Parents and teachers have criticized the lack of information about plans for the school and changes in leadership.

The governing board members of Kamalani Academy in Wahiawa will consider the school’s potential closure on Thursday evening. 

A board agenda item titled “Discussion on School Closure and Possible Resolutions” has raised concern among Kamalani Academy parents and teachers who had fought to keep the school open, and calls for better communication from the public charter school’s leadership. 

The school had been set to close in June after the Hawaii State Public Charter School Commission voted not to extend the school’s contract because of an unauthorized virtual learning program and other violations.

Kamalani Academy charter school located in Wahiawa. Grade levels are from kindergarten thru 8th grade..
Kamalani Academy charter school located in Wahiawa had been scheduled to close in June but was granted a two-year extension in May. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022)

However, the school successfully appealed to the Board of Education and was granted a two-year extension with a range of stipulations including a requirement that Kamalani Academy dissolve and reform its governing board.

The newly formed board now has a responsibility to assess the school’s educational and fiscal data and consider Kamalani Academy’s future viability, said governing board chair Aumoana Kanakaole. 

“It’s part of the natural order of everything,” Kanakaole said about the development.

But parents and teachers said they should have been better informed about the board’s upcoming discussion. Crystal Slusher, a sixth-grade teacher at Kamalani Academy said teachers primarily learned about the board meeting through word-of-mouth and, in turn, began informing their students and parents as well. 

Slusher said she believes the school’s current leadership is committed to operating with more transparency, but it feels like the school is in limbo.   

“Perhaps you can see how, from our perspective, it seems as if we are being intentionally left in the dark,” Slusher said in a letter sent to the media and the Kamalani Academy governing board on Wednesday morning. “This is unprofessional and entirely unacceptable.”

The school sent a letter to families Wednesday informing them that “very important discussions” will take place at the upcoming board meeting and encouraging parents to share their testimony.

Changes In Leadership

The board had already decided in September that it would eliminate grades seven and eight entirely beginning in the 2024-25 school year and merge the current enrollment of 26 students for the remainder of the current school year, Kanakaole said.

Natalie Plouffe, who serves as the president of Kamalani Academy’s Parent Teacher Student Ohana, said the news about the future of the seventh and eighth grades came as a complete surprise.

While the development was concerning, it was not surprising, given the high turnover rates she has seen among teachers at the school, added Plouffe, whose daughters are in Kamalani Academy’s second and sixth grades. 

Kamalani Academy charter school located in Wahiawa. Grade levels are from kindergarten thru 8th grade..
Kamalani Academy charter school will eliminate its seventh and eighth grades before the 2024-25 school year. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2023)

Also frustrating, Plouffe added, were the recent changes in the school’s leadership that left parents in the dark. 

Kamalani Academy teachers received an email late Monday night that the school’s interim principal had stepped down and would be replaced by board chair Kanakaole.

However, Kanakaole said, the board still has to discuss how to best inform parents that she will be temporarily stepping into the role. 

Having fought for the future of Kamalani Academy less than a year ago, it’s frustrating to be in yet another discussion about the school’s potential closure, Plouffe said.

“It almost feels like a slap in the face that, ‘Hey, you’re getting a new principal, but also, on Thursday, we’re talking about closing the school’,” Plouffe said. “I think a lot of us are really heartbroken about hearing this kind of news.”

Kanakaole emphasized that she cannot speak on the behalf of Kamalani Academy’s governing board, adding that she doesn’t know how likely it is that the school will close. 

“All of us are clueless on how this discussion is going to go,” Kanakaole said.

Civil Beat’s education reporting is supported by a grant from Chamberlin Family Philanthropy.

Help Power Local, Nonprofit News.

Across the nation and in Hawaii, news organizations are downsizing and closing their doors due to the ever-rising costs of keeping local journalism alive and well.

While Civil Beat has grown year over year, still only 1% of our readers are donors, and we need your help now more than ever.

Make a gift today of any amount, and your donation will be matched dollar-for-dollar, up to $20,500, thanks to a generous group of Civil Beat donors.

About the Author