UH Laboratory School evolves into autonomous charter site


POSTED: Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The University of Hawaii Laboratory School's board hired a new principal yesterday and is close to filling 12 teaching positions, one of many responsibilities since taking over control from the university.

The board appointed Albert Jeremiah, the school's current vice principal, to serve as principal beginning Saturday with an annual salary of $87,500 on a one-year contract.

The University Lab School became a charter school under the Department of Education in 2001. But it was not until the end of June that the school's board took the reins from the UH College of Education's Curriculum Research and Development Group, filling nearly all the teaching positions left vacant in recent weeks due to changes at the school and the University of Hawaii.

Doi said that labor talks, with contracts ending in June, triggered the major changes.

The board is also negotiating with UH on a two-year agreement to pay $100,000 lease rent for the facilities, which the Lab School has never had to pay since its inception, and the board's treasurer calls the figure a steal.

The K-12 school of 430-plus students, located on the UH-Manoa campus, had employed many UH professors and lecturers. But lecturers were among those to be let go during recent budget cuts at the university.

“;The board has become the employer of hire”; but “;still partners with the University of Hawaii,”; said Doug Doi, Lab School board president.

Doi says the budget cuts are actually good for the school since they have had more educators to choose from, and he is excited about the new hires.

Because of the university's hiring freeze, the shift gives the board more flexibility, allowing it to fill positions while also having more control over the charter money.

“;The culture of the school is directly tied to the university, and that's not going to go away,”; Doi said.

Parents who also attended the meeting yesterday said they had been reassured at a July 20 meeting that the changes would not mean that the school would lose use of UH campus facilities. But they were still concerned that a two-year agreement was not long enough.

They also wanted an increase in parent representation on the 16-member board from one to three members.

“;Because it is the decision-making body, we feel it is critical,”; said Judy Daniles, parent of a fifth-grader.

They were concerned that so many changes still needed to be made so close to the start of school next month.

The school also complied with charter school regulations by having its faculty switch to Hawaii State Teachers Association membership from the Hawaii Government Employees Association.

Four of the faculty are teaching faculty members of the UH College of Education, including current Lab School Principal Fred Birkett, who was forced to choose between reapplying for the principal's position or to keep his place in line for tenure.

“;The school is a special place,”; he said. “;I loved the principalship.”;

But Birkett, 58, just a year or two away from becoming a tenured professor, chose to retain his place in line for tenure and will return Saturday to his teaching faculty position in the UH master's in education program.