Big Island charter school on thin ice
HILO » A sharply worded report on the status of Na Wai Ola Waters of Life Public Charter School indicates numerous instances of incomplete and inaccurate reports from the school and statements from officials that were "not credible" about the school's viability.
The state Charter School Review Panel voted to place the school on probation following the panel's meeting May 2 to deal with complaints by citizens, neighbors, Hawaii County fire inspectors and the county Planning Department.
The panel's findings in the case were released this week.
The panel ordered the school to submit a series of monthly reports and demonstrations of financial improvement during the next 12 months.
If the requirements are not met, the review panel could vote at any time to revoke the school's charter, putting it out of business, said the panel's executive assistant Silvia Silva.
School administrators and their attorneys could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The school has had difficulties since it was founded in 2000, many linked to its lack of a permanent home.
The state tried to close the school in 2001 when it had a $171,000 debt, but a court ruling placed Waters of Life on probation and it survived. Waters of Life has about 220 students from kindergarten through a new 10th-grade class starting in the next academic year, a school official estimated earlier this month.
It now operates in four sites over an 8-mile area. Three other sites were closed by the county in March due to health and fire safety concerns. And the debt at the end of the 2006-07 school year was $300,000.
The school says that the debt was eliminated in the 2007-08 school year, but the review panel report says state charter school officials "questioned the validity" of such a dramatic changes in the school's finances.
Mary Quijano, a member of Waters of Life's local school board, wrote to school Director Katheryn Crayton-Shay in July 2007, "The board is really quite concerned about the continuing problem with getting straightforward and accurate financial reports."
One of the requirements of the review panel while the school is on probation is that the school submit monthly financial reports that "make sense."
The school is prohibited from even starting the 2008-09 school year unless it provides proof of proper leases for all its sites as well as "sign-offs" from the county Planning, Building and Fire departments for all their requirements.