Hawaii Island Parent to DOE Superintendent: Don’t Close Our Kohala School

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    Dear Hawaii Education Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi,

    This letter concerns the possible closure of Kohala Middle School and
    sending all its students to the Kohala High School campus.

    I am writing this letter as an outraged taxpayer, parent and human being.
    I am also writing it because the West Hawaii Today front page article of
    Saturday, June 26 said that you would carefully consider Friday’s public
    hearing comments before reaching a decision.

    I attended the consolidation task force meeting in the library of Kohala
    High School at 5 – 7 pm June 25, 2010.  I left with the impression that
    your assistant, Randolph G. Moore could not care less what becomes of the
    Kohala Middle School children (or elementary or high school students
    either) of our little rural, outer island community.

    Listening to Mr. Randolph G. Moore’s mealy-mouthed, misleading, evasive,
    non-answers to simple straightforward questions raised by concerned task
    force members — and by members of the public who attended — made me
    sick!

    Reading Mr. Randolph G. Moore’s description of Kohala Middle School in his
    draft letter to you dated June 23, 2010 made me furious! (See enclosure).

    He states that the school “does not have fine arts classrooms, a formal
    music facility or a shower/locker room for physical education, all of
    which are standard in new middle schools”.

    Thanks to the Department of Education implementation of Act 51
    (“Reinventing Education”) weighted student formula funding cuts, the
    school lost its full time art teacher and full time chorus teacher. Some
    years ago Mr. Randolph G. Moore — as the “Act 51 Implementation
    Manager” — explained to our teachers that they would just “have to do
    more with less”. At the time, the high school lost enough positions there
    was fear students would not be able to have the necessary classes to be
    able to earn a BOE diploma.  In the light of such cutbacks and loss of
    staff what good would such music, shop and art classrooms do?  Wasted
    space, like I saw at the new Kealakehe High School, perhaps.

    Mr. Randolph G. Moore described the cafeteria as being in the “basement”
    of the main classroom building.  If he took the time to look at it, it is
    a pleasant, cool room with big windows looking out over the athletic field
    and ocean.  It is NOT IN A BASEMENT.

    Mr. Randolph G. Moore described Kohala Middle School as a “former
    elementary school that consists of old frame structures”.   He does not
    mention that Kohala Middle School is lovingly cared for, airy, with
    gleaming floors (again in contrast to new expensive Kealakehe High School
    where I saw dull floors , trash, gum, graffiti, and weeds}, and that its
    old  frame single-wall construction  weathered our 6.8 earthquake with so
    little damage that the classrooms remained ready for occupancy.  The
    school is so comfortable, well maintained, and fits so well into our
    community.  I have not been in ANY newer, more modern school that I liked
    as well.  Being old can be an advantage, rather than a disadvantage.

    He also did not mention that most of the big expenses were for work that
    has already been done at Kohala Middle School – new septic system, new
    roof, new computer access, new phone lines, new smart boards, etc.  This
    will all be wasted if the schools are consolidated and Kohala Middle
    School is abandoned.

    Or perhaps the engineers that came to the school and discussed the cutting
    up of portables so that they could be moved to the high school campus
    (within the hearing of students and teachers during a class near the end
    of the school year!) could figure out a way to cut up and move the new
    septic system also.

    I’m enclosing a few pictures of this old school.  Notice its attractive
    almost manicured appearance, the weedless lawn, the large beautiful
    athletic field, shiny floors and, especially, the happy children in class.
    This is a campus that reflects the love and pride of this community.

    If these children are taken from this lovely Kohala Middle School campus
    and crammed into an already crowded high school campus of equally old
    buildings plus a few portable classrooms’ will they continue to look as
    happy?  Will they continue to have the very high graduation rate at the
    high school?  Will the pregnancy rate go up?

    The Kohala Middle School children already DON’T HAVE  band, home
    economics, shop (wood or any other kind) – shop being a way for kids to
    learn to use tools, in case their dad doesn’t have time to teach them, or
    doesn’t know how to use them himself, or if the child doesn’t even have a
    dad .

    Will stuffing Kohala Middle School students into a crowded smaller campus
    with elementary and high school students magically give them all the
    benefits that the city kids now have, such as band, orchestra, chorus,
    home economics, shop, etc.?  I don’t think so.

    One of our adult sons (who has degrees in physics, nuclear engineering and
    electrical engineering) says that the most useful classes he had in middle
    and high school were wood shop and auto shop!

    This old school has charm, it fits our climate (as our buildings used to
    before modern buildings and air conditioning).  It fits our community –
    most folks went to this school – no matter their age – so it holds the
    memories of folks from the plantation days to the present.  Mr. Randolph
    G. Moore should realize this from his days as treasurer of Kohala Sugar.

    The fact that it is old should not be held against it – maybe it would
    even qualify it for historic preservation.

    We’re not even asking for so many of the things city schools have – and
    could share if they didn’t have them themselves, which our kids deserve
    just as much as other kids.  We’re asking you to let out kids keep what
    they have – room to work off their high energy, which would drive the high
    school kids nuts; bright, airy, comfortable, well maintained classrooms;
    safety from trouble with the older kids, and a chance to be able to just
    BE that active, changeable, aggravating, electric, cute, and even sweet
    age of pre-adolescence.

    Our community hasn’t whined for all the goodies that city schools have –
    though we probably could.  We live in our lovely rural community because
    we prefer our lifestyle.  This does not mean we want our children to be
    considered second-class citizens, unworthy of what the rest of your
    department’s supposed funding equity supplies.  We really don’t ask for
    what Kapolei or even Kealakehe have.

    But we do want our kids to keep what they have – free from worry about
    whether or not they will have their middle school.  This last year with
    its needlessly drawn out study, which even now has STILL not yet reached a
    decisive conclusion, has been one of wanton cruelty to our community.  I
    feel that consolidation/closure would also be cruel in the extreme.

    I’ve seen evidence of DOE waste over the years, but this proposed
    “consolidation” would be up near the top of the list if it were allowed to
    take place.

    Mr. Randolph G. Moore also complained that the science lab facilities were
    very basic – but he failed to mention that the new wildlife center is
    nearly complete immediately adjacent to the Kohala Middle School campus.

    Mr. Randolph G. Moore several times mentioned a $600,000.00 master plan.
    The last master plan, according to the Kohala High School Principal, was
    bureaucratic window dressing that did no more than collect dust.  Why
    would we expect anything more from another one?

    Maybe it would be like the highway department using a 20 year old Leeward
    O’ahu coastline map when they finally decided to expand Farrington Highway
    from Waianae to Makaha, and ending up with a flooded main highway every
    time the surf’s up!  Or when asked why the road had 2 lanes going into
    Waianae and only one going to Makaha, the response was that most of the
    traffic was observed going towards Honolulu.  And what time of day was
    this observed?  Eight o’clock in the morning.

    I worry that this lurching, thoughtless consolidation/closure proposal may
    yet be another example of our bureaucratically hidebound  state government
    at work.

    Mr. Randolph G. Moore several times stated that the jobs were in the
    Kailua-Kona area of our island, therefore money for schools should go to
    there also.  Our population seems to be quite stable.  Most of the folks
    that I know of that have left or are planning to leave are relative
    newcomers, and without kids.  Two homes in our neighborhood have new
    families – the folks moving out had no children, the ones moving in both
    have children too young for school yet.

    This again seems to be information Mr. Randolph G. Moore has either
    ignored or twisted in his seemingly zealous pursuit of the closure of
    Kohala Middle School.  The reporter who covered this meeting with her
    video camera could see how upset the members of the consolidation task
    force were at this meeting in light of their recommendation – MADE MORE
    THAN FOUR MONTHS AGO — that the Kohala Middle School NOT be closed.

    Thank you for any favorable consideration you can give these concerns as
    you formulate the recommendation you will send on to the Board of
    Education.

    Sincerely,

    Patricia W. Stuart
    Makapala
    Concerned Kohala resident
    P.O. Box 1148
    Kapaau, HI 96755
    808-889-0835

    Enclosures:

    (1) page five of Mr. Randolph G.Moore’s draft “Follow-up study on possible
    consolidation of Kohala Schools” dated June 23, 2010

    (2) Photographs of Kohala Middle School.

    copies:
    Governor Linda Lingle
    Board of Education Chairman Garrett Toguchi
    Board of Education member Herbert Watanabe
    Senate Education Chairman, Senator Norman Sakamoto
    House of Representative Education Chairman, Representative Roy Takumi
    Complex Area Superintendent Arthur Souza
    Kohala Middle School Principal Janette Snelling

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