School's charter hopes look dim


POSTED: Thursday, March 18, 2010

Community efforts to convert the Big Island's Laupahoehoe High and Elementary School into a charter school appear fruitless since the Board of Education upheld a decision to suspend charter school applications.

On March 4, members of the Laupahoehoe Save-Improve Our School committee sent a letter to board Chairman Garrett Toguchi, asking the board to lift the suspension of applications made by the Charter School Review Panel. The panel had said it would not accept applications until the legislative session ends April 29.

Laupahoehoe High and Elementary is on a list of schools to be closed or consolidated due to low enrollment and failure to meet the goals of the federal No Child Left Behind law.

However, if the school is converted to a charter, Laupahoehoe would be removed from the closure list and remain open.

Parents and teachers were behind an initiative to seek charter school status for Laupahoehoe, submitting an application and a detailed implementation plan to the review panel on Feb. 12. But the panel rejected the documents.

In the letter to the Board of Education, Laupahoehoe's grant project director, Fred Pollock, said the parents and teachers believe their state and federal rights are being violated by the panel's decision.

The Board of Education, however, said the panel's actions are within the law.

“;There's nothing the board can do to overturn the decision,”; said board spokesman Alex Da Silva. “;The law gives them full authority over applications.”;

Alvin Parker, chairman of the Charter School Review Panel, said the decision was not made to target the school but in response to the ongoing fiscal crisis.

Pollock could not be reached for comment, but said in his letter that the panel's decision could doom the school.

“;We are concerned that even if the (review panel) lifts the suspension at the end of April 2010, our ability to commence operation as a public charter school in August 2011 will be jeopardized unless we are guaranteed that our (detailed implementation plan) and application review will be expedited,”; he wrote.