Kahili Anderson, Megan Kaipo, Shaianne
Moniz-Metcalf and Gabby Waite were among the
scores of public charter school students and
staffers from four islands who crowded into the
Waiakeawaena Elementary cafeteria in an effort to
sway the Board of Education to release funds for
their schools. All the girls are fifth- and
sixth-graders at Innovations Public Charter School
in Kona, except for Anderson, who is a 2004
graduate. - Photos By William Ing/Tribune-Herald
Stormy inside and out
Scores turn out for Board of
Education meeting in Hilo
by Peter SurMeeting Thursday in Hilo, the state Board
of Education debated three crucial budgets, eased
implementation of the weighted student formula and recognized
the charter schools' volunteer and educator of the
The board first had to weather pointed and at
times personal criticism by charter school supporters over the
dismissal of Jim Shon, the former executive director of the
Charter Schools Administrative Office.
Those who braved
Thursday's lightning storm stood in the rain at the entrance
to Waiakeawaena Elementary School, holding signs. Others,
prevented by the 150-person capacity of the school cafeteria,
held up their signs outside.
students and charter school administrators were armed with
yellow helium balloons and signs that read "Small schools are
cool" and "BOE be a sail, not an anchor" in block letters,
hoisting them above the crowd.
"I really see that the recent actions of
the board were not in the best interest of charter schools,"
said Prana Mandoe of Hilo, lead teacher of Kua O Ka La Public
Charter School. She said Shon's firing and delayed action on
funding was "directly and negatively affecting the education
we are giving our students."
Her comments were echoed
by others during nearly 90 minutes of public
Another member of the school, administrator
Susan Osborne, said that a Honolulu newspaper had quoted board
member Cecil Heftel as saying it did not matter who headed the
Heftel said that report was false,
adding that "for reasons I don't understand, I did not
participate" in Shon's firing. That drew a caution from board
Chairman Randall Yee regarding comments made in executive
session. Heftel replied that his comments were related solely
to Osborne's comments, prompting a second warning from
Those in attendance applauded and shouted,
Several students also testified about
the change that charter schools have made in their otherwise
One woman at Volcano Public Charter
School suggested that board members follow some of the basic
teachings that charter school students learn, such as honesty,
listening and even making eye contact.
"What school do
you go to?" she snapped, prompting more applause. Board member
Mary Cochran, upset by recent news reports about the BOE,
asked Chairman Yee that confidentiality be waived so the
reasons for Shon's firing could be revealed. The request was
The board did, however, unanimously approve the
operating and capital improvement project budget request for
the Hawaii State Public Library System.
Committee on Budget and Fiscal Accountability recommended
additional general funds of $1.86 million in the fiscal year
2007-2008, and $1.82 million in the year after that for
operating cost increases.
Board members, after debate,
approved by a 9-3 vote a proposal regarding the weighted
The formula allocates a certain amount
of money to public schools depending on the economic status,
geographic location and size of each school. But fully
implementing the formula would result in drastic budget cuts
to many schools.
The proposal adopted by the board
continued implementing the weighted student formula at 15
percent of the total formula for the school year
"It is my opinion that we are effectively
gutting and killing the weighted student formula," said board
member Paul Vierling, explaining his vote against it. He said
deferring the cuts would require a 75 percent cut to some
schools in the next year.
Konawaena Middle School
became the Big Island's top beneficiary of a revised capital
improvement budget the board approved, along with $215 million
next year to improve all schools statewide. The Kealakekua
school's $9.3 million request for a locker/shower building was
ranked 27th on the list of priorities, which must still be
included in Gov. Linda Lingle's executive budget and the
legislative appropriation process before Lingle releases the
Before the CIP vote, Big Island board member and
First Vice Chairman Herbert Watanabe made a successful motion
to shift $804,000 from the state lump sum for building
temporary facilities into the lump sum for staff
Much earlier in the day, the interim executive
director of the Charter School Administrative Office gave her
report, which was admittedly brief because she had only been
on the job since Sept. 25.
Vanelle Maunalei Love began
by voicing regret on behalf of the charter schools over the
firing of Jim Shon, the former executive director.
charter school community feels basically as if they lost a
member of their ohana, and I have to say that because I do
represent the charter schools," Love said. She also asked that
the charter school budget report be submitted and
"I'm hoping to act as a connection, as a link
between the Department of Education and the charter schools.
That is very important," Love said.
One woman drove
over from Kailua-Kona to express her displeasure with the
"I'm a parent of an Innovations Public Charter
School student and we're upset with the decision the BOE made
to fire Jim Shon," Julie Pai said in the afternoon session,
before the dinner break. "We feel that the decision was
disrespectful to the charter school system and the community.
It showed that the board does not support positive school
reform, so charter schools no longer want the BOE to oversee
charter schools. They'd like to see another public
"We feel charter schools are the hope of
Hawaii's children, and the decision to fire Jim Shon despite
the success that he's achieved was unwarranted, and it showed
they do not support charter schools and it upset a lot of us,"
Pai said. She hoped that the board would reinstate
The planned major rally for charter schools was
dampened by Thursday's thunderstorm and by the surprise
announcement Wednesday that the board would not be voting on
the charter school budget. It was the second time it's been
Chairman Yee said it would be ready "within
the next two weeks." He also declined to comment on the Shon
The BOE's next general meeting is scheduled on
Oct. 19 at Pearl City High School on Oahu.
John Bush, a
teacher at Volcano Public Charter School in Kapoho who also
teaches technical classes at Na Kua O Ka La, voiced his
support for charter schools while the board met in executive
"I'm here because I'm a concerned teacher and
realize that the charter school system needs to gain as much
support as possible for the charter school mission of
basically forging new ground in education," Bush said. He told
how one of the directors of his school called it a "research
and development arm of the educational system."
means that the charter schools are actually pioneering new
techniques, and they have the flexibility to try new
approaches to education, and we're able to find out what works
and what doesn't work."
Bush also praised Shon as an
"extremely effective executive director" and called his firing
"a great blow to the system."
Peter Sur can be reached
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