Sunday, January 21, 2001
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Posted on: Sunday, January 21, 2001

New lawmaker settles with school

By Scott Ishikawa
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

State Rep. Guy Ontai says he and Kamehameha Schools officials have reached an agreement on the former physics teacher’s employment status there.
Ontai, R-39th (Wheeler-Mililani), yesterday said Kamehameha Schools will compensate him for his teaching contract until the end of the school year in June, although he stepped down from teaching this month and won’t be on campus this semester.

Kamehameha Schools spokesman Kekoa Paulsen said he could not comment on Ontai’s employment status.

"The current school policy still remains in effect," Paulsen said.

Ontai and Kamehameha Schools had been involved in a dispute after Ontai was elected to the state House in November. As part of the estate’s recent IRS settlement, a new policy requires employees who run for political office to resign from their school positions.

But Ontai initially refused to resign after winning the House seat, saying the policy was unfair.

"I thought it was unfair having to resign with no compensation; it put me in a bind because my campaign was well under way when they proposed the policy change," he said.

Ontai stepped down from teaching two weeks ago. He said he will not teach this semester because the Legislative session runs from January to May.

He said school officials informed him in September about the new policies. He was told he could remain on the job since his campaign was already under way, but he would be required to quit his teaching job if he won.

Ontai also disagreed with another Kamehameha Schools policy barring elected officials from applying for a school position for three years after leaving public office. Ontai, a seven-year instructor at Kamehameha Schools, said school officials also agreed to ask the Probate Court to waive the school’s three-year no-hire policy for him if he decided to return to teaching at the school.

"I thought it was fair I would be able to reapply immediately when I left public office, rather than waiting for three years," he said. "I appreciate what the school has offered."

Ontai plans to continue coaching the high school chess and physics teams on his personal time.

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