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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, December 18, 2001

Kamehameha seeks to expand early education programs

By Walter Wright
Advertiser Staff Writer

Kamehameha Schools yesterday asked court permission for a historic move toward off-campus partnerships with families and public and private schools to expand early education programs for children of Hawaiian ancestry.

The ambitious plan would extend the reach of Kamehameha's $200 million annual education program, which has been focused primarily on its Kapalama Heights campus and campuses at Pukalani on Maui and Kea'au on the Big Island.

But officials stressed they would not sacrifice quality of existing campus programs.

Kamehameha Chief Executive Officer Hamilton McCubbin has scheduled a press conference at noon to detail the proposed pre-school program and other initiatives being advanced by the board of trustees.

In a filing with the Probate Court yesterday, trustees asked to be allowed to offer early-education scholarships that could be used like pre-school 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.

The proposed pre-school 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.

Some 3,534 students attended those campuses last school year. There are also summer school programs that served 7,000 last year, and postihigh school scholarship support for 3,800 students.

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

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 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.

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 or 525-8054.