Chad Keone Farias
MEd in Educational Administration, Executive Director of the School Facilities Authority
"I am obsessed with making Hawai`i the best it can be to serve and support its people."
- MEd, Educational Administration: Higher Ed
COEAA Spotlight on Chad Keone Farias
I grew up in Hilo when it was a “small town” on Hawaiʻi Island. I attended Hilo Union and Hilo Intermediate, before heading to Kamehameha High School Kapālama, then returned to Hilo High and graduated in 1989. We walked to school and to the Boys Club and then to baseball, football, basketball, and whatever sport was in season. When we got home, mom sat us down in front of her while she cooked to supervise our homework. My parents kept us focused on the few things that mattered: family, faith, school, sports.
I attended public school most of my K–12 experience and had some amazing educators influence me throughout the years. I would say what made me want to be an educator was the fact that although I had some great years, I also had some not-so-great years. I understood early in life that teachers and mentors shaped me and helped me find success, and I wanted to be that person for others. I would have to add that I grew up in a home with awesome parents who, though we didn’t have a lot of money, sacrificed to give my siblings and me everything we needed.
• Bachelorʻs Degree in History and Education, Loyola Marymount University
• Teaching Certification, UH Mānoa College of Education
• Master of Arts, Cal State University Long Beach
• Administrator Certification (2), UH Mānoa College of Education
• MEd in Educational Administration, UH Mānoa College of Education
I was encouraged and pushed by retired COE professor, Dr. Ernestine Enomoto, to complete my MEd. She supported me, made extra time to meet with me, and even flew to meet me a few times at Keaʻau Elementary where I was principal to keep me on track. It was amazing! She was amazing!
Road to College
My dad was a contractor and built houses and apartments while I was growing up. When we were not playing sports, we were helping build. I attended college and began pursuing a degree in engineering. When I returned for the summers, I started volunteering and was later employed working in summer programs and coaching high school sports. I fell in love with the entire high school experience and began focusing on a degree in education. I attended Cal State University Long Beach and completed the coursework for an MA in Occupational Studies in the hopes of combining teaching and building, which I was able to do briefly, but year after year I was temporarily assigned to administration lines and finally made the decision to become an administrator.
History as an Educator
In the early years, I started as a volunteer at Hilo High School where I later became a long-term substitute. Once I completed my teaching certification, I taught various subjects at different schools including Hilo High, Waiākea Intermediate, Honokaʻa High and Intermediate. I also served as student activities coordinator and coached different sports, including volleyball, basketball, cross country, and track and field.
After I completed the administrator certification program, I served as the Hilo High School Vice Principal and Kea`au Elementary School Principal. In 2014, I became the Ka`u- Kea`au-Pahoa Complex Area Superintendent until 2022 (and simultaneously served as the Hilo-Waiakea Complex Area Superintendent for one year in 2018). I have been the Executive Director of the School Facilities Authority since May 2022.
Greatest Challenge You Faced as an Educator
The most challenging event or series of events I faced as an educator happened when I was transitioning from principal to Complex Area Superintendent. In June 2014, Kīlauea began erupting, heading east toward Pāhoa town; the flow was making its way steadily toward the ocean and would cross highway 130, cutting off Pāhoa from Hilo and isolating our workforce and families on either side. We quickly sprung into action, concerned for the safety and well-being of our employees. We quickly opened a temporary school in the parking lot of Keʻeau High School to care for our employees and students. It was so amazing seeing people come together and put their own needs aside to achieve this.
Fast forward a few years and the greatest devastation of volcanic activity in 70 years takes place again in the Eastern Rift Zone. This time, over 20 fissures open up and over 700 homes in Nānāwale and Kapoho were lost. Once again, we remained calm, and with the assistance of many, we started to mitigate against lava taking over our roads, highways, and other routes to our schools. This lava event was easier to manage in terms of keeping schools open and our keiki safe, but this time the emotion of families and staff members losing homes was at a totally different level.
First Executive Director of the School Facilities Authority
I was an SFA Board member when I was appointed by Governor Ige to head the School Facilities Authority. My appointment was approved by the State Senate in May 2022, and I began work immediately to set up this new State agency from scratch. ACT 257 was assigned to the SFA in 2022 and we began work with our agency partners including the Lieutenant Governor’s Office and The Ready Keiki initiative to accomplish this assignment. Act 257 appropriated $200 million to expand public Pre-K programs in the State. With our DOE partners we were able to open 11 new classrooms in Aug. 2023 for the Executive Office of Early Learning, a year ahead of schedule and under budget. We are currently assessing the next set of 44 classrooms for EOEL and are in pre-construction on a few already. These new Pre-K classrooms should be ready to open in August 2024. Fifty million dollars was allocated by the 2023 Legislature to explore building teacher housing to address one of the concerns our State faces in retaining teachers. Our focus has been on Maui and Oʻahu for the first two projects. Those Request for Proposals will be out as early as mid-November. SFA has also been tasked with new school construction for central Maui and in Kapolei, and we are currently working with stakeholders including the DOE on these projects. The SFA is making great gains in terms of what has been assigned to us, but we have much more work to do.
Three Fun Facts
1. I have two daughters. My eldest is an engineer in California, and the youngest is a commercial pilot in Arizona.
2. I have been happily married to my beautiful wife Yonnell for 25 years.
3. I am a sports junkie but stick to light weights and jogging these days.
‘O Hawai‘i kuʻu ‘āina kilohana translates to Hawai`i is my prized place. I am obsessed with making Hawai`i the best it can be to serve and support its people. I am grateful to the public school system for giving me the start I needed to succeed in life. I would not have been able to serve my prized Hawai`i if not for UH, an institution that leverages its resources to find ways to serve Hawai`i’s needs.