Tuesday, May 6, 2003

rattle trust

Kamehameha's CEO resigns
abruptly after his relationship
with a staffer is investigated

CEO search hinges on outreach

Hamilton McCubbin, the first chief executive officer in the Kamehameha Schools' 119-year history, resigned from his $350,000-a-year post after the estate's board of trustees investigated an alleged inappropriate relationship with a female staffer.

The 61-year-old McCubbin's departure, which comes several months after he signed a three-year contract extension, stunned members of the Kamehameha Schools community.

It also comes on the heels of the ethical and legal scandals of the late 1990s that brought the nonprofit Kamehameha Schools to the brink of financial ruin.

McCubbin, a 1959 Kamehameha Schools graduate, announced his resignation yesterday in a news conference and said he is leaving because he has achieved many of the goals he set when he joined the $6 billion trust three years ago. He later declined comment about the board's investigation.

McCubbin said he took the job with the understanding that he would serve as a transitional CEO. He said he wanted to spend more time with his children and grandchildren on the mainland and looked forward to resuming his writing and academic career.

"I leave with the sense that the trustees have reinforced the progress and the development of the institution. It's really in very good hands," McCubbin said.

The move comes after the estate conducted an internal investigation into allegations that McCubbin had an inappropriate relationship with a female staffer.

One person familiar with the situation said that an inquiry conducted by the trust's human resources department found no wrongdoing. But another person familiar with the investigation said the estate's five-member board of trustees took the matter seriously.

The estate declined comment on the reasons for McCubbin's departure. In an e-mail to employees and school parents, board Chairwoman Constance Lau said, "As a personnel matter, it is not in the best interest of the institution to discuss the details of McCubbin's departure."

Attorney General Mark Bennett said he and Deputy Attorney General Hugh Jones met with two of the estate's trustees yesterday about the circumstances of McCubbin's departure.

Bennett, whose office serves as legal guardian of the charitable estate, declined to disclose the details of the talks but said the board answered all their questions. He said his office plans to take no action on the matter.

This is the second time that McCubbin has left an academic institution under unusual circumstances. McCubbin stepped down as dean of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's school of human ecology in 1999 after a female professor filed a sexual harassment complaint.

McCubbin told the Star-Bulletin several years ago that he left the university because he was burned out and that the complaint was meritless and had nothing to do with his leaving.

With McCubbin's resignation, Kamehameha Schools finds itself with vacancies at several key leadership positions.

In January, Dudley "Skip" Hare, the estate's vice president of education and former chief educational officer, left the trust. That move came a month after Eric Yeaman, the estate's chief financial officer, resigned to become treasurer and chief financial officer of Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc.

The estate's board named Colleen Wong, the trust's vice president for legal affairs, as acting chief executive officer and chancellor. The board also has begun a search for McCubbin's replacement and said it hopes to have a new CEO within six months.

McCubbin said he renewed his three-year employment contract in February. He said he received an increase to his $350,000-a-year salary, but did not provide details.

McCubbin, a world-renowned expert on early-childhood education, had served as the Kamehameha Schools' chief executive officer since January 2000. His appointment was hailed as a major milestone in the three-year controversy surrounding the estate and former trustees Henry Peters, Richard "Dickie" Wong, Lokelani Lindsey, Oswald Stender and Gerard Jervis.

The Internal Revenue Service threatened to revoke the estate's nonprofit status in 1999 but settled after the former board members resigned and the trust implemented a CEO-based management structure.

During his tenure, McCubbin oversaw the trust's ambitious expansion of its educational reach as it opened new satellite campuses on the neighbor islands, reinstituted several early-childhood education programs and looked to partner with the state Department of Education to establish charter schools in neighborhoods heavily populated by native Hawaiians.

McCubbin also was in the middle of last year's Maui campus controversy in which the schools admitted their first non-Hawaiian student in more than 40 years. The move, which McCubbin called "gut-wrenching," was heavily criticized by the Hawaiian community, which believed that it violated the will of the estate's founder, Bernice Pauahi Bishop.

Roy Benham, past president of the Kamehameha Schools Alumni Association's 1,000-member Oahu region, said he received many calls from members of the Kamehameha Schools ohana who were shocked by McCubbin's departure.

While McCubbin has accomplished much during his three years at the trust, he also has irritated many, Benham said.

Jan Dill, president of the 1,000-member parent and alumni group Na Pua a Ke Ali'i Pauahi Inc., said several members also expressed concerns about the high turnover within the trust's senior management ranks at a crucial time for the trust.

"I hope and I trust that the trustees will take a deep breath and say we need to reorient ourselves and find out who will be the leader who will take us forward in the next decade," Dill said.


Search for new CEO
hinges on outreach

Hawaiian community leaders say the successor to Hamilton McCubbin as chief executive officer of the Kamehameha Schools needs to continue the schools' expanded outreach to Hawaiian children.

"Whoever is going to be running the school needs to understand how there's a crisis in Hawaiian education out there in the public school system, and Kamehameha must do everything it can in order to alleviate that crisis," said Lilikala Kame'eleihiwa, who serves on an advisory council to the school's board and its CEO.

Kame'eleihiwa, director of the Center for Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawaii, has been one of McCubbin's strongest critics since he took the post in February 2000. Last year, she called for his resignation, as well as the school's board of trustees, after a non-Hawaiian boy on Maui was admitted to the school, touching off a firestorm of controversy.

"He's weathered a storm; he's probably decided he's weathered enough storms. I don't know why he's resigning, but I think it may be time for him to move on in his career, and certainly Kamehameha will survive and it will grow and it will do better," said Kame'eleihiwa, who is among those who have been asked to create new job standards for the post.

McCubbin's departure as the first CEO in Kamehameha School's 119-year history was announced yesterday. He gave no reason for leaving.

The board has begun a search for candidates to fill his job.

Attorney Beadie Kanahele Dawson, a businesswoman and Hawaiian activist, said yesterday she was shocked at the news. She praised McCubbin's work in "turning that massive ship around."

Dawson recently served on the UH search committee for a new dean to the William S. Richardson School of Law and believes it won't be "a piece of cake" to find someone -- locally or abroad -- as Kamehameha's top executive, but it is doable.

"I think that when we have organizations that are already full blown and they have a certain greatness of their own, we should and do have a tendency to look for the best," Dawson said.

"If we find that person locally, wonderful. If we find that person from away, I think that can be equally wonderful. But much of it depends on the ingredients of the individual," she said.

Roy Benham, former president of the school's alumni association, said he felt McCubbin was doing a good job of reaching more Hawaiian children, and had no idea he would resign at this point.

Benham said McCubbin's education background suited the school as it changed directions over the past three years, but perhaps the next leader should have more of a business background to manage its $6 billion trust.

"Certainly, during these times, we need all the skills we can get to make sure the estate can generate the kinds of funds that some of our programs are going to require," Benham said.

Micah Kane, chairman of the Hawaiian Homes Commission and a graduate of Kamehameha Schools, also approved of the school's direction over the past few years. He sees McCubbin's departure as an opportunity for it to get better.

"I think the trust needs to continue to look for strong leadership," Kane said.

"It's a very dynamic organization, I think, and it's one that while at its core principles are very simple, it's one that has many different arms and is a very complex organization," he said.


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