Criticism grows over finalists for Kamehameha Schools trustee post

Dispute escalates after non-Hawaiians named finalists for Kamehameha Schools trustee post
Published: May. 15, 2017 at 10:52 PM HST|Updated: May. 16, 2017 at 5:19 AM HST
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(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Kamehameha Schools graduates and teachers are criticizing a list of finalists for a $165,000-a-year trustee position that includes the names of two individuals without any Hawaiian heritage.

On Friday, the state Probate Court produced a list of three finalists to replace former board member Janeen-Ann Olds. The list includes former Land Board director and HMSA executive Tim Johns, Disney Vice President Elliot Mills and outgoing schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi.

The issue, critics say, is that Johns and Matayoshi are not Hawaiian.

"I am so disappointed with it. And I can tell you ... that so are many of the alums, we're already discussing it," said Native Hawaiian activist Mililani Trask, a 1969 Kamehameha Schools graduate.

Kamehameha Schools is the state's largest public charity, one that educates nearly 7,000 Native Hawaiian children.

Trask and others say a trustee of Hawaiian ancestry would more receptive to the needs of Hawaiian students and the schools.

"There has been a call from the community, and a lot of involvement, to put on the trustees board a Hawaiian with an educational background that the schools need," Trask said.

The ethnicity issue has flared up before, especially over the appointment of Matsuo Takabuki in the 1970s. Catherine Kekoa Enomoto was among those who challenged the appointment and is upset.

"There are many Hawaiians that are more than qualified to hold that position," said Enomoto. "And if no Native Hawaiian comes forward, they should be proactive in going to the community and seek those candidates."

Enomoto's father, Curtis Kekoa, argued that the courts should allow the Hawaiian community and organizations like Hawaiian civic clubs to have more say in the trustee selection process. Now, members of the Kamehameha ohana are calling for similar changes.

Last year, a group of prominent graduates and former administrators wrote a letter urging the state Probate Court to give the alumni, teachers and other stakeholders more input in the selection process.

They said former Probate Judge Derrick Chan did not respond to the request.

Probate Judge Mark Browning will likely make an appointment from the three finalists in the coming weeks.

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