KEKAHA, Kauai (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Kauai elementary school was scrambling for substitute teachers Tuesday, a day the school's principal made controversial comments about their performance.
Six of the 27 teachers at Kekaha Elementary School called in sick, according to the Department of Education. With three others out for scheduled workshops, officials said staff members had to fill in since there weren't enough substitute teachers.
A spokesman for the Hawaii State Teachers Association said quotes from Kekaha Elementary Principal Dominic Beralas in a Kauai newspaper upset many teachers.
Talking about about student performance on annual assessments, Beralas told the Garden Island newspaper, "We had to attribute our low student achievement and lack of progress not to our students' demographics but to our ineffectiveness in teaching. Our growth mindset meant that we had to believe our students could rise to our higher expectations and perform according to higher standards."
Tom Perry, HSTA's Kauai director, said the comment caught teachers off guard.
"It's extremely unusual to find a principal make a comment in public like this. We find it extremely unprofessional and very disheartening and it contributes to the extremely low morale at the school," he said.
The second-year principal met with teachers Monday afternoon to address their concerns. Hawaii News Now contacted Beralas at the school for a comment, but he directed us to Kauai Complex Area Superintendent Bill Arakaki.
Arakaki said Beralas's comments were "misconstrued."
"I think the words that may have been used were misconstrued as far as what he intended to say," he said. "I believe he apologized and wanted to ensure that he supported the teachers and that he was proud of their accomplishments."
HSTA is considering filing a class-action grievance, according to Perry.
"These teachers at this school are very, very good teachers. They care about the community and they care about the kids extremely. They would not have called in sick unless they were sick," he said.
Arakaki said he is working with the principal and the teachers to resolve the issue.
"We want to be able to move forward and really work together and build relationships so that we continue the great work that they've been doing," he said.