Friday, March 5, 1999

Parents, pupils
decry Radford

'The termites run the school,'
said a letter read at
board meeting

LeMahieu on right track

By Crystal Kua


Wasp nests, improperly stored chemicals and walls in danger of collapsing are some of the safety and structural problems at Radford High School, according to two reports submitted to the Board of Education last night.

The reports document what some described as the slum-like conditions of buildings at Radford, which is more than 40 years old.

"The termites run the school," said Barbara Collins, the mother of a Radford student, reading from a student letter to government leaders.

Dozens of parents, students and other school supporters -- including Rep. Bob McDermott (R, Aliamanu, Hickam, Foster Village, Halawa Valley, Aiea) -- poured into the board room to ask for board backing to make repair and maintenance funding for Radford a priority.

While expressing concern for Radford's plight, board members also pointed out that schools across the state are faced with deteriorating facilities with little money to shore up the problems.

"Many of our older schools are like this and it's been a long time coming," board member Mike Victorino said.

"If all of our schools are like (Radford), then we are in serious trouble," Big Island board member Herbert Watanabe.

In a memo to the board, state Superintendent Paul LeMahieu said that many of the issues at Radford are valid and some can be addressed. But funding for repair and maintenance, which is done by the state Department of Accounting and General Services, has decreased over the past two years.

The parents say their numbers show that Radford has not been receiving its fair share of funds.

Safety consultant Bill Troegner's report described his observations of safety problems at the school.

He noted 11 Category 1 observations, which are in the worst condition and may be in violation of of regulations, could be life-threatening or cause injury.

These included wasp nests under the roof of portable classrooms, potential fire hazards, and chemicals not stored properly.

The report also said that a portable generator filled with gasoline is stored in the varsity football locker room, which is a fire code violation. Also stored in the locker room but on the other side of a wall, is fertilizer that contains nitrogen. "(We) have the makings of the bomb used in Oklahoma City," the report said.

Frank Destadio, a civil engineer and parent of a Radford student, inspected the school and wrote a report citing "significant structural problems" and other hazardous conditions.

His report described portable classrooms that showed signs of settling and structural damage, a concrete walkway that is breaking apart, cracked column foundations and walls that could collapse.

Collins and Jan Catton are the two Radford moms who started the crusade to help fix the problems at Radford.

They shot a video last October showing broken or filthy water fountains, wooden storage cabinets consumed by termites and a ceiling light fixture held up by electrical wires instead of chains.

One of the shots showed live termites traveling from a wall down to the floor where they were eating away at the underneath of a wrestling mat.

Collins, whose son, Sean, won the 135-pound boys' state wrestling title last week, told the board that students say their school is a like a "slum."

Catton is part of a military family that moved here eight months ago. "This is the worst school structurally that my children have ever attended," said Catton, who has a daughter and son attending Radford.

She said they began their quest after she and Collins began noticing problems at the school. "We began asking questions and haven't stopped," Catton said.

Invest in academic stan-
dards, official advises

By Crystal Kua


Getting Johnny to read better in Hawaii will mean doing what Texas, North Carolina and other states have done to improve reading skills: invest in academic standards, testing and accountability.

That's the message sent out by local and national education officials who reflected on Hawaii's poor showing in national reading scores released yesterday.

While the National Assessment of Educational Progress Reading Report Card listed Hawaii at the bottom of 39 states for fourth- and eighth-grade reading, there's nowhere else to go but up now, a national expert said.

"The report is not good for Hawaii," said Ken Nelson, executive director of the Washington-based National Education Goals Panel. "But this can mobilize us. You can make good news out of bad."

But Nelson said that Hawaii is already on the right track with the direction taken by state Superintendent Paul LeMahieu to refine Hawaii's standards and develop a system of assessment and accountability.

"I think he gets it," Nelson said of LeMahieu.

The superintendent also preached the same sermon to the Board of Education yesterday, saying that the NAEP scores showed that states that invested in standards and assessment made significant gains.

"I take that as validation," LeMahieu said.

Both LeMahieu and Nelson also agree that reading is a crucial component to learning.

"Reading is the gateway to greater knowledge," Nelson said. "If a child cannot read . . . you're at a real disadvantage."

The National Education Goals Panel was formed in 1990 to assess and report on state and national progress toward achieving eight goals by the year 2000.

Nelson is in town to share with policy-makers, business people and educators the success stories behind the education reforms of Texas and North Carolina, both experiencing significant academic gains in recent years.

Texas and North Carolina are both examples of states that have developed standards of expectations that are consistent and specific enough so teachers can use them in the classroom, Nelson said.

"It guides the teacher," Nelson said. "We expect all students to get to that level."

The latest Quality Counts '99 report gave Texas and North Carolina each a B+ for their standards, while Hawaii received a D-.

These states have also developed assessments closely linked to the standards, Nelson said. "You've got to know where you're at before you hold people accountable."

Both states reward schools financially for improved performance and have the power to disenfranchise school districts or remove principals for continued poor performance, according to the panel's report.

But assessments should be viewed as a diagnostic tool instead of a punitive one, Nelson said.

The test data is also broken down by gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic factors to target resources to students of greatest need, Nelson said.

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