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1996-2007 The Honolulu Star-Bulletin |
Vol. 12, Issue 264 - Friday, September 21, 2007

Charter schools chief talks of quitting

A new panel peeves the interim chief, who threatens to give her resignation


The executive director of the Charter School Administrative Office is considering resigning amid troubles surrounding a new administrative panel.

Maunalei Love, who has held the $85,000-a-year post since the Board of Education fired her predecessor, Jim Shon, in September 2006, said she has not been able to work well with the Charter School Review Panel.

The panel took some of the power of approving and revoking charters away from the school board through a bill passed this spring by the Legislature.


The state's top charter school official might leave her post, one year after assuming oversight of the state's 28 charters following the turbulent firing of her predecessor.

Maunalei Love, named interim executive director of the Charter School Administrative Office in September 2006 to replace Jim Shon, said yesterday she "is thinking about" quitting the $85,000-a-year job.

Love, a former administrator of the charter Hakipu'u Learning Center on Oahu, said she is frustrated with operations of the Charter School Review Panel, which took some of the power of approving and revoking charters away from the Board of Education through a bill passed by Legislature this spring.

Love said that during the panel's latest meeting, last week in Hilo, she became upset when some panel members allegedly tried to prevent her from clarifying items on the 2008-09 proposed budget for charter schools.

"I took this job to make a difference, and if I'm not being allowed to work to the extent that is totally supportive of charter schools, if I'm not being allowed to do my job, then it may be that I need to work with another system," she said.

Since it first convened in the summer, the panel has struggled to select applicants to fill three new charter school slots. At its Hilo meeting, the 12-member panel lost a member with the resignation of Manu Meyer, an assistant professor of education at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

While the panel is experiencing some initial setbacks, John Thatcher, president of the Hawaii Association of Charter Schools, believes it will become a better venue than the school board to push for the growth of charters.

"This is like family. Families have problems, but they get over it and they are still related," he said. "The Board of Education was like living under a tyrant."

School board Chairwoman Karen Knudsen said the panel should be given time to work.

"It's a brand-new panel, new people are getting used to each other, so we just have to hope for the best," she said.

And the panel is making progress, passing a $72 million charter budget for 2008-09 that was approved by a school board committee this week, said panel member Alvin Parker, director of Ka Waihona O Ka Na'auao charter school in Waianae.

The proposed budget tops the current $51 million given to charters, breaking down to about $8,700 per student, a $700 per-pupil increase, said Bob Roberts, the office's chief financial officer. The request includes $4.2 million for facilities and $250,000 to run the new panel.

Meanwhile, news of Love's possible departure comes 10 days ahead of a scheduled review panel vote to choose a permanent executive director from two nominees chosen by the Hawaii Charter School Network.

The school board picked Love to head the 6,239-student charter system after ousting Shon, a former state legislator, without reason in a closed-door meeting last September. Shon's firing sparked protests among charter school leaders who felt he was a good leader during the two years he served.

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1996-2007 The Honolulu Star-Bulletin |