Charter school status in question

ANAHOLA — Kanuikapono Public Charter School and Learning Center is going before the Hawaii State Public Charter School Commission today to keep their doors open for the upcoming school year.

“It was a composition and compliance issue,” said Kathryn Winters Smith, interim school director and charter school program director. “We’ve done that (brought Kanuikapono governing board into compliance) and the other matters that the commission had brought up have also been resolved.”

Smith declined to comment further on the matter.

Conflicts of interest on the school board, noncompliance with composition laws, school policies that are out of line with the PCS contract and potentially illegal use of credit cards are the commission’s concerns.

That’s according to July 6 documents sent from the commission to Gov. David Ige that outline concerns stemming from an April 18 joint meeting between Kanuikapono PCS governing board and Kanu I Ka Pono Learning Center (Kanu INC), which “provides fee-based services to Kanuikapono School.”

A notice of concern was issued May 15 from the commission on the matter.

The minutes of the April 18 meeting indicate the Kanuikapono PCS governing board was dissolved and the INC board — which included three members of the PCS governing board — was established to serve as an interim governing board for the public charter school.

Documents state: “the non-profit organization appears to have replaced the governing board.”

According to law, more than one-third of a governing board can’t be employees or former employees unless a year has passed since the conclusion of the employment. Board members Nestor Figueroa and Nalani Kaneakua weren’t counted when Kanuikapono compiled that information, according to the July 6 documents.

“As recent members of a non-profit board that provides fee-based services to Kanuikapono School, these individuals would be considered vendors/contractors,” the document states.

The school addressed the issue in those same documents, stating Figueroa and Kaneakua resigned from Kanu INC to serve on the governing board and “none of the governing board members are current Kanu INC members.”

Other concerns were that governing board minutes aren’t complete, the school’s admissions policy displayed on their website hasn’t been approved by the commission, and potential issues with enrollment preferences and disenrollment policies.

The document points to governing board corrections, including language changes in policies and ongoing work with the state attorney general to revise bylaws, beginning with admission and enrollment policies.

Lines of credit was the last concern of the commission, which stems from a June 8 corrective action plan that was submitted by the school indicating previously undisclosed lines of credit.

“Interim School Director Kathryn Smith was unable to confirm that the school had received Attorney General approval for credit cards, but stated she would contact the purported governing board to resolve any compliance issues relating to this matter as soon as possible,” the document states.

In the July 16 letter from the school to parents and families, both the school and the commission state their commitment to insuring that the school “moves forward, especially for students and families who are looking forward to starting the new school year.”

It also outlines the possibility that the commission will replace members of the school’s governing board to bring it into compliance.

“We are going back (before the commission) with our completed report tomorrow,” Smith said Wednesday afternoon. “We’re good and ready to go. Enrollment is up and we have an operating board and we’re open for business.”

In a July 11 press release, the school described itself as “reorganized, restructured and renewed.”

“Kanuikapono is here, strong and better than ever,” the release said.


Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or

  1. I saw a Vampire once July 19, 2018 7:08 am Reply

    Just like Kekaha. Is this school on cement? Neat. Critical factor of course.

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