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Hawaii Education Matters

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Nonprofit Overview

Mission: We are a grassroots group driven by public school parents and families. Our mission is to support excellence in public education by creating, sustaining and leveraging the energy and resources of families and communities to improve student success.

Results: In our short history, HEM volunteers have logged thousands of hours affecting change in local government in an arena many believed impenetrable. Efforts during our first year (2009) were aimed at furlough resolution. To accomplish this goal we focused on developing collaborative relationships with key stakeholders in education, including the DOE, BOE, legislators and union officials, to ensure that the parent voice would become a strong and constant presence in critical issues impacting public education. These key partnerships serve as the foundation of and future catalyst for change in our public education system. With our first major milestone of furlough resolution (May 2010), we promised the community that our organization would remain as a voice for parent and families. As such, we formed a Board of Directors comprised of our organization’s co-founders and education experts. In addition, we filed and received 501(c)3. As a natural extension of our efforts, to keep more parents, families and the community abreast of developing education issues, we created an interactive Website where parents can share their stories, a Facebook page which is updated daily, and a quarterly newsletter. Since organizing in fall of 2009, HEM has emerged as the “go to” voice for a parent perspective on education issues; has developed into a credible and sought after partner for parent engagement; and, has been active in schools and public policy. Since the furlough resolution we have sought ways to continue to engage parents in education through various community outreach efforts, including: 1) organizing Open House events at various public schools to educate families about HEM (recruited over 100 new HEM ‘friends’, Fall 2010); 2) participating in planning and formation of Oahu’s first education coalition, Hui for Excellence in Education (HE‘E) , Summer 2010; 3) hosting a community screening of the education documentary Waiting for Superman for families and educators (recruited over 200 new HEM ‘friends’ , Fall 2010); 4) collaborating with Our Public School, Kanu Hawaii, and HE‘E to organize an education Town Hall meeting entitled ‘New Beginnings: Community Engagement in Public Education, attended by over 300 parents, educators, legislators and community members funded by Participant Media (Spring 2011); and 5) receiving funds from Participant Media to follow up with participants after the Town Hall event to host education talk story events (Spring 2011). We have also worked to educate families about education policy by tracking & disseminating information on legislation related to mandatory instructional hours, and providing comprehensive, non-partisan information on all BOE, Gubernatorial candidates, and appointed v. elected BOE referendum (for 2010 election) to families and the community. At the end of the 2011 Legislative session HEM was named, along with HE‘E and the Hawaii State Parent Teacher Association (HSPTSA), in a Concurrent Senate Resolution (SCR 145). HEM, HE‘E, and the HSPTSA will collaborate with the BOE and DOE to craft statewide policies for family engagement in Hawaii's public schools. Findings and recommendations will be made to the Senate and House Education Committees at the beginning of the 2012 legislative session.

Target demographics: Parents and families are a target for us because we provide better tools for them to support their children’s education.

Programs: Since its inception, HEM has worked to establish networks with various stakeholders in the education community, from community organizations to policy makers. Through our focus on developing these relationships, we have leveraged these relationships to formalize the following partnerships and potential future resources. Healthy Families, Healthy Schools aims to help parents create the link between a healthy lifestyle and student success. Using the five pillars of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! Initiative, HEM will provide resources to families to support them in their endeavor to eat healthy and be active. a. Zamzee. This program is a partnership with Hope Lab, Kaiser Permanente, and HEM. The aim of this program is to introduce stakeholders to a new technology researched and developed by Hope Lab with support from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Zamzee. This device and its online reward program target the sedentary behavior of tweens, 11 – 14 years old. The intent is to find innovative ways to leverage tween’s fascination with technology to encourage healthier lifestyle choices. At present, HEM is the fiscal agent for this demonstration grant. HEM’s role will expand as this program is rolled out to the community. b. Kokua Hawaii Foundation. HEM will partner this fall with Kokua Hawaii Foundation to present ‘Two Angry Moms’. This documentary film outlines two moms’ journey to bring healthy food choices to and make sustainable changes at their children’s school cafeteria. HEM and Kokua will host a gathering of parents at school cafeterias to discuss current DOE Food Service offerings, procurement procedures, and how parents can be instrumental in bringing change to their school cafeteria. Segments of the film will be shown and a panel presentation will guide the discussion. The expected outcome of these events is to engage parents who want to make change in their school cafeteria, and provide them necessary support and resources throughout the process. 2. Education House Parties With a grant from Participant Media, HEM, Our Public School (OPS), Hui for Excellence in Education (HE‘E), and Kanu partnered to bring the community a Town Hall discussion (May 2011) that centered around community engagement in education. Clips from the education documentary, Waiting for Superman, and short videos produced by Our Public School were shown and used to build on the power of the documentary by engaging key stakeholders in a critical conversation around education reform. Specifically, local leaders, policymakers, educators, parents, students and other key stakeholders were engaged in a dynamic discussion on key issues impacting our current education system. This Town Hall created a venue for interested citizens to learn and share information, and ultimately inspire action around public education in our communities. HEM was awarded remaining grant funds from this event. These monies will be used to convene ‘education house parties’. Residents will connect with others in their neighborhood to continue the dialogue from the Town Hall event. 3. Come with Me! is a partnership between the YMCA, Family Hui, KCC Applied Nutrition Program, and HEM. Come with Me! seeks to provide targeted parenting classes for families with children 4-5 years old that will assist them in preparing their child for Kindergarten. HEM will develop and implement curriculum for parents that focuses on preparing parents for entering the DOE system. We will provide information and guidance on topics such as how to effectively communicate with your child’s teachers, how to engage in your child’s school, etc. All materials developed (e.g. home to school curriculum alignment) will reside under the Parent Academy. 4. Kailua/Kalaheo Complex Family Academy The purpose of this program is to collaborate with the Kailua/Kalaheo Complex Area Superintendent (CAS), principals, teachers and family members in the development of a complex wide vision, protocols, and model for effective family engagement.

Donor & Volunteer Advisory

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Community Stories

5 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Hawaii Education Matters arose at a time when parents didn't have a voice, and needed one because critical decisions were being made about our children. HEM helps keeps me abreast of pressing education issues and helps plug in parents.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Hawaii Education Matters (HEM) has developed an organization with a variety of resources for parents, teachers and community leaders to address issues related to learning and policy that influence outcomes in Hawaii's schools. HEM encourages family and community involvement at all levels of education and have partnered with various organizations to help implement appropriate programs for our communities.

Initially developed to address 17 furlough days implemented in the public schools in 2009, HEM has expanded their programs to include health education and other tools to help children excel in schools and parents get involved. In a state with limited resources and a notoriously poor public education system, HEM has provided a measurable impact with validated programs that improve the quality of our public schools. As a parent and an educator, I highly endorse HEM.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

As a leader in a Hawaiian private school's parent organization and military spouse, I have seen and heard the critical need for an organization like Hawaii Education Matters. Every child in Hawaii deserves an excellent education, and every family deserves a choice in how they pursue that. HEM not only raises awareness of how a healthy public school system benefits everyone in the community, they also provide tremendous vision with their child-focused initiatives that are applicable to all Hawaii schools, both public and private. I subscribe to the HEM newsletter and personally make every effort to incorporate HEM ideas and suggestions into our parent organization activities.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

When Hawaii public schools choose to implement school furloughs on Fridays, as a member of the public I was pretty angry. I wanted to protest somehow but did not know what to do. I came across Hawaii Education Matters and learned that they were doing a rally at the State Capitol to protest the furloughs. I was able to meet HEM's organizers, members and volunteers. Everyone was working together collectively to get their voice heard. It was a great experience for me to be with concerned parents who were making themselves heard through peaceful protest. I have kept in touch with HEM through their website, following their activities after the rally.


Rating: 5

In my experience, HEM has both the passion and people-power necessary to reach their goals. When asked to partner in a high profile education Town Hall, their leadership jumped in with both feet. They assisted in networking with over 25 other education-based nonprofits to create a Take Action area, organized education professionals for a panel discussion and participated in follow-up activities.
In the world of nonprofits, this level of organization, collaboration and follow-up deserves an A+.