Hanalei School appoints temporary principal

HANALEI — A temporary principal has been appointed at Hanalei School.

Taharaa Stein, who has been working with the Hawaii Department of Education for 11 years, was appointed to run the school by Bill Arakaki, Kauai Complex Area superintendent.

“The morale at the school is instantly off the chart,” said MaryLee Fredericksen, a first-grade teacher at Hanalei School. “Everyone is excited for a great school year.”

Fredericksen said there’s been nothing but positive comments about Stein.

“I’m very thankful,” she said.

The appointment comes just shy of a year after Lisa McDonald was removed as principal after parents voiced some concerns about her performance and protested outside the school.

The conflict came to a head in September when McDonald created a combination class of kindergarten and first-grade students as a way to even out a larger-than-expected kindergarten class.

She assigned Sarah Purcell, a first-grade teacher, to instruct the class.

But citing no curriculum and a small classroom, Purcell said it would be impossible to teach the students in an already tight classroom and resigned.

A week later, Arakaki removed McDonald from the school, and she was reassigned to the district office.

Reiko Beralas, vice principal from Kapaa Middle School, was assigned to be the temporary principal until another one was appointed.

Stein was appointed to the position this summer. She will start in August, and her contract is to finish out the 2016-2017 school year.

She has experience working with elementary, middle and high school students. She previously served as the English Language Arts and an Advancement Via Individual Determination, or AVID, teacher at Kauai High School and interned as the vice principal at Kalaheo Elementary School. Most recently, she was the vice principal at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School.

Purcell, who said she hopes to return to Hanalei School as a substitute teacher or to work part time, met Stein a couple weeks ago. She believes Stein will do well.

“She seems like a very fair person who is willing to work with teachers to make the school as fantastic as it can be,” she said. “I think everyone has their fingers crossed and wants to move on.”

Stein was unavailable for an interview.

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