The Halau Lokahi Public Charter School's leadership is out. The school's director and governing board had until today to resign. The move allows the school to stay open, but it still has deep financial problems to dig out of.?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /
School Director Laara Allbrett and the five member board have notified the State Charter School Commission they will resign. That was part of the conditions for the school if it wanted to continue receiving public taxpayer money. It is more than $400,000 in debt, hasn't paid rent since February or paid teachers since May.
The school opened 13 years ago and has had financial problems in the past. The school's community will be able to nominate three new board members. The Charter School Commission will choose the other two. The new board will have to hire a new director and balance the budget.
"At that point the school's fate is in the hands of the governing board. That governing board has a big job. They have to try to save the school and that requires a financial plan. It also requires the confidence of external stakeholders around the community that this is the new leadership and they're going to make a go of it,"
said Tom Hutton, Hawaii State Public Charter School Commission Executive Director. "The bottom line for the school is that they be able to meet their current unmet financial obligations and be able to make it through the academic year without having to close in the middle of the year."
Tom Hutton has been criticized by some Halau Lokahi supporters and had Hawaiian salt thrown on him for his recommendation to close the school, but doesn't take the hostility personally.
"These are very very difficult discussions for every authorizer across the country when it comes down to this. It's part of public service that we're doing our job and that's difficult. At the end of the day it's not about me. It's about what's going to be in the interest of the kids. You take your lumps and do what is best."
What's best is to focus on next academic year and trying to make it through without closing midyear which could happen if enrollment doesn't climb or expenses don't drop.
At last check Halau Lokahi had 174 students and 22 employees, but will need about 225 students to make the current financial plan work.
The charter school commission will meet again July 10 to make formal appointments to the board.