Parents fight Manoa school ruling
Some say they were misinformed about a sixth-grade program
The Board of Education is investigating complaints by parents of Manoa Elementary School students who claim they were misinformed when they agreed to discontinue the school's sixth-grade program.
About 10 parents who have children at the Manoa school testified for more than one hour before the board last night, asking for help in reversing a vote they took in June, which calls for the relocation of sixth-graders to middle schools in the Roosevelt Complex starting in the 2007-08 school year.
The parents argue they backed the move because they thought at the time that it was mandated by board policy, something they later discovered to be false. The school's community council has since changed its recommendation.
"I was told by one principal that eliminating sixth grade seemed the only option," Leslie Inouye, who has a fifth-grader at Manoa, told the board. "Evidently, even the principals did not know the entire truth, that there is no apparent mandate."
Some parents said they did not want to send their kids to Stevenson Middle School because of its poor test score record.
Board member Donna Ikeda also noted that if the decision were to stand, the Manoa school would lose about $600,000 in funding. Meanwhile, Stevenson could lose key funding to improve its teaching force if it is not able to enroll any Manoa students who would move up.
"That's obviously a key element," she said.
The policy in question, Middle Level Education Policy No. 2406, was approved by the board on July 12, 2001. Its goal is to support the placement of sixth-graders in middle schools while ensuring the physical, social and emotional needs of adolescents.
While elementary schools, through meetings with principals, parents and teachers, can decide on whether to follow the policy, the Department of Education supports it because it believes sixth-graders tend to share more mentally and physically with seventh- and eighth-graders than with their peers in lower grades, said Greg Knudsen, DOE spokesman.
"It was never a directive that they had to move them," said Schools Superintendent Pat Hamamoto, "but in the best interest of the program, we do support the board's policy of implementation of the middle-school program."
Statewide, 72 schools have switched to a kindergarten-to-fifth-grade model, compared with 95 that remain K-6, according to the DOE.
It is unclear exactly how the Manoa parents were given wrong information about the policy, but parents said many found out through rumors that the only way to keep Manoa Elementary's sixth-grade class was to make improvements that it could not afford.
Among the requirements, said Jo Ann Sakai, mother of a fourth-grader, was that the school would need to build a science lab, get new certification for teachers and use middle-school report cards.
Board Chairwoman Karen Knudsen asked the concerned Manoa parents to file a formal appeal with the board and said individual board members would revisit the board's middle-school policy to hopefully find a solution.
"It sounds to me like this is a mess."