Theft of school's ukuleles leaves kids singing blues


POSTED: Thursday, September 10, 2009

Students at Hale Kula Elementary have been left to beg and borrow to finish ukulele classes because burglars stole most of their instruments.

“;The fact that they would steal from kids is upsetting,”; said Agnes Leinau, vice principal of the 900-student school at Schofield Barracks.

Some staff were on campus during the Labor Day holiday until 6:30 p.m. Sometime after that, thieves broke the school's locks and took about $10,000 in electronic equipment and ukuleles, Leinau said.

They took a flat-screen TV, about three laptop computers, LCD projectors, other electronic equipment and cash, including a bag of pennies containing about $5 to $10 collected by students for children with leukemia.

Thieves also took 25 handmade ukuleles bought by the school more than 20 years ago. The Kamaka brand ukuleles were used by fourth- and fifth-graders in an ukulele club, Leinau said.

Tuesday morning, staff noticed doors were open or things were missing and reported the burglary.

“;We have this false sense of security because we're on a military base,”; Leinau said. “;That's not necessarily so.”;

In response, the military will step up night patrols, she said.

“;I don't feel any sense of fear. It's more annoyance that these people will steal from children,”; she said.

Students felt deprived and wrote letters to the editor, starting with “;Dear perpetrator”; because they felt things were taken from them personally, she said.

Teachers lost electronic equipment they used as teaching aids in the classrooms.

“;They were really getting used to learning how to use technology in the best sort of way,”; she said.

Leinau remains hopeful some items will be returned after hearing a tip led to the recovery of a $700,000 painting stolen from a Waikiki gallery on Sunday.

She said the ukuleles are marked as Kamaka brand inside the belly and identifiable by the school's name on the neck or head in permanent ink.

“;It's going to make it much harder for them to get rid of it,”; she said.

Last night, Leinau received some anonymous information and passed it on to police.

“;I certainly hope we get some back,”; she said. “;I just think it's a really sad, sad case when the thieves have to prey on children, and they should be very ashamed of themselves.”;