CIRA de CASTILLOTGI Staff Writer
HONOLULU—Trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs have voted to give
Kamehameha Schools $511,300 to renovate the Kekeka Armory with the intent the
site will be used for by two private schools that cater to Ni’ihau children
living on Kaua’i.
The schools, Ke Kula Ni’ihau O Kekaha and Ni’ihau School
of Kekaka, have been involved in a bitter dispute over the right to use the
OHA trustees said that the Department of Education will hold the
lease on the building.
Daniel Hamada, Kaua’i DOE district superintendent,
said the DOE will honor OHA’s decision and is in the process of preparing a
memorandum of agreement for operations at the Armory.
“If we can forget
the adult’s problems and can focus on the kids, I think we can succeed,” he
said. “I’m not saying it’s going to be smooth. We have two good philosophies
and we can make it work. In the long run we will all be winners.”
Ileialoha Beninmina, a director of Ahu Punana Leo Inc., which operates Ke Kula,
a Hawaiian language immersion school, said OHA promised the organization
renovation money and the lease on the building.
OHA’s decision to give the
lease to DOE and renovation money to Kamehameha Schools could lead to legal
action, she said.
Malaki K. Kanahele Jr., a Ni’ihau School parent leader,
said he was very pleased with the trustees’ decision.
“I can only hope and
wish for the best for all the children. The trustees were so patient and being
so kind in trying to make a way we can both work together,” he said. “The main
issue is to educate our children so they can have a success when they grow
The Ni’ihau School split from Ke Kula a year ago over a disagreement
on when English should be taught to the Hawaiian speaking children of Ni’ihau.
Parents of Ni’ihau School students want their children instructed in
They have been holding class at the Kekeaha park pavilion.
Ke Kula, only Hawaiian is spoken. The school has been holding classes in the
Armory. Ahu Punana has spent $500,000 to partially renovate the building. OHA
trustees also made an appropriation of $391,087 for the purpose of developing
and managing a bilingual education program and school for the Ni’ihau children
of Kaua’i, but trustees have not yet determined who will receive and administer
the funds, said OHA spokesman Ryan Mielke.
More that 50 Ku Kula students,
parents and teachers went to Honolulu to testify at the board meeting as did
parents and teachers of the Ni’ihau School. Sixteen people gave testimony at
the nine-hour board meeting.