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Kona Pacific fights back against commission’s findings

KAILUA-KONA — A Kealakekua school is demanding the state commission that oversees charter schools rescind a vote kicking off a process that could close the school.

The governing board for Kona Pacific Public Charter School is alleging the state Public Charter School Commission violated the law, including the state’s Sunshine Law, in taking the action during a March 14 meeting in Honolulu.

Kona Pacific’s board in a message posted online said the school, meanwhile, plans to address all concerns commissioners raised when they voted to issue a notice of prospect of revocation.

The charter school commission voted during the March 14 meeting to start the process of revoking Kona Pacific’s charter contract, according to a notice posted on its website. The commission hasn’t posted minutes for that meeting, but a copy of the notice on the panel’s website said the commission grounded the decision in evidence it said suggests Kona Pacific violated aspects of the law as well as the state public charter school contract.

The notice outlines a number of allegations including some involving the school’s relationship with the nonprofit Friends of Kona Pacific Public Charter School, which owns the land on which the school is located. The notice itself and a letter to the school’s faculty, staff, parents and families reference allegations that the school commingled funds with the Friends group, overpaid lease rent to the nonprofit and that the nonprofit was driving financial decisions made by the school’s governing board.

But in a March 21 letter published on the Kona Pacific website and addressed to the commission’s executive director and members, the school’s board members raised their own allegations of wrongdoing against the commission, insisting it rescind the letter and vote, as well as remove the message about the notice from its own website.

Included in the school’s argument is a direct allegation that the commission violated the state’s Sunshine Law, arguing that the notice for the March 14 meeting didn’t have an agenda inclusive of everything to be considered that day and that the notice and agenda didn’t correlate with what the commission actually discussed during that meeting.

The governing board also alleged commissioners weren’t given a response the school prepared in response to concerns raised during a February meeting regarding the relationship with the Friends nonprofit and submitted in advance of the recent meeting. The governing board also accused the commission of raising a new issue during the recent meeting, blindsiding the board without giving it a chance to provide informed responses or consult with an attorney.

An accompanying post said the school will be responding to the notice of prospect of revocation and “will be addressing all of the commission’s concerns” in that response.

The Kona Pacific Public Charter School governing board president didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time Tuesday.

Michael Kramer, who is president of the Friends of Kona Pacific Public Charter School, said he’d welcome the opportunity to rebut the allegations pertaining to the nonprofit and its relationship to the school, but said the commission has never sought his input.

He said a memorandum of agreement exists between the nonprofit and the school that was approved by the state attorney general and accepted by the commission.

“But unfortunately it appears that the relationship is being interpreted to be problematic,” he said, “even though there are long-standing practices that have been proven to be above-board.”

Commission staff could not be reached for comment Tuesday, which was a state holiday.

After the commission issued a notice of prospect of revocation to Ka‘u Learning Academy toward the end of November 2017, the commission’s chairwoman at the time was quoted in a news report saying a decision to revoke the charter initiates a timeline to be determined by the commission either during a hearing, which a school has the option of requesting, or a subsequent meeting.

The commission voted to revoke Ka‘u Learning Academy’s charter last July, according to news files.

Email Cameron Miculka at cmiculka@westhawaiitoday.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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