Changing Hawaii

By Diane Yukihiro Chang

Friday, December 12, 1997

Lindsey and the fine art
of fingerpointing

AS a sixth-grader at Manoa Elementary, in the good old days when students actually cleaned their own classrooms (!), I was assigned one day to mop the floor. My friend and I were fooling around when -- oops! -- a pail of sudsy water somehow tipped over and gushed across the linoleum tiles.

"OK, what's going on here?" Miss Florence Ikeda's stern expression asked at the doorway. All of the kids pointed at me and said, "Diane did it!" while I tried to pass off some of the blame on my pal.

Nice try, but no good. The guilty look on my face was an indictment. Besides, I was holding the mop. Busted!

The next morning, I felt so bad about flooding the room -- the wet spots were still visible -- that I apologized profusely to Miss Ikeda and moped around with a long face for the rest of the day.

Fast forward three decades to 1997.

For the past four months, the massive and venerable Bishop Estate has been in high-profile turmoil. It started in August, when five exemplary citizens -- fearing that trustee Lokelani Lindsey was micromanaging the Kamehameha Schools and was about to fire President Mike Chun -- wrote the critical "Broken Trust" essay.

Bedlam followed, including an attorney general's investigation, a breaking of ranks among the five trustees and public demands for their resignations.

The brouhaha reached a crescendo last weekend, when the ever-defensive Lindsey released the findings of what was supposed to be a confidential report. It was extremely critical of Chun's management of the schools.

According to Lindsey, test scores have fallen steadily under Chun's tenure and he and his wife, Bina, are guilty of unauthorized use of school funds.

But her most shocking allegations were that 30 students in the last graduating class could barely read at 12th-grade levels and that less than half the class met the minimum SAT standards to get into the University of Hawaii.

This, Lindsey said, was why she had been compelled to get involved in Kamehameha's day-to-day operations. This justified her butting into what is supposed to be, and what previously was, the school president's kuleana.

Ladies and gentlemen, what is wrong with this picture? Regardless of Lindsey's accusations of ineptitude on Chun's part, the reality of the situation is telling.

Mike Chun has been effectively powerless for the past five years, as Lindsey has revamped and micromanaged the schools. She might have been motivated by a need to show up her former colleagues at the DOE; or to replace Chun with her right-hand man, Rockne Freitas; or to improve Kamehameha as an education facility. It doesn't matter.

What is known is that Chun's hands have been tied, and Lindsey and Freitas have been running the schools since she became the lead trustee for education. If the graduates were lacking, is Chun to blame?

Enough fingerpointing and stink talking. Enough arrogance and denial. Something is awry at corporate headquarters, not at the schools' campus. The governor, A.G., master, fact-finder, alumni, parents, teachers, students and community can't all be wrong!

Auwe. Even sixth-graders can't hide their guilt and mortification when they are caught being naughty.

Adults like Lindsey should own up to their administrative no-nos -- especially when she is caught holding the mop.

Bishop Estate Archive

Diane Yukihiro Chang's column runs Monday and Friday.
She can be reached by phone at 525-8607, via e-mail at, or by fax at 523-7863.

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