Bishop trustee LindseyBy Rod Ohira
tells of a 'Go Forward' strategy
to improve the schools
Controversy continues to stalk Lokelani Lindsey, but the Bishop Estate trustee is moving forward with an educational plan for Kamehameha Schools.
In an interview with the Star-Bulletin, Lindsey outlined the 1997-2005 Strategic Plan adopted Tuesday by the trustees and discussed the controversy surrounding her management of the school and relationship with Kamehameha President Michael Chun.
"There was no prior strategic plan," Lindsey said. "We did a very in-depth assessment and audit of the school (in 1994) to see if our programs were producing the kinds of results we wanted and to see if our money was being well spent.
"As a result of that, we found out that some of the programs were not doing as well as they should," she added. "The major philosophical differences came about when the trustees decided to concentrate on a core educational program. We made some very hard decisions."
After reviewing the auditor's reports, the board was faced with some difficult decisions.
For example, the adult education program was scrapped because the audit found the Department of Education and community colleges were offering the same thing, and the Kamehameha program did not have many Hawaiians enrolled.
In 1996, the trustees agreed to adopt a "Go Forward" plan and dropped programs such as Hawaiian language immersion summer schools.
"The trustees unanimously, and I stress unanimously, decided on the Go Forward program," Lindsey said. "It was a give-and-take situation. Dickie Wong had to give up early ed, I had to give up summer school; everybody gave so we could make this thing work on a budget.
"From those programs, we were spending approximately $11 million. We took this $11 million and put it into the Go Forward, where we thought by research, by the consultants presenting us with the numbers, by having a thorough audit of the programs, it came out that we were actually going to get better results."
'We felt for these people'Implementing the cuts stirred emotions.
"Change comes very, very hard," Lindsey said.
"And it was hard for people who really felt one ohana and thought they would have this job for a lifetime to all of a sudden have to be laid off because we didn't need their expertise in that area.
"They were good people and they worked for the institution for a long time. But we were moving to this other arena. And so the trustees voted a very lucrative severence package because we felt for these people. In fact, when we discussed that phase of it, I can tell you there was not a dry eye in the board room. That decision was very difficult to make."
The changing philosophy affected the Kapalama campus faculty during the last school year as the plan moved toward setting a curriculum standard.
"If I were to say what was the No. 1 thing that caused resistance, I would say accountability," Lindsey said. "If I had been a teacher and had been in one position a long time and I'd been able to do everything I wanted to do and then all of a sudden I had to be accountable for results or to somebody else who told me to do something different, there would be resistence.
"Even I would balk at it," she added.
Learning from mistakesLindsey admits today that she would have taken a different approach.
"I think everyone makes mistakes and we learn from our mistakes," Lindsey said. "And I've made mistakes along the way.
"I wish I had known that (the faculty) had so many things on their plate up there when we said to get your inventory done by Dec. 31 ... or when we said we're going to do this curriculum plan and have it articulated by a certain date. I wish I had known that just one more thing might have been the straw that broke the camel's back.
"They felt they were overloaded at the time. Had I known that these people had other deadlines along the way that were school-imposed deadlines or that they were working on the Western Association of Schools and Colleges accreditation program, I don't think they would have had the deadlines they did from us."
It was during that highly-emotional period that things got out of control, as rumors began surfacing about Chun being on the outs.
"It escalated when the people decided to march (May 15)," Lindsey said. "And they decided to march not because of the curriculum changes per se, yet it was a part of it, but if you read the (Na Pua a Ke Ali'i Pauahi) newsletters and everything else, they were marching No. 1 to save Dr. Chun's job, No. 2 to return power to Dr. Chun and No. 3 to make sure there were no reprisals to those people who spoke out. That changed the tenor and tone of a lot of things on the campus."
Chun's job was not a factorChun's position was not an issue, Lindsey said.
"When you have group dynamics like this, you end up having things take on a life of their own," she said. "When it started, it started with Dr. Chun because there was a rumor that went around that the trustees were going to fire Dr. Chun. At that time it was a rumor and even to now, it's never been a topic on the agenda and never been discussed in the board room. That doesn't mean it can't be, but that's what happened. As a result of that, we had these people protesting. Then it just escalated."
From then on, Lindsey said, she's been falsely accused of many things that never happened. "There's a lot of allegations out there. One of the allegations is that I went in and called a student down in front of a class. Roy Benham (president of the Kamehameha Schools Alumni Association's Oahu Region) just confronted me in Maui with an allegation that I went into the school during the summer and kicked a kid out of Explorations.
"I've never done those kind of things, that's the school's kuleana. I'm not going to go there and yell at the student in front of a whole class. I mean, that's totally unprofessional.
"And I've not gone over there and kicked a kid out of Explorations ever. When I told them, if you hear these rumors, come and let me know and I'll give you the factual information, they said we believe them.
"So you know it's a Catch-22. I just have to accept it because I've been the point person, if you will, in getting information and taking it back to the trustees and getting a vote to make some changes, but some of the things are not true."
When asked about Chun's position, Lindsey said, "The board hasn't planned to do anything yet with him. He's still the president."
No unilateral decisionsIn response to a question of whether he will remain president, she replied, "I don't know, it hasn't come up. I love Dr. Chun as a person and he's a very popular president and he's got very nice heart and he's a good guy."
She said she could work with Chun but answered "no comment" when asked if she's been able to work with him.
Lindsey, second vice chair of the board, denied making unilateral decisions affecting the school. "When I came aboard I was asked, because I'm an educator and had all this experience, to go and look into education.
"They didn't have an educator on the board before. And so they wanted to make sure that our money was producing the best student we could possibly get.
"So that's when it started. Yet I said this time and time again, in the Talk Story sessions I've had at the school, that I am only one of five, that I had to go back to the trustees to get approval before anything is done.
"But the allegation out there is that Lokelani makes a lot of unilateral decisions. The decisions are made by the board."
Court-appointed investigator Patrick Yim's preliminary report is due Aug. 29 and Lindsey is confident the facts will clear the air.
Lindsey said her duties as a trustee are spelled out in Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop's will. "Micromanagement (at Kamehameha) was a phrase coined by Bud Smyser (Star-Bulletin contributing editor) in an article that he did. I don't think people understand the will, and I need to share that.
"The will says the trustees have full governance over the school, No. 1. The will also says the trustees have to determine the curriculum ... and determine admissions and whether or not tuition will be charged. So the will gives us the full power.
"The fiduciary law also says we cannot pass this responsibility to a third person. Granted, you have people doing the job for you but the responsibility is still yours. Even more important than that, when I came in, they said that I was going to be held to a higher standard in education because I'm an educator.
"And Gerry Jervis would be held to a higher standard in the legal area because he was a lawyer."
Education is the priorityThe trustees know what their primary role is, Lindsey said. "The education at Kamehameha Schools is the No. 1 priority of the trustees. We spend many hard-earned dollars on that school. We have to earn it ourselves.
"Last year, we spent about $151 million on the school. That's a lot of money for one school. That school has all the equipment they need, they have everything you could possibly need in a classroom to do a good job of teaching.
"And I think the majority of the teachers have done a fabulous job in teaching students. And we've tried to provide them with state-of-the art equipment. We have computers in all the classrooms. We've given them over 600 computers since I've been aboard and really beefed them up technically.
"I feel Kamehameha Schools' people are lucky to have all that they have. And that wasn't so in 1984 when they had to sell land to pay the teachers' salaries and things were lean. They have much more than many other private and public schools. And that's because the trustees are in the business of education."
Lindsey believes there's a distorted view of Bishop Estate trustees. "We should not be treated differently than any other trust but we are. If you look at state law, we're treated differently.
"We have less percentage than the other trusts. But now that we've become very successful, made very wise investments and get 2 percent of everything we earn paid as commission, divided among the five trustees, all of a sudden people are attacking us.
"But they don't say anything about Campbell Estate trustees who are making the same thing.
"They don't say anything about the bank presidents who make almost the same thing. We get no perks, they do. They get shares, stuff like that."