Hawaii commission revokes charter for Big Island school

HONOLULU — The Hawaii Public Charter School Commission has revoked a charter for a Big Island school after finding nearly two dozen violations.

The commission revoked the charter contract Monday for Ka’u Learning Academy for violations that included financial and operational irregularities, enrollment discrepancies, and failure to properly maintain student and employee records.

The Naalehu school opened in 2015, serving third- through seventh-grade students. It expected to have more than 90 students enrolled next school year.

The academy will be shut down immediately, but it has 21 days to appeal to the state Board of Education.

The academy plans to work with area schools and parents to find placement for its students, executive director Josh DeWeerd told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald. DeWeerd entered the role in April.

“The news from the charter commission is unfortunate for our families and community, who will be the most effected with today’s decision,” DeWeerd said Monday. “Public charter schools give families in Hawaii an innovative opportunity in education. The new administration and governing board has diligently worked and rectified all deficiencies.”

An investigation by the state Department of Education last year found that academy leadership had sought to exclude low-performing students from state testing and gave advantages to students “hand-picked” to take the tests. The department invalidated the school’s 2017 scores following the investigation.

The commission placed the academy on notice for revocation in November following an independent financial audit, which uncovered a number of questionable expenses and payments. The commission then started the revocation process in April.

“For me, I think it was the actions of a few that have truly created a lot of wrongdoings,” said Sione Thompson, commission executive director.

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