Waimea Charter School Board Won’t Say Why Popular Principal is Leaving
Emotions are running high in North Hawaii over the departure of the principal of the Waimea Middle Public Conversion Charter School.
The board of directors for Ho‘okako‘o, the non-profit corporation that manages the Waimea school, announced last week that Principal John Colson was leaving.
Since then there have been plenty of questions about his departure but few answers. Students from the school and their parents have staged public protests including roadside sign-waving and a “sick-out,” where reportedly more than half of the school’s 280 students were kept home on Monday.
More than 300 people attended a meeting held last night by Ho‘okako‘o to respond to the concerns, but its board members declined to answer most of the questions posed.
Many speakers maintained that it was unlike Colson to leave the school in mid-session, and questioned whether he had actually resigned as the board has stated.
Colson, who is in his fourth year at the Waimea school, is a veteran educator. Prior to coming to Waimea he spent four years as principal of the middle school at the Keaau campus of Kamehameha School. Before that he spent nearly 25 years as headmaster at Hawaii Preparatory Academy, one of the state’s most prestigious private schools that is also located in Waimea.
At Thursday’s meeting, Keith Vieira, chair of Ho‘okako‘o’s board of directors, maintained that Colson had done “nothing ethically, morally wrong.” Vieira also said that the school board had not forced Colson to resign.
According to his supporters, Colson received a rating of 4.8 out of 5 on his annual evaluation in January. A statement issued by Ho‘okako‘o on Feb. 8, the day after the announcement of Colson’s departure at a school assembly, said that Colson’s tenure “has brought much needed stability to the school ….”
Colson’s resignation officially occurs on March 31, but he has not been seen on the campus lately.
Colson did not return a call from Big Island Now seeking comment.
Megan McCorriston, executive director of Ho‘okako‘o, said a search for a new principal has begun and is expected to be completed by June.
At last night’s public meeting, Vieira, one of five members of the board in attendance, introduced Lydia Trinidad, principal of Kualapu‘u School on Molokai, as the new interim principal at Waimea middle school. Kualapu‘u is another school under Ho‘okako‘o’s management.
Ho‘okako‘o, which is based on Oahu, was established in 2002 following the passing of a state law that year allowing public schools to convert to charter schools. Ho‘okako‘o was established with the help of Kamehameha Schools, which assists in funding schools under Ho‘okako‘o’s management.
Waimea Middle School converted to a charter school in 2003 and was the first to do so among Ho‘okako‘o’s three charter schools.
The third, Kamaile Academy, located in Waianae, Oahu, was the subject of a similar controversy in 2010 when Ho‘okako‘o’s board fired its two top administrators in the middle of the school year. The board said Kamaile’s chief executive officer and principal were terminated because they had not pursued federal School Improvement Grants.
The two Kamaile administrators did not publicly discuss their termination, and Ho‘okako‘o officials said both had signed confidentiality agreements. The firings prompted community members to file a protest with the state attorney general.