDB who is studying at Kapiolani Community College, told legislators what a difference it made for him when Ramos Became principal.
“Finally…they hired someone to the deaf school that I could understand and communicate with, and I felt good,” Rest said. “A hearing principal doesn’t understand us or our feelings.”
Vice Principal Stephen Laracuente, who is deaf and fluent in American Sign Language, offered written testimony in favor of the bill. Je plans to retire July 1 after 25 years at the school. Faculty are all certified teachers of the deaf and fluent in ASL, according to the DOE website.
The preamble to HB 2421 says schools for the deaf and blind in Colorado, California and Maryland also have independent oversight. The bill, which has 29 sponsors, will head next to the Consumer Protection and Commerce Committee.
It would create a nine-member board appointed by the governor, including two deaf individuals fluent in American Sign Language and knowledgeable about deaf education; a deaf-blind person or parent of a deaf-blind person; an alumnus of the school; a parent of a deaf child; and a deaf individual from the neighbor islands.
The unpaid boar would be responsible for management and policy decisions for the school and report to the superintendent of education.
Committee Chairwoman Joy San Buenaventura said she would incorporate language proposed by the attorney general specifying that “policy decisions of the board of trustees shall be consistent with the policies of the Board of Education.”
The Department of Education did not take a position on the bill, but noted it has created a work group to improve and expand services to students who are deaf, hard of hearing and deaf-blind students who are deaf, hard of hearing and deaf-blind.
Ramos, now vice principal at Kalakaua Middle School, said he expects the principals union to file a grievance on his behalf. Department of Education spokeswoman Lindsay Chambers said, “Out of respect for our employees’ privacy, we cannot comment on any personnel matters.”
(Picture of Vernicole Agustin, right, a former student at HSDB currently a student at KCC, testified Friday at House committee for HB 2421, which would give deaf advocates greater influence in running the school. Debbie Jackson, left, interpreted.)
Section B, page 2 Local Business.
Letter from Dr. Angel Ramos
Vote Dr. Angel Ramos as 2019 Lifechanger
Paki Park Rally #2 on Nov 2, 2019
SEPT 26 PICKETING
SEPT 19 PICKETING @ MAUI & OAHU PICTURES
LETTERS OF SUPPORT
CHALLENGES & SOLUTIONS
As President John F. Kennedy once said,
“Ask not what your country can do for you
– ask what YOU can do for your country.”
In that concept, we, as Deaf individuals and American Sign Language users, are already experts when it comes to discrimination and oppression by incompetent officials, educators and ignorants. We have seen, experienced, and endured the discrimination and oppression in the Deaf education environment. Instead of complaining and protesting, we present to you the challenges and solutions to creating a healthier educational environment. We need to see REAL and POSITIVE changes for both short and long term improvements in the education of Deaf and hard of hearing students. Here are the challenges with solutions….
Deaf people do not need ears to LISTEN,
and we hope you will listen to us.
HSDB is managed by a Principal who reports to a Complex Area Superintendent (CAS). The CAS who have overseen HSDB have had no background in Deaf Education. Over the course of HSDB's 105-year history, they have appointed Principals at HSDB who have been non-signing and non-Deaf Education certified administrators. In fact, from 2011 to 2016, HSDB was run by a Principal and Vice-Principal who were non-signers and had no background in Deaf Education and no knowledge of the Bilingual-Bicultural method that HSDB uses. These were the dark ages for HSDB.
The vast majority of elementary students who transfer to HSDB from public schools for hearing students arrive with little or no language - either in ASL or English. These students have been deprived of language since birth. Their language deprivation has had a lasting negative effect on their academics and social skills. Even Middle School and High School students arrive at HSDB 3-4 years behind their hearing peers in reading and other academic skills. When these students perform poorly on state assessments tests, designed for hearing students, HSDB is the one that gets criticized.
On August 1, 2019, CAS Rochelle Mahoe replaced HSDB’s Principal, Dr. Angel Ramos, Dr. Ramos had brought HSDB out of the dark ages into the brightest years in HSDB's history. He helped HSDB receive NATIONAL accreditation. Yet, CAS Mahoe replaced him with a hearing Principal who does not sign and has no knowledge of HSDB's Bilingual Bicultural philosophy. CAS Mahoe made the decision unilaterally - without input from the Deaf community, HSDB teachers, staff, staff, students and parents. The time to end this oppressive behavior from the Department of Education has arrived.
Letter: School, students need deaf principal back
Aug. 17, 2019
Frustration is growing within the Hawaii School for the Deaf and the Blind (HSDB) these days. Why? Because our only deaf principal was removed from the HSDB administration office. In just three years, the deaf principal helped HSDB become a nationally accredited school with Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Having a deaf principal in charge lifts the students to self-directed learner level. Most of the staff and teachers are dedicated to educating young minds by empowering them using ASL. Students have 100% access to communication on the HSDB campus.
The new administrator is hearing and does not sign, and has no knowledge of deaf education. HSDB teachers, staff, parents and students were never asked their opinions of how important it is to have a deaf principal. We want to bring back our deaf principal, and out of the dark ages into the light. We want deaf education to move forward, not backward. Bring our deaf principal back to HSDB.