East Hawaii News

Ka ‘Umeke Kaeo Plans Suspension of High School Classes

April 21, 2016, 11:48 AM HST
* Updated April 22, 1:49 PM
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Students at Ka ʻUmeke Kāʻeo Public Charter School. Courtesy file photo.

Students at Ka ʻUmeke Kāʻeo Public Charter School. Courtesy file photo.

Ka ‘Umeke Kaeo has been named a semi-finalist for the XQ Super School Project. The status comes as the school is in the works of discontinuing high school classes for the upcoming school year to focus on a restructuring of curriculum.

Nearly 700 schools applied for the XQ Super School Project, and Ka ‘Umeke Kaeo was named one of 348 finalists from 45 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico to compete for one of five Super School prizes worth $10 million over a five-year period.

The XQ Super School Project is “an open call to rethink and redesign the American high school” and was first launched in September 2015.

“Education is undergoing a tremendous shift, predominately in recognizing that there is a gap between what educators have believed are prepared students and their actual readiness for contributing to the health and well-being of their families, communities, and the environment,” said Olani Lilly, Ka ‘Umeke principal. “We saw that at Ka ‘Umeke, and we are rising to the challenge.

“We are suspending high school classes for the school year 2016-2017 to give us the time to design a program more in line with what students will need in the future. Our decision was made before we were notified about our semi-finalist status, and now we know we are on the right track because we are competing with some of the most progressive and well-funded public and charter schools in the country.”

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While the school suspends high school classes, it will work towards building “a superior, more flexible program” and will hire and train teachers that have magnet school experience.

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“With technological advances changing the world so rapidly, haumāna today must develop the skills needed to adapt readily to change, to take risks confidently and to maintain their individual and collective identity,” said Lilly. “Thankfully, these were the skills of our ancestors and Ka ʻUmeke hopes to realign its high school education program to emphasize those skills.”

The school plans to emphasize keen observation, sophisticated questioning, ability to predict and synthesize information, adopt a collective mindset creative problem-solving, calculated risk-taking and the ability to adjust, and use of oli & moʻolelo for knowledge transference in its new curriculum.

“In addition to curriculum changes, we are re-looking at everything, including the school calendar, instructional hours, professional development, and facilities,” Lilly said. “To achieve this, we are actively pursuing creative partnerships with the university, cultural practitioners, communities, other schools, and businesses.”

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Ka ‘Umeke will help students enroll in other charter and public schools during the pause and will ask former Ka ‘Umeke students attending those schools to provide campus tours and other advice to help with acclimation.

“Ka ‘Umeke is proud of our educational achievements over these many years,” said Ka ‘Umeke Board of Directors chair, Kilohana Hirano. “However, we know we can do better beginning with the full integration of Papakū Makawalu. We are dedicated to creating an educational program that is academically rigorous and deeply connected to the skills sets of our ancestors because these are the skills students will need to face challenges we cannot even fathom today.”

Funding for the project comes from the board of the XQ Institute, which is chaired by the late Steve Jobs’ wife, Laurene Powell Jobs.

Ka ‘Umeke Kaeo Public Charter School has been open since 1987 when it became one of the first Hawai’i immersion schools. It became one of the first charter schools in 2001.

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