The state Senate Education Committee voted Monday to reject the nominees, making it unlikely that the full Senate would have confirmed the governor’s picks.
The committee voted not to confirm Sandra Scarr, a former psychology professor who serves on several Big Island organizations, and Patrick Naughton, a former provost at Hawaii Community College who has a nonprofit that works with dyslexic students.
Scarr and Naughton were nominated to represent the Big Island on the board. Senators, as is customary, gave Abercrombie the option of withdrawing the nominations before they reached the Senate floor for a final vote.
The committee voted to recommend three other Abercrombie nominees to the board – Saedene Ota, Coralie Matayoshi, and Jan Sullivan – for confirmation.
“It was a tough decision for the committee, obviously, to consider not confirming any individual, especially given that they’re willing to make that commitment and step forward” said state Sen. Jill Tokuda (D, Kaneohe, Kailua), the chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee.
“And they are definitely very involved in the community, they’ve got extensive background in academia, but I think for these two individuals in particular there were some concerns that were raised during the hearing process, reading their responses (to committee questions), in terms of how they would be best be able to serve on the Board of Regents, especially compared to the other candidates who were put forward and confirmed by the committee.”
Tokuda also said she is concerned about the regent selection process, in which an advisory council makes recommendations to the governor. Abercrombie asked for additional names to consider before making his nominations, but he was refused.
Senators are taking a look at the regent selection process now that voters have converted the state Board of Education to an appointed, rather than elected, school board. Lawmakers opted to give the governor the discretion to directly make school board appointments rather than having an advisory council screen and recommend nominees.
“We really have seen the value in a governor being able to look at how an individual appointment’s strengths will add to the whole,” Tokuda said. “When you’ve got a selection committee like the regents do, you are not able to do that.”
Donalyn Dela Cruz, the governor’s spokeswoman, said the governor would ask the regent advisory council for a list of new recommendations.
“This selection process is clearly not working,” she said in an email. “Being that this is the process right now, Gov. Abercrombie will be asking the selection committee for a new list.”
“Now is a crucial time in determining the direction of UH.”
*Note: The version of this story that appears in Tuesday’s newspaper was submitted prior to the disclosure that Abercrombie had withdrawn the nominations.