Charter school students rally for their campus as BOE examines oversight concerns

Students, their families and staff of a Central Oahu charter school at-risk of closing rallied outside of the Board of Education Thursday.
Published: Mar. 2, 2023 at 4:57 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2023 at 5:26 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Students, their families and staff of a Central Oahu charter school at-risk of closing rallied outside of the Board of Education on Thursday.

Their message: Save Kamalani Academy.

The public charter school, which serves about 160 students, lost their contract after the state’s charter school commission voted late last month not to renew it after listing a number of violations.

[Read more: Oahu public charter faces closure following questions about online learning, enrollment]

The rally was their way of saying that decision was made unfairly, and there are broader issues present with the commission.

BOE members didn’t address the contract issue directly. Instead, the meeting with Charter School Commission Chair Cathy Ikeda was intended to take a look at a recent commission performance evaluation.

That evaluation found several areas for improvement, including the commission’s strategic vision, organizational goals and budgeting.

Kamalani’s principal says the issues are widespread in the commission, and ultimately have an impact on the students.

“I think it’s important that the commissioners, making such a big decision about our students and their school, that they see that these kids, they’re affecting them,” Principal Amanda Fung said.

“And these 160 kids will not have a place next year because the adults cant get their things together. It’s not a student issue, it’s an adult issue.”

Kamalani Academy hoped their presence at the BOE meeting would send a message that change is needed to protect charter school education.

“I think this is actually a great opportunity,” Ikeda said.

“We don’t normally, as commission, have an opportunity to meet in front of the Board of Education ... so this is our opportunity to basically say, ‘Yes, we see some of these same issues, and we’d like to have a conversation.’”

The commission formed a work plan, which is their first step forward to meeting the board’s expectations.

“I want the BOE to see all the things they brought up in their evaluation are accurate. All the issues that charter schools face, it’s not just Kamalani Academy, it’s a system issue,” Fung added.

Meanwhile, Fung also said the school received official notice about their contract Wednesday, and they plan to appeal the decision.

That appeal will eventually make its way to BOE members.