A California-based charter school’s application to establish a branch on Kauai was recently denied by the Hawaii State Charter School Commission.
The international Leadership Entrepreneurial Development Arts Design school, or iLEAD, has now presented a proposal for a school on Kauai that has been turned down twice.
“We had a feeling we really had an opportunity to be approved on this round, but it didn’t happen this time,” said Deena Fontana Moraes, iLEADership administration resident and spokeswoman for the project. “Now we’re figuring out what we’re going to do.”
Moraes said the application process with the charter school commission is very rigorous. The proposal first goes through evaluation teams that make recommendations to the applications committee. Then, if the proposal has made it through the first two committees, it is brought to the commission for the ultimate decision.
“The evaluation team’s recommendation was denial of the proposal,” said Tom Hutton, executive director for the charter commission. “The commission went with their recommendation.”
Hutton said the evaluation committee highlighted iLEAD’s track record with their current schools, as well as the “coherency of the academic plan” as main reasons for refusing the proposal.
“There were a lot of exciting buzzwords,” Hutton said.
The school’s proposal outlined programs in STEM, international culture technological literacy, and environmental consciousness in a project-based learning environment.
“It all sounds great, but in terms of putting it into a curriculum, the real nuts and bolts of it, the team wasn’t confident that they’d put a solid plan together,” Hutton said.
The other piece that raised concerns with the evaluation team was the partnership the proposed Kauai charter school would have with iLEAD itself.
“The committee looked at the track record of that partner and some of their schools in San Diego area, and they can’t show a strong academic performance record,” Hutton said. “If you’re not a high-flying academic school on the Mainland, is that something you want to bring to Hawaii’s children?”
If the commission had given the go-ahead, the iLEAD charter school would be free and publically funded, according to Moraes. The prospective location was in the Kapaa area and it would allow students in grades K-8, eventually including high school students.
Operating costs of the proposed school were estimated at $1.6 million for 2016-17 and $2.1 million for 2017-18, according to the original application. Moraes said she and her board of directors also would use grant money to fund the charter school.
Moraes said through both application processes, she and her board of directors have learned a lot and tweaked their proposal throughout the process.
“Been in this journey for a while and we have such amazing passionate people on the team and we’re backed by an ideology that’s shown success in California,” Moraes said. “We have happy kids and redefining of old is what education should be about. We want to fill a gap that’s not necessarily being filled right now.”
Though iLEAD is still deciding if they are going to try a third time with the commission, Moraes said she has a passion for getting one of their schools on the island.
“We love our kids and we love Kauai and everybody has expressed an interest to continue on the journey. We want this so much.” Moraes said. “This fight is worthwhile.”