St. Catherine School principal out

  • Stephanie Shinno / The Garden Island

    Former fourth-grade teacher Elizabeth Sancho, left, holds up her sign in front of St. Catherine School on Kawaihau Road in Kapa‘a Thursday, with supporters Dean S, Erwin Garcia and Ema Garcia.

  • Stephanie Shinno / The Garden Island

    At left is Elizabeth Sancho, a former fourth-grade teacher at St. Catherine School in Kapa‘a who was recently let go. Thursday, she is peacefully protesting in front of the school with Noa Char and other supporters.

  • Contributed

    Mary Ann Bode

  • Stephanie Shinno / The Garden Island

    St. Catherine School former Librarian Laura Nelson holds up a sign along Kawaihau Road in Kapa‘a Thursday on the St. Catherine Church and school campus.

KAPA‘A — Mary Ann Bode has stepped down from her role as interim principal at St. Catherine School in Kapa‘a following allegations of abuse and unethical behavior targeted toward teachers.

Bode was appointed interim principal in July 2020, replacing David Adams, as the school continued to look for a permanent principal.

In November 2020, the Rev. William Tulua took on the role of vice principal at St. Catherine. Since then, several teachers have either been fired or left, alleging bullying and verbal abuse by both Tulua and Bode. The latest was fourth-grade teacher Elizabeth Sancho, who has been working at the school for eight years.

Bode was not on campus Thursday and unavailable for comment.

Sancho was fired Monday, and that triggered action in the school community. On Thursday morning, concerned parents and former teachers held a sign-waiving demonstration in front of the school in Kapa‘a, to call for Bode’s resignation and Tulua’s ouster.

“I think that I was wrongfully terminated for talking out against the administration,” Sancho said. “It warms my heart to see the support here. It’s beautiful, and it’s long overdue. I tried to be quiet about this (this) whole year. I’ve been feeling bullied.”

Among the gathered Thursday was Laura Nelson, the school’s former librarian, who left the school earlier this year because of what she says was a toxic work environment.

“We are here to raise awareness about the unjust firing of our beloved fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Elizabeth Sansho, and the unacceptable working conditions under our current administration,” Nelson said.

This isn’t the first time Bode has faced allegations of discrimination and creating a hostile work environment. In 2006 she was the crux of a dispute between the state Department of Education and Hawai‘i State Teachers Association, involving 11 teachers and a counselor at Kapa‘a Middle School when Bode was principal there.

The case was closed in a non-admission resolution in February 2009, two years after Bode retired from her position at Kapa‘a Middle School. The complaint cited the same behavior alleged by St. Catherine staff — a toxic work environment, bullying of staff and verbal abuse.

St. Catherine Parent Teacher Guild President Noa Char said he was at the Thursday demonstration to support Sancho, who PTG members feel was fired unjustly.

“She is St. Catherine,” Char said. “They’ve been complaining to everybody and nobody’s listening,” Char said. “It’s not just her, but multiple teachers. I’m not going to say their names. Multiple employees have run their complaints and concerns all the way up to the bishop, but nobody responded. This is our last resort.”

Second-grade parents Erwin and Ema Garcia were out holding signs Thursday in support of Sancho and other teachers at St. Catherine.

“Our parents are here supporting the teachers,” Ema Garcia said. “And we just believe that the teachers are not the problem here, that they are being wronged, as our children have experienced aggressive behavior within the school, and it needs to stop.”

After the sign-waving demonstration in front of St. Catherine School and church Thursday, the Rev. Anthony Rapozo, parish pastor, announced to The Garden Island that Bode would be stepping down “effective immediately.”

“I know there are some who are upset over the departure of Elizabeth Sancho and held a rally today to voice their concerns,” Rapozo said Thursday.

“We have heard their concerns. It is also my kuleana to hold our teachers and staff members accountable for what is expected of them and what they agreed to as employees of our school. Every decision made is based, first and foremost, on what we believe is in the best interest for our students.”

Sister Gina Palic Senapilo will be finishing out the remainder of the year as interim principal, effective Monday, April 19.

Senapilo, a member of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, is an experienced educator with a bachelor’s degree in secondary education, and currently serves as director of religious education at Immaculate Conception Church in Lihu‘e.

“We will continue our search for a permanent principal,” Rapozo said.

“We are grateful for the contributions that both Ms. Sancho and Ms. Bode have made to St. Catherine School, and we wish them all the best in their future endeavors. As a matter of school policy and out of respect to our faculty and staff, all personnel matters are confidential.”

This story has been edited on April 16 at 10:44 a.m. for accuracy.


Stephanie Shinno, education, business, and community reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or

  1. Elizabeth Sancho April 16, 2021 2:23 am Reply

    God bless our little school!!! Please go here to read more and keep us in your prayers!

  2. RV April 16, 2021 1:45 pm Reply

    Our demonstration was peaceful, and it was our last resort.

    Our voices were heard, but not all the way…

    All the parents, teachers and students will miss you, Mrs. Sancho! Your smile and genuine tears were always a reminder of someone that really cares. You stood up for our kids and that cost your job.

    Thank you for all your hard work and kindness, we love you!!

    Best wishes for you!

  3. Kaaona Kipuka April 16, 2021 3:16 pm Reply

    This is the same grouch that ran the Market Place theatre in the 80’s. Miss Bode go enjoy your golden years and stop bullying people and being nasty…You are of absolutely no significance ok I hate to break the news to you but that’s how it goes sometimes…

    1. USAF Brat April 18, 2021 5:55 am Reply

      come ON Kipuka. There is a classic saying, ” you can fool some of Lahui some of the time, but you cant fool Lahui all of the time.” You and other minion are not and have not been “paying attention” or perhaps you are too young or dropped out from school. Who were the people that raised you? Are you free from having used similar tactics, “gaslighting”, so you could accomplish punitive goals like how the COK/fake state hierarchy at large has, including but not limited to the publishings of biased media?

  4. Payback April 16, 2021 3:31 pm Reply

    It seems that Ms Bode and Rev. Tulua are control freaks suffering from insecurity. Good riddance, bullies are cowards.

  5. Kahl April 16, 2021 6:43 pm Reply

    Hopefully Ms. Sancho’s personal sacrifice will shed light on an ugly legacy of Kauai Complex Schools that must end. I’m aware of similar concerns being raised about a middle school administrator on the westside that have been ignored for far too long.

  6. USAF Brat April 17, 2021 7:21 am Reply

    The word “toxic” is the new terminology associated with Narcissism and I am glad that some people recognize the NPD as outlined in the DSM-5. Just like Brun, Raybuck, and now Ms Bode, there are two sides to every pointy-finger backstory. In my opinion, the 3-fingers pointing back at those that manage to discredit, then have people “gaslighting”, so that they can carry on their agenda of “victim” is typical. In my student sons’ mid 8th grade class case 2009, I would every year, call a quarterly KMS teacher meeting to overview what curriculum was being administered, outside of the normal Parent-teachers conferences. The counselor at the time met us at the door and told us, that “if student didnt quit hanging out with the boys in the bathroom, They were going to make a parking stall for him”, which indicated he would not be going to 9th grade. With that “parking stall” comment, my long-term observations, and knowing i had been doing my due diligence parental duty and obligations, as well as monitoring the staffs’ extra curricular activities observing and reacting to those kinds of negative remarks, caused me to cancel waiting teachers and have the counselor Mr. Long, “take my son to the registrars office and check him out from KMS now, that very day”! While Mr. Long did that, after inserting other foot about the law and school attndances, I went to Ms Bode office to work with her about our story and the future successes that my son actually persued out of the Myron B. Thompson Academy public charter school, an increased GPA, a candidate for the “running start program” and that ultimately showed this parent that it was not the student, but the staff that erred in their incorrect judgement, their behavior, and blaming one, when in actuality it was the staff themselves that were the culprits. Either way, NPD is a behavior that 90% of the hierarchy is just now but finally beginning seen rising to the surface. I can name hundreds of retroactive COK, council, PD, Judiciary, Kaua’i, state, and across the continent hirees that are affected with NPD. Thankfully, this unfixable disorder has become rampant and is a greater problem than drug addictions or mentoemotional disorders combined. Narcissists are the “perpetual victims”, are condescending, arrogant, manipulate, and are entitled, jealous, and statistically have temper tantrums, if theyve not gotten their way. So, they ban together and there is not a whole lot that can be done about it, due to how they violate, band together to discriminate or win their agenda. I don’t believe for a minute that these groups are free from their own maneuvering, actively blaming another, so as to “control” every scenario, cutting people off at the knees for the ridiculous and sublime, hypocritical selfish nature. What happened to good old “communication” and using two to four methods of contacting me, the parent instead of my calling these quarterly gatherings, only to hear a counselor administer negativity, when he is supposed to be sponsoring every childs successes.

    1. Beijaflore April 19, 2021 1:03 pm Reply

      The only way to know someone is to know them.

  7. kalaheo April 17, 2021 9:28 am Reply

    Save your money folks. For the price of tuition at a private school you can supplement your child’s education with a tutor at a fraction of the cost. Keep the kids in public school and they will do fine.

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