Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Big Island charter school
wants help from state board

HILO >> Na Wai Ola Waters of Life Charter School on the Big Island is calling for cooperation from the state Board of Education instead of confrontation as the board begins a new effort to close the school.

The board was to discuss the school today, to be followed Feb. 15 by a board proposal to revoke the charter of the school.

The board action follows a report by legislative auditor Marion Higa, which was sharply critical of the school and of the state's charter school system.

Waters of Life official Daniel Shapiro said the approach of the Board of Education has either been confrontational or "hands-off." What charter schools need is an atmosphere in which the board tries to help them, he said.

The state tried to close the school in 2001 because it was more than $200,000 in debt, but a Hilo judge ordered the school to be put on probation instead.

Since 2003, neighboring residents around the school site in Kurtistown have been seeking court action to prevent the school from using a former farm as a permanent home.

School director Katheryn Crayton-Shay said the legislative auditor's criticisms ignored some realities.

The auditor accused the school of waste, but that waste includes money spent on busing students to various temporary sites, Crayton-Shay said. That would end if the school had a permanent home at the Kurtistown farm, she said.

The auditor said the school had an inadequate business plan. Crayton-Shay said that was true in 2000, but the plan has been rewritten and improved.

The auditor said the school "has no reliable measures" of its students' success. Crayton-Shay said the school has assessments and measures showing substantial achievement by students, but the type of measures used by the school do not match the type used by the Department of Education.

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