by Andrew Walden (Updated Sun 4-11-10)
According to a high level source within the DoE, the Charter School Review Panel (CSRP), at its regularly scheduled meeting Wednesday morning, voted to bring a nearly immediate end to the school year for Puna’s Na Wai Ola/Waters of Life Public Charter School. According to the source, the decision will take effect Friday, April 16 leaving parents to scramble to find alternate placements for their children in the middle of the semester and in the midst of HSA testing. The semester for Waters of Life's 80 students was originally to have run until May 26.
Asked if is school was going to shut down next Friday, Dan Caluya, Principal of Na Wai Ola/Waters of Life refused comment, but did say “We are expecting calls. We are making all the notifications. I am carrying out my fiduciary responsibilities an an educator.”
Waters of Life's school board will meet Tuesday between 6 and 8 p.m. at St. Theresa Parish, 18-1355 Volcano Hwy in Mountain View.
According to Caluya, the BoE will be sending out a news release regarding Na Wai Ola. But contacted at his office, BoE public affairs officer Alex Da Silva said he was unaware of any plans to do so. In response to the inquiry, Silva released a statement from BoE Chair Garrett Toguchi: "The Board is aware of and continues to closely monitor the situation faced by Waters of Life Public Charter School. The Board is confident that the Charter School Review Panel, the Department of Education, and the Waters of Life administration will continue to ensure that the safety, health and educational needs of students are met."
Personnel answering the phones at the CSRP office referred questions to CSRP Chair Alvin Parker and Vice Chair Ruth Tschumy but, asked if the CSRP had ordered the closure of Na Wai Ola, one office employee said “that characterization is not accurate.” By email, Tschumy confirmed that Waters of Life "does not have the financial resources to stay open until May 26, the scheduled last day of school." Her statement is appended below.
CSRP April 8 meeting minutes from are not yet posted online, but the agenda posted online for last night’s meeting included two items relating to the school: A report from the Fact Finding Committee on Waters of Life and another titled, “Discussion/Action on Waters of Life PCS organizational viability.” A similar item was on the agenda of the Fact Finding Committee which met Tuesday evening, April 7.
Na Wai Ola has long been troubled by financial difficulties. Its founder, a follower of the theories of UH Hilo Prof Manulani Meyers, resigned last year as part of a reorganization designed to bring the school into compliance.
Na Wai Ola is one of the numerous small charter schools whose approval consumed all available DoE “expansion” Charter School slots. In contrast, the American Heritage Academy, with a DoD Schools-based curriculum designed to serve the students of military personnel, was denied its application for one of the last charter school slots in 2006. By approving the applications of small schools—a process managed by education contractor PREL--the DoE has been able to meet the requirements of federal law without losing control of too many students and too much money to Charter Schools.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.
At its meeting yesterday, The Charter School Review Panel, after extensive analysis and discussion of Waters of Life's current financial situation, passed a motion strongly urging the Local School Board to end this school year early because of lack of funds and provide for an orderly transition of its children to other schools to complete the school year. The Charter School Administrative Office's Chief Financial Officer and WOL's business manager agree that the school does not have the financial resources to stay open until May 26, the scheduled last day of school.
The Panel applauds the LSB, Daniel Caluya, the school's director, and the work of the staff and teachers this year, but financial difficulties inherited from previous years made it an uphill battle for WOL.
Please note that school "closure" and ending the school year early are not the same. The Panel has taken no action on closing the school as in revocation of charter.
This is all we have at this time, but I hope this will help you.
Aloha, Ruth Tschumy, CSRP Vice-Chair
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RELATED: Waters of Life School faces closure
CSRP Agenda April 8, 2010: http://www.hcsao.net/files/2010-04-08_CSRP.General_agenda.doc
CSRP Fact Finding Committee meeting April 7: http://www.hcsao.net/files/2010-04-07_CSRP.Fact_.Find_.comm_agenda.doc
2005 Audit of Na Wai Ola PCS: HI State Auditor Report No. 05-01, Jan. 2005
BoE News Releases are posted here: http://www.boe.k12.hi.us/STATE/BOE/BOEPRESS.NSF/a1d7af052e94dd120a2561f7000a037c?OpenView
American Heritage Academy: Charter School Applicants Call for Federal Investigation of Hawaii DOE