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Hawaii schools struggle to keep new teachers


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"Here is a community of a marginalized ethnic group and because of the way everything gets structured in a bureaucratic schools system, they just get screwed over and over again," he said.

For some, the cost of living gets to be too much.

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Kristen Wong, who left her job teaching special education on the Big Island to pursue a master’s degree at Harvard University, met her fiance in Hawaii, but the costs of visiting their families on the mainland started to seem more daunting as they looked forward to having children.

Wong, 29, worked a second job most of her time in Hawaii to make ends meet. The entry level salary for the current school year starts at $33,169.

"It was really, really hard to make things work," she said. "I have student loans. I have a car loan ... I’m actually pretty fiscally responsible."

Now, state officials are focused on teachers like Owen Allsopp. The 22-year-old graduate of University of Massachusetts at Amherst is settling into teaching first-grade at Pahala Elementary on the Big Island and sharing a house with three new teachers.

Before the first day of school, he already had a good grasp of Hawaiian names and words. And he’s aware of the pressure to keep him.

"I know it’s so important because it’s hard to create lasting change if there’s so much transition happening," he said. "There needs to be serious commitment."

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Follow Jennifer Sinco Kelleher at http://www.twitter.com/jenhapa .


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