Categorized | Education, Featured

Waimea community turns out to lambast school board

Kahu Billy Mitchell addresses members of the Hookakoo Corp. Board of Directors at Thursday evening's meeting in Waimea. (Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7)

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Editor

More than 300 people packed a meeting Thursday evening to find out why John Colson has been removed as Waimea Middle Public Conversion Charter School principal.

After more than two hours, it didn’t look like they were going to get an answer.

Five members of the Hookakoo Corporation Board of Directors – the independent non-profit that oversees three charter schools – faced a frustrated and displeased audience at Thelma Parker Memorial Gym that included students, parents, school staff, concerned community members and county and state elected officials.

At least four on-duty police officers also were in attendance.

Colson had been principal at the middle school for four years before the board announced earlier this month it had accepted his resignation. Colson resignation is effective March 31, although he is no longer on campus.

At the start of the meeting, Hookakoo Board Chairman Keith Vieira apologized for the way Colson’s departure was handled. He acknowledged parents should have been notified before the student assembly last week.

“John Colson resigned. We accepted his resignation and part of the separation agreement is neither of us can talk. We cannot comment on it,” he said. “John Colson did nothing ethically, morally wrong. We cannot talk about that separation and I’m very, very sorry for that.”

Vieira said Colson would return to campus to speak with the 280 students, but no date has yet been set.

From left: Principal Lydia Trinidad, board president and corporation executive director Megan McCorriston, Guy Kaulukuki, Keith Vieira, Ray Soon and Ann Botticelli. (Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7)

In addition to Vieira, board members in attendance included board president and corporation executive director Megan McCorriston, and members Ann Botticelli, Ray Soon, Guy Kaulukuki.

Also in attendance was Lydia Trinidad, who is principal of Kualapuu Elementary School on Molokai. Trinidad has been named interim principal at Waimea; she said she will be on campus starting next Thursday.

Trinidad said her first step would be to listen and she would rely on the leadership of the teachers and community.

However, when two former students asked how she felt coming to Waimea, she said, “I’m scared.”

One of the students finished his testimony by saying to Trinidad: “I think I would feel a lot better if you had more of a plan than just going day by day.”

A search committee will be formed to select a new principal for the 2012-13 school year, Vieira said, and three teachers have been invited to visit Kamaile Academy in Waianae to “see the changes put in place.” Two top Kamaile administrators were fired 15 months ago, which sparked controversy at the Oahu school.

Despite Vieira saying the board was tied by the confidentiality agreement, the majority of speakers wanted to know why Colson left the school in the middle of the academic year and immediately before the Hawaii State Assessment tests, and called for his reinstatement.

Board member Guy Kaulukuki speaks with students before the meeting. (Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7)

Sen. Malama Solomon said she was shocked to hear Colson had resigned and immediately called all nine board members. Only Mitchel D’Olier returned her call.

Solomon said the board should encourage Colson to stay through the end of the academic year.

“I think it’s a very reasonable request. I would advise very strongly that you go back to Oahu and reconsider. Very strongly,” she said.
“There is not one democratic process where you cannot reconsider. And these are taxpayer dollars.”

Solomon also noted that despite the board indicating Colson’s resignation was voluntary, both parties have retained attorneys.

Rep. Cindy Evans said the rules, regulations and laws governing charter school boards “obviously aren’t working.” She urged the board to work with lawmakers to refine and restructure the laws.

Parent Randy Horne said he refused to believe Colson would voluntarily offer his resignation.

“We all know that is a lie,” he said. “All these people would like to know why you forced him out.”

The board members reiterated that they accepted Colson’s resignation and could not comment on the specifics.

Vieira declined to disclose when, where or which members of the board were involved in the decision. Ultimately, the board members did agree to consider talking to Colson about releasing details of his departure.

(Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7)

Kahu Billy Mitchell called for the board to invite Colson back through the end of the school year.

“People won’t stand by while board members from Oahu have wounded his name and reputation and no-one will say why. That’s not acceptable. The truth will bleed out,” he said. “It’s not up to us to come up here one at a time and ask you, beg you to reverse this. You must. You have to.”

Mitchell said if the board is “going to have a future in this town” it must reconsider.

“Somebody put some kind of gun to his head and that’s why he resigned. He didn’t resign willingly. You made this man resign,” he said. “I won’t accept any other condition than that John Colson is bought back.”

Teri Kimura-Chong, who worked with Colson for many years at Hawaii Preparatory Academy and called him a mentor, also urged the board to reconsider.

“You must take this opportunity and make things right. You say John resigned, (but) we know John, he would never abandon his kids — never,” she said. “You can invite John Colson back, you can reinstate him and he would be back in a heart beat. Do what is right for the sake of these kids.”

Parent Claire Brouwer noted that the board’s decisions have disrupted all three schools it oversees in 15 months and asked what the pattern means.

Vieira said circumstances at Kamaile Academy were ‘completely different.’

Brouwer called for Colson to be reinstated.

“If you don’t think you can reverse your decision, we will do everything we can to revoke your charter,” she said. “First and foremost, we want our principal back and we will do everything we can to ensure that happens.”

(Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7)

Eighth-grader Laakea Paio quizzed the board directly.

“What are you hiding from us? That’s what the whole student body would like to know,” she asked.

Vieira said the board was not hiding anything.

“Are you sure?” she continued. “Because you are not answering anything. We want answers. We don’t want excuses. We all think you’re lying, we all think you’re hiding something and that’s from all of us, so, do you have an answer?”

Vieira replied, “I answered no, we are not.”

(Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7)

Before the meeting, students and parents waved signs outside the gym.

Asked why they admire Colson, students had ready answers:

“He changed all of our lives.”

“He gave us lots of opportunities to be better.”

“He gave us better education.”

“He taught us the four core values. It’s respect, integrity, accountability and kaizen, which is when you try to do better today than you did yesterday.”

The students said the board has broken all of the four core values.

“And that’s not right. They’re being disrespectful to us and Mr. Colson and they are not being accountable. Mr. Colson belongs here.”

— Find out more:
www.hookakoo.org/
waimeamiddleschool.org/

7 Responses to “Waimea community turns out to lambast school board”

  1. Concern Parents of Waimea Middle School!!! says:

    The picture above showing Mr. Guy Kaulukuki with comment “Board member Guy Kaulukuki speaks with students before the meeting.” is false. He was not speaking to the children he was only in that position for couple seconds and asked for a picture to be taken. This was fabricated to look like he cared about our children. After this picture was taken there was no further interactions with the children from anyone of these board members. LIE LIE LIE!!! Please considered bringing back our beloved principal JOHN COLSON!!!!

  2. Debbie ConcernedParent says:

    Regarding that picture of Guy Kaulukuki – this guy bent over and said “take a picture”! AND you put that he’s talking to the kids! That’s total BS!! Why would you even put this picture – its a LIE!

  3. Karin says:

    Mr. Kaulukuki did not specifically ask me to take his photograph – I did not speak with him all evening. I was up behind the media desk when I noticed him bending down talking to the students. In fact, a parent told me NOT to take the photo because the students are minors. I took several dozen photographs in and around the public meeting and selected these to accompany the story.

  4. Becky lau says:

    SHAME ON YOU I TOLD YOU NOT TO TAKE THE PICTURE AND YET YOU DID LIKE I SAID YOU DID NOT HAVE THE PARENTS PERMISSION TAKE THE PICTURE EXPECT A BOMBARDMENT OF ANGRY UPSET PARENTS AND POSSIBLY A LAWSUIT FOR PHOTOGRAPHING MINORS WITHOUT THEIR PARENTS PERMISSION EVEN THOUGH I TOLD YOU NOT TO AND TO ASK THEIR PARENTS HOW ABOUT YOU POST A PICTURE OF A BOARD MEMBER SLEEPING !!! AT THE MEETING !!!! BUT LIKE I SAID TO FELLOW WAIMEA COMMUNITY MEMBERS ANYTHINH FOR THE MEDIA TO SELL PAPERS OR GET RATINGS. THIS IS NOT AN OVERLY PERSONAL ATTACK IT IS THE TRUTH !!!! AND FREEDOM OF SPEECH

  5. nocan says:

    HC is doesn’t care about anything but themselves..bunch of crooks

  6. Randy says:

    Keith Vieira said circumstances at Kamaile Academy were ‘completely different.’ If you take time to watch Cutting Off the Po’o, Parts 1, 2a and 2b you will see it is EXACTLY the same thing, word for word as to what Keith Vieira and his hoodlums did to Waimea Middle School. Go to Facebook Colson 4 WMS and watch the videos from last weeks meeting at Waimea Middle School, see for yourself, you be the judge!

  7. Sensibility says:

    The day this website requires registration for the forums is the day I stop visiting it.

    As long as people don’t violently attack others etc they should be free to say what they want to.

    So far so good.

    thank you

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