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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 1:17 p.m., Tuesday, December 18, 2001

Kamehameha schools to reach more students

By Walter Wright
Advertiser Staff Writer

Kamehameha Schools said today it will reach off its campuses and into the community to educate 25,000 new students of Hawaiian ancestry ranging from pre-schoolers in needy families to adults who want to change their careers.

"The days of building more private schools are no longer a priority," Kamehameha Chief Executive Officer Hamilton McCubbin said at a noon news conference.

The only way to reach as many children of Hawaiian ancestry as possible, McCubbin said, is by collaborating with the State Department of Education and others who provide education in Hawai'i, including private schools, with the help of labor unions, the Legislature, and other state agencies.

Much of the proposed preschool outreach was revealed in court documents filed yesterday.

McCubbin said school trustees have committed $21.5 million for the first year of outreach, and expect to be spending between $50 million and $60 million a year on such programs within five years. The current education budget is about $200 million a year.

Kamehameha will "maintain excellence" of its existing programs at the Kapalama Heights campus on O'ahu and campuses at Pukalani, Maui, and Kea'au, the Big Island, where 3,534 students attended last school year.

There are also summer school programs, which served 7,000 last year, and post-high school scholarship support for 3,800 students.

Kamehameha already provides preschool education for 1,057 students statewide in 52 classrooms at 39 sites, a handful of them in public schools and the rest in Kamehameha facilities.

Extended learning

McCubbin said new programs will extend early childhood education to fully one-third of the eligible 0-4 year-olds, or some 10,000 children.

In collaboration with the Department of Education and others, Kamehameha will reach an additional 1,000 K-12 students, he said.

Some 4,200 students will be sought to expand their educations through lifelong learning programs, while an additional 1,350 will be offered new career learning opportunities.

Kamehameha Schools yesterday formally asked Probate Court permission for the historic move to the off-campus partnerships. Trustees asked to be allowed to offer early-education scholarships that could be used like preschool vouchers; to provide educational services to families with children under 3 years old; and to collaborate in a state-run Pre-Plus Preschool Services program.

Preschool programs

The proposed preschool programs are the first steps in a strategic plan that sets a course for the school through 2015. The plan was developed at the direction of the court after the 1999 ouster of former trustees, in part over accusations that some mismanaged money and educational programs.

Former trustees for Kamehameha, then known as Kamehameha Schools Bishop Estate, also were criticized for pulling back earlier outreach programs and focusing spending on the existing campus in Honolulu and the development of the two additional campuses on Maui and Big Island.

The proposed new early-education scholarship program would be designed for needy children of Hawaiian ancestry who live in areas not served by existing Kamehameha preschool programs or by federally financed Head Start programs, according to the documents filed in court yesterday.

The second element of the plan — new family educational services for children up to 2 years old — would include workshops, home visits, seminars, materials, training and counseling, primarily for families in communities that are largely of Hawaiian ancestry and in need or at risk, the trustees told the court.

The third proposal involves the Pre-Plus program being advanced by the state for selected private providers to run preschool programs at state preschool facilities. Trustees told the court that Kamehameha is interested in becoming one of the providers in heavily Hawaiian areas, possibly through a new nonprofit organization.

Will power

Kamehameha's operations are paid for through revenues from the estate of Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the Hawaiian princess who left her vast land holdings in trust for the education of the children of Hawai'i.

The will specifically directs her trustees "to erect and maintain in the Hawaiian Islands two schools, each for boarding and day scholars, one for boys and one for girls, to be known as, and called the Kamehameha Schools."

But nothing in the will, the trustees said in their court filing, forbids education of students elsewhere than on the Kamehameha Schools campuses.

They cited a 1962 instruction from the Circuit Court authorizing a program to allow extension courses, and approving a scholarship program for postihigh school students.

Reach Walter Wright at wwright@honoluluadvertiser.com.