Thursday, July 18, 2002

School reviews

Kamehameha Schools will gather
input from the local community

By Rick Daysog

The Kamehameha Schools today agreed to step up its dialogue with the local community over its controversial decision to admit a non-Hawaiian student.

The five trustees for the $6-billion estate will hold more than 30 meetings statewide with alumni, parents and members of the Hawaiian community to gather their input on the educational institution's long-term educational goals, according to a spokesman today.

While the trustees made no commitment to changing the admissions policy, they acknowledged that they need more community input on the controversial issue.

The meetings will begin in mid-August and run through early 2003.

"We reaffirm the importance and mission of educating every Hawaiian child," said trustee Douglas Ing, speaking for the Board of Trustees.

"And while the Board strongly reaffirms our policy of preference to Hawaiians in admission to Kamehameha Schools, we also acknowledge the need for more dialogue on this very important matter.

"We are committed to hearing the community's voices, and to incorporating this mana'o into our decision-making. We need to listen and we need to consider the multitude of perspectives within the community we serve," Ing said.

Today's annoucement was made after Ing met with former Kamehameha Schools trustee Oswald Stender, who asked the trust to cancel its decision to admit the non-Hawaiian student.

Stender, whose critiques of the $6 billion estate's management helped lead to the ouster of its former board members said he was appalled by the board's decision to admit Wailuku resident Kalani Rosell into the eighth grade because it takes away educational opportunities from native Hawaiian children who are most in need of the educational programs.

"I have asked them to rescind what they have done and to get a commitment from them not to admit another non-Hawaiian child until all of the education needs of Hawaiian children are met," said Stender, who declined to provide the Star-Bulletin with a copy of his letter. "What they're telling Hawaiian children is, they are not good enough."

Stender said the decision will open "the floodgates" to future litigation. Stender said he expects to see a rise in lawsuits from non-Hawaiian students who apply but are rejected.

"They made it worse," said Stender. "This whole thing is like a bad movie that's being repeated."

Ing, Stender's former attorney, had no comment on today's meeting. But in a news release, Ing said the estate is committed to serving more Hawaiians, citing its recently completed strategic plan. That proposal calls for the trust to spend more than $200 million a year -- nearly double the current rate -- on educating Hawaiian children.

The Kamehameha Schools, founded by the 1884 will of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, gives preference to students of Hawaiian ancestry to the extent allowed under laws governing tax-exempt organizations. According to the trust, non-Hawaiians can be admitted when the list of qualified Hawaiian applicants is exhausted.

From the mid-1940s through the 1960s, Kamehameha admitted non-Hawaiian children of teachers. The school also admitted some non-Hawaiians during the 1930s.

Stender said the estate's chief executive officer, Hamilton McCubbin, "had no clue" on how to deal with the Hawaiian community, which was not consulted on the decision.

Stender said the trust did not do enough to attract more qualified Hawaiian applicants, and he criticized its strict adherence to admission scores.

"I've always disagreed with the policy of taking the brightest," he said. "What we should be doing is helping the kids who need it the most."

That sentiment is shared by Na Pua a Ke Ali'i Pauahi Inc., a parent and alumni group, which responded to the controversy with a position paper criticizing the trustees. "It is clear from the July 15th meeting that the Trustees have realized that they had allowed this flawed decision-making process to continue to its unfortunate end," said Jan Dill, Na Pua's president.

"Furthermore, the Trustees proceeded to make that policy decision without any consultation with or engagement of the constituents of the Kamehameha ohana and the larger Hawaiian community."

Former trustee Henry Peters said he found it hard to believe that the estate could not find a qualified Hawaiian student to fill the opening on Maui. Peters said that when the Maui campus was in the planning stages, the trust conducted extensive demographic research that indicated there are large numbers of Hawaiian students in that district.

Peters, who said he blames reforms initiated by Stender for the current controversy, said he plans to send a letter to the trust outlining his complaints.

"This is not an alumni issue, it's a Hawaiian issue," he said. "They shouldn't be listening to the alumni, they should be listening to the Hawaiian community. More importantly, they should be listening to the will."

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