Board member scolds DOE for deficient work

Published: Sep. 6, 2011 at 9:47 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 6, 2011 at 10:18 PM HST
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Brian De Lima
Brian De Lima

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Students get reprimanded for turning in an incomplete report and today so did the Department of Education.

The Hawaii DOE is considering closing Likelike Elementary School but the Board of Education Finance and Infrastructure Committee wasn't happy with the details of the plan.

At first the Board of Education appeared to have its mind made up.  The motion to hold a public hearing about closing Likelike Elementary School was supported and seconded but right before the vote board member Brian De Lima spoke up and it changed the conversation completely.

"Why don't we think about whether it's a good idea or not before we generate public concern about it," said Brian De Lima, Board of Education Member.

It was that comment that, at least temporarily, changed the fate of Likelike Elementary School in Kalihi.  Likelike has about 375 students and two days ago the Department of Education gave the Board of Education its findings about closing it.  The board was supposed to vote to send the issue to a public hearing instead they kicked it back for a lack of specifics.

"I looked at the report that we got and it's really deficient," said De Lima.

A big reason for that comment is social impact which was covered in about one page of the report.  Yet 84 percent of the students are economically disadvantaged and 32 percent have limited English language proficiency.  The majority come from the Mayor Wright public housing complex.  And of the schools in the area they score the lowest in reading at 55 percent and math at 45 percent.  So the social impact could be huge.

"They really have to do a better job on this report," said De Lima.

Then other board members jumped in with their own questions, like what's the department going to do with the campus after it closes? What about overcrowding? And what's going to happen to the million dollars that would be saved each year?

"If it's a million dollars what are we going to do with that million? How does that million dollars get reinvested back in those other schools?" asked Don Horner, Board of Education Member, during the board meeting.

The Department of Education was not able to answer how the savings would be spent or how the property would be used.

"This is not an easy process. No one is ever happy with it," said Randy Moore, Department of Education Assistant Superintendent.   "There is no perfect way to do this."

Moore said the Department has not formed its own recommendation for closing the school.  However he did say it came down to economics.  In addition to the million dollar savings every year, the department would also save $7 million worth of renovations which have not been funded.

Many families hope the board gets its answers and learns the impact of closing the school.

"Any school that gets a huge amount of kids it's going to affect the quality of education," said Max Fowler, Good Shepherd Community Life Pastor and a parent at Lanakila Elementary school, which would take on 128 students from Likelike. He testified before the board against the closure.

"A million dollars, is it worth it putting a whole complex backwards all these years? The schools that would be affected have been making gains so you're going to see the quality of education and probably test scores come down so is it worth a million dollars?" said Fowler.

"A lot of people love this school. They should leave it open for all kids," said Rosita Morelik, who was picking up her siblings from Likelike Elementary School.

"I really do love this school and we just got here so I really hope they don't close it because I don't want to have to take them anywhere else," said Rita Bailey, Likelike Elementary School Parent.

The Department of Education has homework.  It has to come up with the additional details by the next board meeting October 4.

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