Tuesday, April 6, 1999

By Kathryn Bender,Star-Bulletin
Eva Pualeilani Santos said that a couple of years ago, "everything
was organized" in the public schools' kupuna program. Its"twice-
a-month meetings gave me ideas on things I could teach my students,
prepare lesson plans ... This year, things have really changed.
You have to do it all on your own."

Budget cuts
leave kupuna out
in the cold

The program was set up to
teach students about
Hawaiian values

Teachings, values last a lifetime

By Crystal Kua


Kupuna Eaton teaches Iroquois Point Elementary School students Hawaiian values such as aloha.

"I explain to them that aloha comes from the inside. It's not just a word or what you say," said Arline Eaton, a 72-year-old retired telephone company worker. "I'm connecting these children with my culture. And the only way I know how to do that was to show them aloha."

That, she says, is what the Hawaiian studies program is all about.

But the Department of Education's program is dying as a result of years of budget and position cuts, supporters said.

A Board of Education committee is considering a resolution that calls for the department to formulate an action and financial plan to foster the program. The committee is expected to vote on the resolution this month.

Board member Garrett Toguchi, committee chairman, said the board is worried about the program's future, and fears that committed kupuna will be lost through attrition or disappointment with no one there to replace them.

Kealii Gora, a part-time Department of Education Hawaiian studies teacher, is also seeking $955,000 from the Legislature for 38 program assistant positions to help with recruitment, training, curriculum and other support.

"What we're seeing is that the program's going downhill statewide," Gora said. "Maui island, Molokai island, Hawaii island, all districts on Oahu have all complained bitterly."

As of the 1996-97 school year, 18 Hawaiian studies district resource teacher positions and a state educational specialist position were eliminated.

Kupuna, considered part-time teachers who get paid for 17 hours a week, say that as a result of the cuts, they are now actually putting in twice the amount of time to prepare classroom lessons.

Eaton and others say the program is unique to Hawaii's public education system, especially with its use of grandparents, or kupuna, in the classroom.

"It's been more demanding on people" due to the cuts, said department educational specialist Puanani Wilhelm, who oversees the Hawaiian studies program at the state level.

Gora said that in the Honolulu District, for example, 19 schools, or a total of 55 classrooms, opted not to have Hawaiian studies this school year. "I find that rather appalling."

Bringing younger makua such as Gora into the program came about in response to the dwindling number of kupuna who were participating.

Gora said it's not because kupuna aren't interested. He contends it's more the department's lack of aggressive recruitment and placement as a result of the cuts.

"Where is the active recruitment?" he said.

Take the example of Maria Artis.

After 18 years of working with regular and special-education students in grades kindergarten through three, Artis wasn't asked to return to her assigned school. And the district-level support staff who only work part time as a result of cuts was not available to recommend her to another school in the area.

Now, she considers herself an "unemployed kupuna."

"Kupuna Maria Artis was not even given an opportunity to be given another school," Gora said. "There was no one there to support her."

Toguchi said the department needs to come up with an overall plan for Hawaiian studies in the public schools and learn from the past.

"If Hawaiian studies is crucial to our education, it should not in the future suffer the kinds of cuts it has in the past," Toguchi said. "We need something within the department to make sure that leadership is provided for Hawaiian studies."

Kupunas’ ‘human
values’ last lifetime

'They lift kids' spirits up and
create a harmonious school

By Crystal Kua


Kahealani Kapana says her three daughters look forward to weekly visits by the Hawaiian studies teacher at Kalihi Elementary.

"My children ... are always anxious and excited to tell me about the new Hawaiian things they have learned from her," Kapana said in written testimony submitted to two Senate committees. "Their excitement is validation to me that they enjoy learning."

Arline Eaton, a kupuna at Iroquois Point Elementary, says she receives letters from former students who live elsewhere now, and they tell her, "We're talking about volcanoes like (you've) taught us."

"You'll carry it with you wherever you go," Eaton said. "When they leave Hawaii, they're going to be leaving with good memories."

Children learning about the culture, language and famous places of a native people and their ancestral home is what makes the Hawaiian studies program important and special, supporters say.

"The Hawaiian studies program plays an integral part and role in ensuring that our language, culture and history are promoted and perpetuated," part-time Hawaiian studies teacher Kealii Gora said.

The program came about after a change to the state Constitution in 1978.

As a result, the state is now mandated to promote the study of Hawaiian culture, history and language through education programs in the public schools.

The Constitution also encourages the use of "community expertise" in this program.

"(Kupuna) are consistently seen as a model for Hawaiian values, which are really good human values," said Department of Education educational specialist Puanani Wilhelm.

"Their life experiences, good or bad, are important in understanding the Hawaii of before and the Hawaii of today," Gora said. "They brighten a child's day, they lift the children's spirits up, and they create a harmonious school environment."

Gora said the program gives those who are not Hawaiian -- especially newcomers -- a sense of place and a sense of history of this place. "If you call Hawaii your home, you should know your street name, what your street means ... because the majority of street names are in Hawaiian," Gora said.

Students learn about the areas they live in and around as well as how to correctly spell and pronounce Hawaiian words.

"You should know famous place names. We like to call Pearl Harbor 'Pearl Harbor' because everybody knows it as such. But there's a traditional name that was there longer than the words 'Pearl Harbor.' Puuloa has been there for over 1,500 years."

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