New Japan superintendent keys in on deployment issues
Stars and Stripes August 30, 2009
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Clayton Fujie is new to mainland Japan’s Defense Department school system, but he understands the issues facing military children.
Fujie comes to the Department of Defense Education Activity as the new Japan District superintendent after 40 years as a teacher and top-level administrator in Hawaii, where thousands of military children are educated in state-run public schools on and off base. DODEA does not operate schools in the state, but Hawaii’s Department of Education and the military work together for the "joint venture education system," Fujie said.
As Hawaii’s deputy superintendent of education for eight years before coming to Japan, Fujie worked with military officials to address the needs of servicemembers’ children in school and oversaw a military culture course for educators. He also was involved in curriculum partnerships between Hawaii and DODEA.
With deployments among the top issues facing military children, Fujie said enhancing outreach to students and parents is as important in Japan as it is in Hawaii.
"When a parent deploys, you find that the entire household changes, and from the school standpoint we looked at how we could support the parent that was still there. This is something I know we’ll continue here," he said.
Through his work with military student initiatives, including programs with Tripler Army Medical Center Hospital in Honolulu, Fujie said he learned that anticipation of a parent’s deployment as well as the deployment itself can affect a child, but so can a parent’s return.
"When a parent comes home, that’s another transition," he said.
"We want to be sure when the one parent leaves and then they come back that our staff and everyone is cognizant that there might be changes in the transition and aware of how we can help that child."
"They’re with us one-third of the day," Fujie said. "We’re there to educate the child but, at the same time, if there’s emotional stress going on it’s hard for them to learn. So we need to do what we can to help them."
Identifying changes in students and communicating that information to parents provides the foundation for such help, he said.
Fujie, who came to DODDS on Aug. 4 and is based at Yokota Air Base, said he will spend much of the next few months visiting schools and meeting with administrators, commanders and others to familiarize himself with the DODDS environment.
"But if you look at education, no matter what system you’re in, the goals never change. You’re always there to help every child learn," he said.
There are, however, differences between the military and civilian school systems, he said.
"I’m finding also that to bring a teacher to Japan does take some time, not like in the States or Hawaii where you have a pool ready to go," he said. "It’s a learning curve for me. A lot of differences and different ways of handling things."
Fujie, 63, is a husband and father of two adult children, and has an affinity for Japan.
As a first baseman and outfielder for a semi-professional baseball team and a fast-pitch softball team in the 1970s and 1980s, he made several trips to the country.
"There’s a whole bunch of things I love about Japan. The people and food are just a few," he said.
A native of Hilo, Hawaii, Fujie holds a bachelor’s degree in history and physical education from Willamette University in Oregon and a master’s degree in school administration from the University of Hawaii.