Hawaii State Public Charter School Commission Executive Director Sione Thompson plans to step down from his role effective Thursday if confirmed by the state Board of Education to be the next complex area superintendent for the Nanakuli-Waianae complex area.

Thompson has served as executive director of the commission since 2016. The commission is the statewide charter school authorizer, comprised of nine members who are appointed by the state Board of Education. The commission’s role is to approve applications for new charter schools, develop and implement an accountability system for the schools and monitor the academic performance and financial and legal compliance of the schools.

In the 2019-20 school year, according to the Hawaii Department of Education, there were 11,877 students enrolled in 37 charter schools, which are public schools run by independent governing boards under contracts approved by the commission.

Board of Education Charter School Board Member Sione Thompson.
State Charter School Commission Executive Director Sione Thompson. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2018

If confirmed by the board, Thompson will replace the outgoing CAS for Nanakuli-Waianae, Ann Mahi, who is retiring at the end of the school year. Thompson will serve as deputy CAS under Mahi for the rest of the school year until he assumes the main role on July 1, according to a memo from Superintendent Christina Kishimoto, who nominated Thompson based on a search committee’s recommendation.

Prior to his work with the commission, Thompson was the Title III Program Director for the University of Hawaii West Oahu, in charge of administering programs that helped the college-going rate for underserved students, and before that spent a decade at Saint Louis School, where he served in such roles as principal, director of advancement and dean of students.

In her memo, Kishimoto praised Thompson’s “skillset and deep knowledge of the Nanakuli-Waianae community, public and charter schools, and his proven track record in leading and collaborating with schools and the community.”

She also praised him as “a strategic partner with the Department” as public charter schools last year dealt with the challenges posed by the eruption of Kilauea on the Big Island, school threats and school safety issues and special education issues, according to the memo.

The Nanakuli-Waianae complex area consists of two high schools, one middle school and six elementary schools, with a combined enrollment of roughly 7,500 students that is 62% Native Hawaiian, 84% economically disadvantaged and 15% students with special needs. A complex area superintendent provides support and direction to all the schools in that region.

Replacing Thompson as interim executive director on the commission will be Yvonne Lau, who currently serves as deputy director.

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