Kamehameha Schools is getting it right

New figures released this week show how much progress Kamehameha Schools has made in its mission to educate Hawaiian children since the scandal of the late 1990s.

One of the most troubling problems back then was that the former trustees who were ultimately removed financed their dubious investments by cutting spending on education.

Outreach programs were virtually eliminated and educational efforts focused on the flagship Kamehameha campus at Kapalama, which could serve only a small fraction of Hawaiian children.

Since then, the diverse group of trustees appointed by the probate court and the school administration led by Dee Jay Mailer have built new Kamehameha campuses on Maui and the Big Island, spending $129 million on the three campuses last year, according to the trust’s annual report.

Even more impressive was the spending on outreach programs that touch tens of thousands of Hawaiian children throughout the state. Outreach spending totalled $102 million last year, up from $57 million in 2006.

Kamehameha Schools has sponsored public charter schools in Hawaiian communities, undertaken cooperative programs with the public schools and other private schools, invested in teacher training, funded preschool and kindergarten scholarships and helped pay for Hawaiian children to go to college.

Even with the increased spending on education, the school’s endowment experienced a healthy growth from $7.2 billion to $7.8 billion.

There’s a world of differences between Kamehameha Schools and Hawai‘i’s  public schools in both resources and mission, but still, there’s much the state can learn from the Kamehameha rebirth as it moves to an appointed Board of Education in hopes of reinvigorating the public schools.

The first thing is to avoid political horse-trading in appointing BOE members and focus on finding people with proven accomplishments in fields relevant to running a large organization like the Department of Education.

The second is to develop an ethic of always serving the needs of the children first — ahead of the interests of adult stakeholders who feed off the public schools.

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2 Comments on “Kamehameha Schools is getting it right”

  1. Michael Says:

    You can lead a Horse to water
    but you cannot make it drink.

    Kamehameha Schools can build its own Rail.

  2. charles Says:

    I fear that giving the governor a blank check in appointing BOE members is akin to a blank check.

    As far as this fallacy that voters wanted the governor to have a blank check, my hunch is that voters didn’t know what they were voting for. After all, there was no implementing legislation so voters were essentially voting blind.

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