Categorized | Education, Featured

School board to address Waimea principal’s departure

(Photo special to Hawaii 24/7 by Steve Summers)

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Editor

A meeting is scheduled for 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 16 at the Thelma Parker Memorial Gym to address the departure of middle school principal John Colson.

The meeting has been called by the Hookakoo Corporation Board of Directors, which is the independent governing body for Waimea Middle Public Conversion Charter School. The board is based on Oahu and has two other partner schools – Kamaile Academy in Waianae and Kualapuu School on Molokai.

Waimea students, parents, faculty and community members were stunned last week to learn Colson would be leaving the school after four years.

In a Feb. 11 media release, the board indicated it had “accepted the resignation of Waimea Middle School Principal John Colson effective March 31, 2012. Colson will immediately take sabbatical leave to focus on statewide public charter schools issues and opportunities that can benefit all public charter schools in Hawaii.”

No further explanation has been given to the children or the parents.

Sean Marsh, whose daughter is a sixth grader, said he is very concerned about the board’s actions and the way the board is handling the issue.

Marsh said the school community is demanding Colson be reinstated as he believes he did not resign voluntarily.

“He did not resign. They made it seem like there were improprieties. But I can 100% guarantee that’s not true. He would never do anything against the kids,” Marsh said. “Everybody loves Mr. Colson. He meets kids at the back gate every morning, even when it’s 46 degrees and raining. He’s a super man.”

The board did issue a statement saying there were no improprieties and praised Colson’s work.

Marsh said the board’s lack of communication has frustrated parents and confused the students, who organized their own boycott Monday.

The school enrollment is 280 students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades, but Marsh said attendance Monday was 139.

“It was the kids’ idea to boycott. It wasn’t just that they wanted a day off. It wasn’t a play day. They are very heartbroken,” he said. “They spent the day learning about boycotts and writing letters to the board, the governor, whoever they thought could help.”

In a memo to the families and community dated Feb.13, board chairman Keith Vieira said:

“We would like the opportunity meet with you to discuss Mr. Colson’s resignation and future opportunities for your school. We want to continue building on the Waimea community’s vision of this school as a thriving ‘place of infinite possibilities.’ Mahalo for trusting the education and safety of your children to Waimea Middle School and Hookakoo.”

Marsh said the parents also intend to pack Thursday’s meeting to ask the board directly for an explanation.

“We want to show our kids the proper way of doing things, of going to the board and asking them,” he said.

Marsh said the parents also are sticking up for the teachers. “They are stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

The move comes two weeks before the critical Hawaii State Assessment tests, which are used to evaluate the school and its students. Parents are concerned the upheaval will impact the test scores.

“There’s no way Mr. Colson would do that to the kids,” Marsh said. “He’s just not that kind of guy.”

Meanwhile, Megan McCorriston, who is president of the Hookakoo Corp. Board of Directors and Hookakoo Corp. executive director, has been named interim principal.

She was not on campus Monday and is not expected to arrive until Thursday. Colson’s last day at the school was Feb. 3.

McCorriston’s open letter to the Waimea Middle School community dated Feb. 8 was the first parents learned of Colson’s departure. The letter is now posted on the school website.

The memo in full:

Aloha Waimea Middle School Ohana,

Hookakoo, the local school board for Waimea Middle School, held an assembly yesterday for students and staff/faculty to announce that John Colson will be leaving his role as Principal and Chief Education and Executive Officer of Waimea Middle School. Mr. Colson has served as the school’s leader for the past four years.

Mr. Colson’s tenure brought much needed stability to the school and allowed for it to become a more integrated part of the Waimea community. Please join us in wishing him the best in his future endeavors.

An executive search has begun for a new principal, and plans are being implemented for interim leadership for the remainder of the school year. A new principal is anticipated to be on board in June following the end of the current school year.

We understand that many of you may have questions or concerns. To this end, we are planning for a parent/community meeting in the near future. You will be notified as soon as a date for this meeting has been set.

For immediate questions or concerns, please contact Megan McCorriston, Hookakoo Executive Director, by email at: or phone: (808) 983-3835

Megan McCorriston
Executive Director

Prior to Waimea Middle School, Colson worked 25 years at Hawaii Preparatory Academy, including serving as headmaster.

Colson has not spoken publicly about his departure from the school.

However, the Feb. 11 media release from the board included the following statement from Colson:

“Waimea has been my home for more than 35 years and I am an educator. I hope to find a leadership position in education in the area and I also hope to develop partnerships with WMS as a means of staying connected to the dedicated professionals and families of the school. I truly valued my tenure at WMS and feel blessed to have had the opportunity to work with this focused, innovative team of educators and with our students and families.”

From the Hookakoo website:

“Conversion charter schools operate under an assumption that they can create an environment that fosters increased student achievement by increasing their accountability to all stakeholders (including the chartering authority), by increasing teacher mission and commitment and by valuing professional development, by increasing parent and community involvement in the school, by providing ‘wraparound’ help for students, by holding high expectations for all students, and by frequent assessment and analysis of student performance to inform instruction.

“In addition, conversion charter schools must receive adequate funding, must have an effective organizational structure, must provide strong, stable and effective leadership, and must have adequate facilities or the means to acquire such facilities.”

Hookakoo Board of Directors

Hookakoo Corporation is currently led by an eight-member volunteer board of directors, with Keith Vieira as chairman. The HC Board of Directors serves as the local school board of the conversion charter schools.

Each board member has committed to the HC mission and has made significant contributions to the organization through active participation on board committees as the chairperson or member.

The committees are the Program Committee; Administrative, Personnel, Nominating and Governance Committee; Budget and Finance Committee; and the Strategic Planning Committee.

* Keith Vieira
Chair, Hookakoo Corporation Board of Directors
Senior Vice President
Director of Operations for Hawaii & French Polynesia
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc.

* Pauline Lo Bailey
Vice Chair, Hookakoo Corporation Board of Directors
Director of Human Resources & Co-Curricular Programs
Punahou School

* Megan McCorriston
President, Hookakoo Corporation Board of Directors
Executive Director
Hookakoo Corporation

* Robert Witt
Vice President, Hookakoo Corporation
Executive Director
Hawaii Association of Independent Schools

* Ann Botticelli
Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications
Hawaiian Airlines

* H. Mitchel D’Olier
President & CEO
Kaneohe Ranch Co., LTD

* Guy H. Kaulukukui, Ph.D.
Deputy Director
Department of Land and Natural Resources

* Ray Soon
Managing Partner
Solutions Pacific, LLC.

* Donald Young
Director, Curriculum Research & Development Group
College of Education, University of Hawaii

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