Preschool on probation

A state investigation has found that the Kamaaina Kids preschool in Ewa violated state rules when three 2-year-olds in its care wandered away from the child center, crossed a parking lot and wandered into a nearby office of Child Protective Services.

The center was placed on a six-month provisional license and will be subject to unannounced monitoring visits during the probation period, according to a recent letter from the Department of Human Services, which oversees child-care operations and conducted the investigation with Child Welfare Services

Child Welfare also found "physical neglect and lack of supervision," according to the Dec. 8 letter from DHS to Kamaaina Kids.

Ray Sanborn, president of Kamaaina Kids, said yesterday that the school has taken corrective measures, including installing more secure, child-proof locks on the gates of the playground, disciplining the teachers involved and sending all staff members in Kamaaina's 11 preschools to safety training classes. An outside safety consultant also was hired to make improvements.

"We've worked with the staff and done all the corrective measures we can to make all of our schools safer," said Sanborn.

The case was not referred to the Attorney General's Office for fines. However, the Dec. 8 letter warned that the school's license could be suspended or revoked if there are further violations.

The DHS investigation found that in the Aug. 12 incident the school violated state rules that define supervision as "being within sight or hearing distance of the children at all times."

DHS recommended that "all staff conduct regular head counts of the children" every 15 minutes or at every change of activity.

The three teachers who were in charge of the toddlers were placed on three-day suspension without pay and one year of probation. They also were required to take additional training classes.

The DHS letter also said there was a separate unreported incident in which another toddler was found wandering in the parking lot.

DHS investigated the school after a complaint by Michellei Quidilla of Waipahu, the mother of one of the 2-year-olds. Quidilla said the children were playing unsupervised in the front playground of the school on Fort Weaver Road.

In a letter dated Sept. 23, Quidilla complained that her daughter, Taylor, and two classmates left the playground through an unlocked gate, walked to the community center, crossed a parking lot and climbed to the second floor of the Child Protective Services building. She said that a CPS worker found the children and called Kamaaina Kids.

Quidilla also complained that the letter from Michelle Fuller, director of the Ewa center, notifying them of the incident was "misleading" about the extent of the children's wandering.

Quidilla said the fact that CPS workers called the school "shows that their time away from the day care must not have been noticed immediately," as stated in the director's letter.

"The letter was a lie," said Quidilla, who has placed her child in a different daycare. The other two parents have kept their children in the school.

Fuller could not be reached yesterday for comment.

The DHS report found that Fuller's letter to the parents did not disclose "pertinent information" and that she did not "thoroughly investigate the incident."

"We're not happy with the (DHS) report and feel they got off too easy," said Quidilla. "They made safety changes, but there were no consequences for the director. She's still in charge of the school."

The DHS letter said that at the time of the incident Fuller was also in charge of the Kamaaina Kids in Pearl City and was helping to start up one in Alewa Heights. DHS recommended that she manage only one site.

The DHS report found that Fuller did not make a proper report at the time of the incident and did not adequately investigate the incident.

"I feel they should have got a harsher punishment. This was not the first time," said Quidilla.

Department of Human Services
Kamaaina Kids

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