Critics complain
to Supreme Court

Trustee Lokelani Lindsey
at center of the crisis

By Gregg K. Kakesako

Critics, concerned over the way Bishop Estate trustees have been running Kamehameha Schools, have taken their complaints to the state Supreme Court.

In a letter to the five justices, Nona Beamer -- a prominent alumna and former Kamehameha Schools teacher -- said she is "distressed" about the low morale at the school of 3,000 students, and wants the high court "to correct this matter by appropriate legal means."

Associate Justice Bob Klein today said it is "unusual" for the high court to get such a letter, but questions whether the justices can do anything about it.

"It's nothing except a complaint," Klein said. "It's very vague."

Klein said because Beamer's letter is a complaint about "low morale," he doesn't believe there is anything the Supreme Court can do since no legal issues are involved.

Critics want the state Supreme Court to revoke Bishop Estate trustee Lokelani Lindsey's appointment, which lasts until 2008 when she turns 70, because they believe she is part of the reason for "the demoralized state of affairs."

The state's five high court justices in their capacity as individuals appoint the five Bishop Estate trustees. Lindsey was appointed in 1993.

Kamehameha Schools has about 3,000 full-time students from kindergarten through high school.

In a related matter, petitions have been circulating among the school's student body, alumni, supporters, staff and parents supporting the continued tenure of Michael Chun as president of Kamehameha Schools.

The protest comes following a decision by Bishop Estate to shift control of operations of the Kamehameha Heights school to Vice President Rockne Freitas, who was appointed in 1995. Chun is now in charge of strategic planning.

Entertainer Karen Keawehawaii, who today said she was helping her two daughters with the petition drive, which began more than a week ago, has collected the names of more than 890 students who support Chun.

Keawehawaii, who has two other daughters who are Kamehameha Schools graduates, said the petition drive was started because "there was something wrong going on there."

"Where are you going to find a leader who gets directly involved with the kids and sets an example for the kids?" she said.

Keawehawaii said an example of Chun's popularity is the moving tribute he and his wife Bina received from Kamehameha's student body at the March 21 song contest. "It made me cry then," she said, "to see such support, and it still brings tears today when I think about it."

Keawehawaii said there is a lot of "disenchantment" at the school, especially among the student body.

In response to questions about Chun's status, Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate spokeswoman Elisa Yadao said, "The trustees never requested his resignation nor has one been tendered."

As for the criticism aimed at the trustees, all of whom receive more than $938,000 annually in commissions, Yadao released a statement saying it was odd how in the past trustees were criticized for lack of involvement and now are being criticized for doing their jobs too much.

"You can't have it both ways. They work hard at fulfilling their duties and responsibilities," Yadao said.

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