Governing Board Updates

Mahalo to the community members, staff and parents who applied for membership in Kona Pacific’s reconstituted governing board. The Hawaii Public Charter School Commission, at their 5-23-19 meeting, appointed seven new governing board members. Please visit the “Board” page for more information.

Welcome to our new board members! The first meeting of the new GB will be announced as soon as the date has been set by the members.


Apply to be a member of Kona Pacific Public Charter School’s new Governing Board!

The Hawaii State Public Charter School Commission has posted a link to their application form for new governing board members:
https://tinyurl.com/yypq6qvu

Serving on a public charter school governing board is a volunteer, unpaid, position of public trust and fiduciary responsibility to the State of Hawaiʻi.  As a governing board member of a public school, you are responsible for ensuring the quality of the school’s plans, competent stewardship of public funds, and the school’s fulfillment of its public obligations and all terms of its Charter Contract.  The Commission requires that each applicant for governing board membership respond fully to this questionnaire.  The applications are due by Wednesday, May 14.

We encourage all interested community members, parents and staff to apply for governing board membership. With a new Pedagogical Director in place for next school year, and the hiring process for a new operations leader well underway, you can also be part of the “clean slate” leadership and governance team for our school and help guide Kona Pacific into its bright, healthy future.


At its special meeting today, Tuesday April 30, the Hawaii State Public Charter School commission voted to approve the governing board’s proposal for a full reconstitution of the board, as an alternative to the revocation of Kona Pacific’s charter contract.

This means that the school will stay open and will be operating next school year, 2019-20.

The commission staff will be accepting applications for membership on the newly reconstituted governing board, and we will provide updates on that process soon.

Mahalo to all the staff, parents and community members who wrote, called and testified on behalf of the school!


26 April 2019 Update
Aloha Kona Pacific Staff and Families,

The Hawaii State Charter School Commission has scheduled a special meeting on Tuesday, April 30, at which the commissioners will consider the school’s proposal for a full reconstitution of the governing board as an alternative to revocation of the school’s charter contract.

The Commission will be accepting written testimony until 8 a.m. on Monday, April 29. We encourage all staff and parents to provide written testimony in support of accepting the proposal for board reconstitution and keeping the school open. The best testimony is factual and from the heart; express to the commission staff and commissioners how much Kona Pacific Public Charter School means to you, your families, and to our community.

Testimony should be emailed to commission.mail@spcsc.hawaii.gov .

We will be sending out another update after the Commission meeting; until then, we join hands with all of you in setting our intentions for a vibrant future for our beloved school.

With warmest aloha,
KPPCS GB


23 April 2019 Update
Aloha Kona Pacific Staff and Families,
The school’s response to the NOPR was submitted to the Hawaii State Public Charter School Commission yesterday. The governing board has proposed a full reconstitution of the board as an alternative to revocation of the school’s charter contract, and the commissioners will be voting whether to accept this proposal at their next meeting, tentatively scheduled for Thursday, May 9 in Honolulu.
The response also provides information regarding the many erroneous assertions made in the commission’s NOPR letter, and documents the corrective actions that the school has already put in place.
The entire response document can be viewed here.
As we await the commissioners’ decision, we ask our spirited school community to come together, find the common ground that connects us, and work towards a sustainable future for Kona Pacific and the children that we serve and cherish.
Mahalo,
KPPCS GB

18 April 2019 Update
Aloha Kona Pacific Staff and Families,

Thank you all for your messages and phone calls. We very much appreciate your support and passion during this challenging time for our school.

The school’s response to the Notice of Prospect of Revocation is due on Monday, April 22, and we are working closely with the school’s attorneys to draft a response that will provide the best path forward for our school, so that Kona Pacific can continue to grow, thrive and serve the families of Kona. We will provide you with a copy of the response next week, which will include an indication of the willingness of the GB members to step down to allow for reconstitution.

The school feels it is important to ensure that the accusations in the NOPR were reviewed and refuted not only by the Governing Board and school staff, but also by a group of accounting professionals. Linked to this update is a letter from Carbonaro CPAs and Management Group, the firm of certified public accountants that has conducted an audit of the KPPCS financial records. Carbonaro CPAs is one of the most highly respected CPA firms in the state of Hawaii with an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. They conduct the audits of many charter schools in the state of Hawaii as well as other state agencies, nonprofit organizations, private schools, homeowner associations and for-profit businesses.

The letter firmly establishes that several of the financial concerns listed on the Hawaii State Public Charter School Commission’s Notice of the Prospect of Revocation (NOPR) are clearly erroneous and unsubstantiated.

Please review the letter here for the details.

Thank you for your patience as we continue to work with the commission staff and the school’s attorneys to address the various concerns of the commission and, hopefully, achieve a rescinding of the NOPR.

Wishing you all a peaceful and joyful holiday weekend,
KPPCS GB


12 April 2019 Update
Aloha KPPCS Staff and Families,
Mahalo for your continued patience as the school works towards the best options for ensuring Kona Pacific Public Charter School will be able to remain open and serve the students and their families.

There has been a lot of misinformation circulating in our small community that is causing a lot of confusion and damage – this type of misinformation is harmful to the school, including adults and children.

Emails have circulated stating that Hawaii State Charter School Commission (Commission) staff have confirmed that if all governing board members resign, the commissioners will take revocation of the school’s charter contact off the table. However, the school’s attorneys have advised that Commission staff may not speak on behalf of the commissioners with regard to matters they have yet to vote upon. Specifically, while Commission staff have referenced HRS Section 302D-17(2)(B), “except that the authorizer may replace the entire governing board if the alternative is the initiation of revocation of the charter school’s charter contract and the governing board opts instead for reconstitution,” it is the commissioners themselves who will be the ones making the decision whether to accept or reject this option. In short, there is no guarantee that if the entire board resigns the NOPR will be rescinded.

The board is continuing to work closely with the school’s attorneys, and is consulting with the Commission staff, in order to achieve the best possible outcome for KPPCS.

Secondly, we would like to provide some extremely important corrections and clarifications. There have been a number of emails and other communications regarding KPPCS’s ESSA report and some of the data contained in that report. The ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) report is a document compiled by the Hawaii Department of Education (DOE) that provides comprehensive data on school and student performance and accountability.

The board has identified at least two areas in which the data on KPPCS’s 2017-18 ESSA report is fundamentally incorrect and has injured the reputation of our school, our teachers, our staff, and the members of the Governing Board. The first is the PPE (per-pupil expenditures), which was reported as being $2,684, far below the PPE for any other school in Hawaii.

This incorrect figure was quoted in widely distributed emails, along with unfounded and defamatory accusations of financial improprieties by board and staff members.

When we promptly investigated this situation, we found that the reason for the low PPE figure in the ESSA was that the school’s administration submitted incorrect data, only reporting the fourth quarter of the year, rather than for the entire year as required. At the direction of the governing board, the school’s administration is now in the process of correcting that figure; the Director reports that the tentative corrected PPE figure is $7,354.

The other incorrect ESSA data point was regarding teacher qualifications, in which KPPCS was identified as having 92% inexperienced teachers, an obviously incorrect figure, as our excellent faculty has many years of experience.

We found that the school administration did not provide this information to the DOE when requested, which resulted in the erroneous figure. The board has also asked the Director to ensure that this figure is corrected, and is continuing to investigate whether there is additional incorrect information that has been provided to the Commission and the DOE.

The board is continuing to move forward with the important task of making plans for the next year. It is very important that while dealing with the tasks at hand, we also look to prepare for the future and ensuring a seamless and smooth transition to the 2019-20 school year. There is currently a hiring committee diligently working towards finding leadership for the next school year.

Thank you for your patience and your support. We will do our best to answer questions and get back to you in a timely manner, but you may not receive immediate responses, as our focus is ensuring KPPCS is here for staff and children, not only next year but for many years to come.

Mahalo,
KPPCS GB


2 April 2019 Update
Aloha KPPCS Community,
We understand that there are many questions. The school is working under the advice of our Attorneys General every step of the way. The governing board has elected to begin the process of self-reconstitution, and the new members can be selected with the assistance of the charter school commission staff to ensure that both the commission and the community have full faith in the governance of the school.

The board has been advised that it is very important to exonerate the school from false allegations of wrongdoing that threaten to undermine the school’s future. While past staff and board members may not have always used best practices, it is essential that we thoroughly address and extinguish the allegations of illegal, unethical and contractual violations that are implied in the NOPR. If we fail to address these allegations, they will continue to cast a shadow on KPPCS.

We are compiling the documentation and evidence to refute the numerous erroneous claims against the school that were made in the commission’s NOPR. For example:

  • There is no comingling of funds between the school and the nonprofit (Friends). Intercompany transactions that are properly accounted for, based on sound business purposes and properly reported and approved, are not comingled. There are two separate companies, bank accounts and financial statements. Clearly separated is not the same as comingled.
  • There is no overpayment of lease rent. Lease rent recorded and expensed every year and noted in every audit is exactly what the lease terms require. When the lease rent is paid before the due date, and that due date is the start of a new fiscal year, the rent is credited to that new fiscal year. For example, if the rent for July 1 (the start of the new fiscal year) is paid in June, the payment posts in the year in which it was paid, but is credited to the fiscal year for which the rent was due. This is absolutely normal and acceptable accounting practice and does not constitute “overpayment.”
  • Occasionally rent was paid early; these early rent payments were made to ensure the supporting non-profit could move forward with construction of buildings and programs the school requested.  Prepaid rent is normal business practice.
  • The school has often made business transactions with Friends, identified in our annual audits as a related party. These decisions have provided to be very beneficial for the school and the students. All such transactions are documented and audited every year with total transparency.

Because the NOPR contains numerous unjustified accusations and unsupported issues, we will continue working diligently to establish the facts, while also continuing to correct practices that the charter school commission would like to see changed.

We will continue to update the community as the situation progresses.

Mahalo,
KPPCS GB


26 March 2019 Update
Aloha Kona Pacific Staff and Families,
In order to continue to keep the school moving toward correction and compliance with the Hawaii Public Charter School Commission, and having consulted with commission CEO Sione Thompson, the governing board has elected to immediately begin self-reconstitution. The current members wish to honor their commitment to the children and acknowledge that our number one priority is to ensure they can continue to receive the unique gift of a Waldorf inspired education. The school will accept applications for new members, ensuring that the new board members will constitute the majority. The current board is open to and welcomes the charter school commission’s assistance in selecting new members.

As current members leave the governing board, the new board members will appoint the replacement members.  This process will be completed in phases, in order to ensure the continuity of the wide range of board responsibilities. During the transition, the new members will begin the work of getting up to speed on the charter contract as well as the school’s organizational documents, and the many rules and procedures the governing board must follow. The new majority will also drive the selection of the school’s new leader(s), the budget for 2019-20, and all forward-looking decisions for the next school year.

During the transition period, the current members will work with the new members to continue addressing the compliance issues, and “cleaning-up” anything the commission finds unsatisfactory, including a severing of the MOA with the school’s associated non-profit, Friends of Kona Pacific.

The board plans to have this process completed by June 30, 2019. By that date, all of the commission’s issues regarding the school’s relationship with Friends of KPPCS will be corrected and/or addressed with new policies to prevent future issues, and the school will have totally reconstituted the governing board in an orderly fashion allowing for continuity of responsibilities in a very conscientious process.

All Governing Board positions are unpaid, volunteer positions. Although unpaid there can be high-level satisfaction knowing you are serving a greater good, and doing a job that needs to be done for a community you care about. If you are interested in joining the governing board and assisting in the reconstitution process, please submit your resumé and a short statement about the skills, knowledge and experience your service will bring to the school. The board is working on scheduling an open town hall meeting. In the meantime, we ask the community to please find common ground in what is best for the children and use this time to set a positive example and support the school through the process.

Mahalo,
The Governing Board of KPPCS

Notice of Prospect of Revocation

At its general meeting on March 14, the Hawaii State Public Charter School Commission voted to issue a “Notice of Prospect of Revocation” of the charter contract with Kona Pacific Public Charter School. On March 18, a letter was mailed to the staff and families of the school, informing them of this decision.

The revocation of the charter contract would result in the closure of the school. The notice is the first step in that process, which will proceed over the next few months.

On March 21, the governing board of KPPCS sent a letter to the commission staff and commissioners expressing the school’s concern that proper legal processes were not followed regarding the commission’s meeting and vote. The text of the letter is below; follow the “more” link for the full text of the letter.

The school will next be responding to the notice itself. In their letter to KPPCS staff and families, the commission listed concerns about various actions taken by Kona Pacific’s staff, director and governing board, as well as former staff, directors and governing boards. The school will be addressing all of the commission’s concerns in its formal response to the Notice of Prospect of Revocation.

To view the Notice of Prospect of Revocation, please see the commission’s website here.


21 March 2019

To: Sione Thompson, Executive Director, SPCSC Commissioners, Hawaii State Public Charter School Commission, 1111 Bishop Street, Suite 516 Honolulu, HI 96813

Dear Mr. Thompson and Commissioners,

We are writing regarding the Commission’s March 14 meeting concerning Kona Pacific Public Charter School and the subsequent March 18, 2019 letter to Kona Pacific Public Charter School’s staff and parents. We respectfully insist that the Hawaii State Public Charter School Commission immediately: a) rescind its letter, b) remove the message on the same subject posted on its web page, and c) rescind its vote to initiate the revocation process of our charter for the following reasons:

First, the Commission posted and promulgated its notice for the March 14, 2019 meeting on March 8, 2019. As you are aware, the Charter School Commission is subject to HRS Chapter 92 – Public Agency Meetings and Records. See HRS 302D-3(a). Per HRS Section 92-7(a), the Commission is required to give written public notice of “any regular, special, emergency, or rescheduled meeting.”  The meeting notice “shall include an agenda that lists all of the items to be considered at the forthcoming meeting.”  Per HRS Section 92-7(b), the Commission is required to post the meeting notice on its website and its office “[n]o less than six calendar days prior to the meeting.”  Per HRS Section 92-7(c), if the notice is posted on the Commission’s website less than six calendar days before the meeting, “the meeting shall be canceled as a matter of law and shall not be held.”

Although the agenda item “Update/Action on Intervention Protocol for Kona Pacific Public Charter School’s Notice of Concern Regarding Public Charter School Contract Violations and Performance Concerns” had been posted in advance of the deadline of six days prior, that meeting notice did not include an agenda that listed all of the items to be considered at the March 14 meeting, which constitutes a violation of HRS Section 92-7(a).

Second, the 7 bullet point list of agenda items of continued concern contained at pages 6 and 7 of the Commission’s public notice/agenda for its March 14, 2019 meeting does not correlate with issues actually addressed by Commission members at the March 14, 2019 meeting.

Per HRS Section 92-7(d), the Commission “shall not change the agenda, less than six calendar days prior to the meeting, by adding items thereto, without a two-thirds recorded vote of all members to which the board is entitled.” There is no evidence that this vote occurred, yet Commission members nevertheless failed to address any of the 7 issues listed on the agenda. Instead, Commission members grilled members of the Governing Board about a) alleged “illegality” of email voting as provided for in the school’s By-laws; b) alleged lease rent “overpayments”’ and c) discussion of “fears” expressed by a school staff members.

The Commission proceeded to question the School’s director, and Mr. Thompson asked him the following list of questions (not in this order, and not these precise words): a) You will definitely not be coming back to the school next year, is that correct? b) Have you had access to the school’s financial records at all times during your tenure? c) Were you informed when you took the job that there were commission concerns about past school enrollment procedures? d) Did a Friends board member enter the school office and threaten and intimidate a school employee? and e) Does the board often take email votes?

No advance notice of any of these topics was given to the Board, which was deprived of a meaningful opportunity to provide informed responses.

The Commission then justified its vote for a Prospect of Revocation of the School’s charter based partially on some of these concerns.

On these two grounds alone, the meeting was invalid, and the vote taken thereat is void. However there are additional reasons the Commission’s actions are subject to challenge for procedural and due process deficiencies.

Third, prior to the March 14, 2019 meeting, the Commission members were not provided with Kona Pacific’s written submission, which was timely submitted March 11, 2019 (see attached). This submission addressed the issues that the Commissioners verbally (more about this issue below) introduced at its February 28 special meeting, all regarding the school’s relationship with its associated non-profit, Friends of Kona Pacific Public Charter School.

Though the Governing Board had never received a Notice of Concern or any kind of written document outlining those matters, the Board was nevertheless trying to be cooperative and proactive in immediately addressing the Commissioners’ newly expressed concerns. Despite the fact that Mr. Thompson assured us via email that these materials would be provided to the Commission members prior to the meeting, such never in fact occurred. This alarming oversight further materially impaired the Governing Board’s ability to address the Commission’s concerns verbally raised at its March 14, 2019 meeting. More specifically, because the Commissioners never received our March 11, 2019 document, they revisited all of the questions they had already raised at the February 28 meeting under the apparent belief that the governing board had done nothing at all in the intervening period to address those concerns.

To further compound the failure to provide Kona Pacific’s written submission to the Commissioners, some of those same issues were subsequently included in the Commissions’ list of reasons for voting at that meeting for a Prospect of Revocation of the school’s charter.

Fourth, yet another new matter was raised at the March 14 Commission meeting without being properly agendized or noticed, namely concerns over the legality of a By-Law provision that purportedly permits Board voting via email. Instead of clearly identifying this important issue as an agenda item, it was first brought forward in the Commission staff’s March 12 submittal, which contained a paragraph stating that Commission staff were “unclear” about the propriety of this clause and any votes taken on the basis thereof. As a result, Board members were again blindsided and not provided with a meaningful opportunity to provide informed responses after consulting with legal counsel.

In addition, the By-Laws at issue predate the current Governing Board; and we believe that these Bylaws had been previously provided to the Commission for review.

Still more troubling is the fact that in December 2018, Commission staff member Sylvia Silva specifically agreed that the Governing Board could undertake an email vote to approve the January meeting minutes reflecting the vote to approve the school’s SY 2019-20 enrollment packet, in order for the Commission to accept the enrollment packet. While we recognize that Ms. Silva’s intention was to assist the school, it is clear the practice of email voting was well known to commission staff prior to the 3/14/19 meeting. Another example of this: Josh Deweerd, a support staff of HPCSC, has attended 3 out 5 board meetings during the new GB Chair’s term. The Chair took the opportunity to speak with Mr. DeWeerd on two of those visits, specifically asking for guidance or suggestions if he found any part of the meeting to be out of compliance or not in best practice. All three of the board meetings during his visits included discussion and ratification of email votes. The Chair also emailed a similar message to Ms. Silva after she attended a GB meeting in December.

Because the issue of email voting was not properly noticed, all pertinent facts were not disclosed to Commission members, including the above. Therefore, concern with email voting cannot be a valid basis for issuing a Prospect of Revocation of the School’s charter.

In addition to these substantial procedural errors, there was not a sound substantive basis on which to issue the Prospect of Revocation. Kona Pacific reserves the right to address the substantive issues at a properly noticed meeting at which all submittals from the school are provided to the Commission.

For all of the above reasons, the Commission’s vote to initiate the revocation process was founded on substantive and procedural and due process improprieties that must be immediately rectified. Indeed, swift action is the only way to remediate the damage to the school’s reputation caused by the issuance of the March 18 letter to staff and parents.

Due to time constraints, we respectfully request a prompt response to our request, as well as written confirmation that all Commission members have been provided a copy of this letter.

Rest assured that we have been working with the Attorney General’s office regarding these matters, and will continue to follow their advice moving forward.

Regards,

The Governing Board of KPPCS

cc:

Greg Ushiroda, Department of the Attorney General, Education Division

Richard Thomason, Department of the Attorney General, Employment Law Division