Star-Bulletin Poll

Bishop trustees
flunk in poll

Most respondents say the estate
is too involved in the operations
of Kamehameha Schools

By Gregg K. Kakesako

Bishop Estate trustees are too involved in the daily operations of Kamehameha Schools, and many Hawaiians are not confident in the appointment of former Circuit Judge Patrick Yim to delve into the management conflict, according to a Star-Bulletin Poll.

A total of 421 people were asked their opinion of the controversy involving the management of Kamehameha Schools -- one of the country's largest private schools and chief beneficiary of the will of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop.

More than 200 Kamehameha School teachers also have banded together to air complaints over the way the trustees are running the school.

The statewide poll of Hawaii residents was conducted June 6-10 by Mason-Dixon Political Media Research Inc. The survey carries a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

Bishop Estate maintains that more than 20,000 youths from preschool to college level are enrolled in its educational programs or receive financial aid. The estate controls 365,123 acres in Hawaii.

Bishop Estate Chairman Richard Wong predicts that "by the year 2005, Kamehameha Schools will be recognized as the biggest and best private school in the country."

Overall, 56 percent of poll respondents said Bishop Estate trustees have become too involved in the daily operations of the school.

Rex Takushi, a firefighter, said although the trustees generally seem to be doing a good job, "they should leave the management of the school to its president.

"They shouldn't be micromanaging it," said the 37-year-old Haiku, Maui, resident.

Ramona Tibayan, a 1991 Leilehua High School graduate, believes the trustees "should have more trust in the people they hired to run the school."

"If they let them solve their own problems (then) probably things would be less difficult," said Tibayan, who lives in Mililani.

Eighty percent of the 62 respondents who said they were either part- or full-blooded Hawaiians believe the five trustees -- chairman and former Senate President Wong, former House Speaker Henry Peters, Oswald Stender, Lokelani Lindsey and Gerard Jervis -- are spending too much time running the school.

Only 26 percent of all 421 respondents believe the trustees' involvement in the affairs of Kamehameha Schools is good. Forty-two percent said the trustees are not doing a good job.

The 62 Hawaiian respondents were split on this question, with 45 percent saying trustees were not doing a good job in running the school, which has its largest campus of 3,000 students at Kapalama Heights. Some 32 percent said the trustees' governance was adequate.

Seventy percent of all respondents believe a meeting between the trustees and parents and alumni would be helpful.

Respondents of Japanese ancestry were most vocal in believing that such a meeting would be fruitful, with 77 percent support.

The group Na Pua a Pauahi was formed two months ago amid controversy over the management of the school. It organized the May 14 three-mile protest march from Nuuanu Mausoleum where Princess Pauahi Bishop is buried, and succeeded in opening up the investigation by Yim, who was appointed by Circuit Judge Colleen Hirai on May 27 as a fact finder. Yim's first report is due Aug. 29.

But Hawaiian poll respondents -- 41.9 percent -- had a low opinion of the appointment of Yim, who is related to trustee Peters. Yim retired from the bench in 1994.

Overall, 44 percent believe Yim's appointment is positive.

Takushi said he believes "it's a good idea" to have an outsider review what has been going on at Kamehameha Schools. "I hope it will be a fair assessment of what is happening," he said.

Noreen Teruya, whose daughter graduated from Kamehameha Schools and whose granddaughter still attends the private school, said, "It would be a good idea to have other educators look at what is being done there."

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