Video by David Corrigan | Voice of Stephanie Salazar
Laupahoehoe High will become a charter school.
That was the decision made by the newly appointed Hawaii Board of Education at a recent meeting held on Oahu, a few short months after the Charter School Review Panel voted to deny the application to convert the school. It appeared at the time as if no charter school would be awarded in the state of Hawaii for the second straight year. The board had until October 4th to decide an appeal.
It was a joyous scene in February 2010, when school teachers, faculty, parents and community members voted to convert the public k-12 school into a charter school. The night of the vote, we spoke to Judi Steinman, a resident of Laupahoehoe who lives along the winding country road just mauka of the school, and we again caught up with her at her home this weekend.
Supporters of the charter school effort issued this media release a few days after the decision was made:
The public school in Laupahoehoe will open as a conversion-charter school in August 2012, admitting all students in its large catchment area, which lies along the Hamakua Coast of Hawai`i Island between O’okala and Umauma. If there is room, the school will also accept transfer students from other areas.
“I would like to thank everyone who supported our efforts,” said Lucille Chung, a member of the advocate group supporting the charter school conversion effort, and 1958 graduate of the school at Laupahoehoe. “We as a Laupahoehoe school community, have been awarded a wonderful opportunity, as well as a great responsibility, to improve upon and further develop a school where all are welcome to participate in promoting a learning environment of trusting relationships, and relevant and rigorous educational experiences. We are going to create a great school that lives ALOHA, and we invite everyone to help us accomplish this. It has to be a KAKOU THING.
The Laupahoehoe Community Public Charter School will be characterized by an innovative and proven curriculum, where experiential learning opportunities engage students in rigorous academic work. A local school board will be responsive to community needs, interests and values, and is considered a primary benefit of conversion.
In addition, charter status will allow greater freedom for the school to forge public and private partnerships. Over a dozen partners have expressed an interest in helping to enrich the school’s curriculum by providing a variety of educational opportunities. The charter school plans to develop electives in a wide range of subjects, including (but not limited to) forest ecology, agriculture, automotive mechanics, carpentry, music, home economics and alternative energy, as well as maintain a strong sports program. As a conversion-charter school, it will receive support from the Department of Education for the management of the campus and facilities.
Plans are underway for an election in November 2011 to select a permanent local school board. The board will consist of representatives of the school stakeholder groups: parents, community, faculty, staff and administration. Candidates will be elected by their corresponding constituents (i.e., teachers will elect teacher representatives, parents the parent representatives, etc.). The local school board will work closely with teachers and administration at the school to ease the transition to charter status.
The original Laupahoehoe High and Elementary School opened its doors on Laupahoehoe Point in 1883. After 24 students and teachers lost their lives in the 1946 tsunami, a community in mourning hired the renowned designer of the USS Arizona Memorial to build a fitting tribute, and the school that he designed opened at its present location in the fall of 1952. It remains today one of the most beautiful, comfortable and environmentally appropriate school campuses in the islands.
The charter school initiative in Laupahoehoe began to coalesce in 2008 when a diverse group of parents, alumni, and community leaders came together to re-imagine Laupahoehoe High & Elementary School. The group worked closely with the Laupahoehoe Alumni/Community Association (“LACA”), a non-profit corporation founded in 2001 to preserve and perpetuate the school and area’s rich cultural and historic heritage.
In October, 2009, LACA received a $455,100 federal grant to plan and implement the charter school. In February of 2010, a vote was conducted by the League of Women Voters, revealing that 81 percent of the 180 eligible stakeholders (teachers, parents and school employees) who voted were in favor of converting Laupahoehoe’s existing school to a charter school. The formal application process took two years, and culminated in the issuance of a charter by the Board of Education.
The applicant group wishes to thank all those, including Governor Neil Abercrombie, who supported the charter school effort.
More information about the Laupahoehoe Community Public Charter School may be found at its website: www.laupahoehoecharterschool.com