The Hawaii House of Representatives advanced a measure this week that would bring Nanakuli one step closer to having its own Hawaiian language immersion school.
House Bill 3562, which was introduced by Nanakuli Rep. Karen Awana, would establish a task force within the Department of Education that would be in charge of locating potential sites for the school along the Waianae Coast. Nanakuli is highlighted as the preferred location.
The immersion school would serve grades kindergarten through 12 and, like its counterparts across the state, teach students primarily in the Hawaiian language.
The state is home to 20 immersion schools serving about 2,000 students. On Oahu, the immersion schools are concentrated in Honolulu, meaning that many students whose families opt for immersion education have to make the trek between the Leeward Coast and urban Oahu daily, according to Awana. Enrollment in immersion schools has decreased over the years, a trend that Native Hawaiian advocates say demonstrates the state’s immersion program is falling flat.
Awana said she and other policymakers have been working on creating a “full-fledged” Hawaiian Immersion school in West Oahu for more than 50 years.
"This bill looks at locating potential sites that will allow our children to be educated in or near their own community," Awana said in a statement. "This effort is long overdue.
Check out past Civil Beat coverage of Hawaiian immersion schools and Hawaiian-focused education:
Photo: A boy reads a book at Nawahiokalaniopuu, an immersion school near Hilo. (PF Bentley/Civil Beat)
— Alia Wong
The University of Hawaii is one of six institutions joining forces on an effort to expand research and education by creating a national network of high-performance computing systems, massive data storage tools and visualization environments that will enable human collaborations and research breakthroughs.
Sound like a mouthful? It is.
The project essentially aims to advance scientific discovery by building a consortium of research universities in which which so-called “facilitators” — designated computing experts at each of the campuses — will collaborate to advance data-intensive science and engineering. Research increasingly requires access to more computational power than available through simple desktop machines, a press release says.
The “Advanced Cyberinfrastructure Research and Education Facilitators” network is part of a $5.3 million initiative being led by South Carolina’s Clemson University and funded by the National Science Foundation.
UH will be able to hire to two cyberinfrastructure facilitators under the initial project grant. Each of the six collaborating campuses will hire facilitators. Aside from UH and Clemson, partners include the University of Southern California, the University of Utah, the University of Wisconsin and Harvard University.
Here’s how the press release describes the project:
"Working together in a coordinated effort, the consortium is dedicated to the adoption of models and strategies that will leverage the expertise and experiences of its members to maximize the impact of investment in research computing and related cyberinfrastructure technologies … They (the facilitators) will be fully embedded in their local technology support environments so they can both extend the reach and impact of the campus as well as make national research computing infrastructure available for local students and faculty."
UH Interim President David Lassner touted the project as “a major thrust” for the university’s Innovation Initiative, a bold effort to transform the UH into a top-tier research institution and double outside research funding to $1 billion annually.
Gwen Jacobs, who directs the UH’s cyberinfrastructure programs, said in a statement that she plans on working with faculty throughout the university to identify opportunities in which assets gained from the consortium can advance UH research and innovation:
“UH is an international research leader in astronomy, earth, atmospheric and ocean sciences, and biomedical research – all disciplines that generate massive amounts of data. With access to a wealth of computational resources and professional expertise, UH researchers will be able to apply new methods in big data analytics to their research programs, speeding scientific discovery and innovation and creating new educational opportunities for UH students.”
Photo: Cyberinfrastructure. (Courtesy of the University of Southern Carolina)
— Alia Wong
The Hawaii Department of Education has selected Chevron Energy Solutions to lead a brand-new five-year sustainable energy program that officials say will drastically reduce energy consumption at the state’s public schools and teach students real-world lessons about science, technology, engineering and math.
The “Ka Hei" program aims to reduce energy costs; develop a network of clean, on-site energy generators; help advance the DOE’s goal of using 90 percent clean energy by 2040 and create an array of educational and workforce development opportunities, among other objectives.
The department’s electricity bill has soared from $30 million to more than $46 million over the past seven years, according to a press release. The DOE also spend more than $16 million on gas, water and sewer costs last year.
Under Ka Hei, the DOE plans to install sustainable energy generation equipment — such as solar panels and small-scale wind turbines — in each of its 255 regular public schools statewide to cut costs. Chevron Energy Solutions will start conducting energy audits at each school to assess cost savings and energy needs.
The press release says the Ka Hei program has educational benefits, too, in that it will give students and staff access to living laboratories, hands-on energy conservation activities, green energy simulators and STEM career opportunities. Students will also receive real-time data on the clean-energy systems, “creating relevant lessons about real-world scenarios,” according to the press release.
The press release notes that the name Ka Hei was selected by Hawaiian Immersion educational specialists and denotes the type of snare used by the Hawaiian god Maui when he captured the sun. The term also means “to absorb as knowledge or skill.”
The announcement comes months after a lawsuit was filed by a former DOE contractor accusing the department of violating the procurement code when it selected Chevron Energy Solutions, a solar power subsidiary of the Chevron Corporation, as the vendor for the first iteration of its sustainable energy program.
The lawsuit, filed by former DOE employee Sarah McCann, alleged that the DOE selected Chevron Energy Solutions over another bidder, Prime Solutions, Inc., even though an audit found that the former’s request for proposal response was “legally nonresponsive” and that the company should’ve been disqualified.
The lawsuit stalled the project for months. This week’s press releases says Chevron was chosen after a competitive review and evaluation process “for its successful track record of developing and delivering comprehensive energy projects with location-specific programs.” Whether the department delayed the award or restarted the bidding process is unclear. Chevron has worked with more than 80 school districts nationwide.
Meanwhile, Hawaiian Electric Co.'s problems connecting solar panels to the grid have stalled the DOE's own PV efforts, including a pilot program to install PV systems at schools statewide. The delays meant that the department needed to request an additional $10.6 million in its supplementary budget proposal last year to make up for the costs it should’ve saved through the pilot project this year.
It appears that the DOE is getting its PV project back on track, with 47 schools on Oahu and Kauai now using solar power. The Ka Hei program will build off of the project.
The DOE and Chevron Energy Solutions are working with HECO to address anticipated problems distributing the energy on some neighborhood circuits, according to the press release. As part of the program’s first phase, the department will implement renewable energy systems at three schools — one each on Maui, the Big Island and Oahu — using “microgrids,” which act as independent power grids that can function seamlessly and reliably even when power is disrupted on the main grid.
"The Ka Hei microgrid solution drives innovation by helping overcome the challenges of increasing renewable integration onto the individual island grids by providing benefits to both the schools and Hawaiian Electric circuits," according to the DOE.
Read the FAQs on Ka Hei here.
Photo: Solar panels at Aliamanu Middle School. (Courtesy of Pineapple Tweed Public Relations)
— Alia Wong
The state Department of the Attorney General has cleared Brian Minaai, the University of Hawaii’s vice president for capital improvements, of any criminal behavior and administrative wrongdoing in connection with the design and construction of a new dorm facility at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.
The AG’s 135-page report, published this week, is the result of a year-long investigation that was prompted by local engineer Dennis Mitsunaga early last year. Mitsunaga, whose firm Mitsunaga & Associates, Inc. helped design the 300-room “Hale Alahonua” dorm, accused Minaai of mismanagement, cronyism and possible unethical and illegal conduct in his handling of the dorm project, among a host of other allegations.
Many of the contentions suggested that Minaai only awarded contracts to friends and regularly violated the procurement code.
But the investigation, which was requested by the university after Mitsunaga’s accusations went public, concluded that many of Minaai’s controversial decisions “were motivated by the need to complete the Project on schedule and within budgetary limitations.” The report explores each of Mitsunaga’s allegations in detail and debunks many of them by citing state statutes and evidence gathered throughout the investigation. Read the full report here.
The investigation did, however, find that the Office of Capital Improvement’s management of the project “was deficient in several key respects.” The report points to specific instances that should’ve been handled differently, including the design consultant selection process and the decision to use a permit expediting firm.
The dorm was completed and opened on time for use this school year. But the project is expected to run over budget by roughly $300,000, and it’s unclear how the university will address the shortfall.
Photo: Hale Alahonua. (Courtesy of UH Hilo)
— Alia Wong
The state Senate Committee on Ways and Means advanced several bills today, including a few that aim to improve the learning environment for Hawaii’s students and one that wants to restore funding for public school athletics.
The measures include the following:
SB2424 SD1: RELATING TO AIR CONDITIONING
Requires the department of education and department of accounting and general services, in consultation with the Hawaii state energy office of the department of business, economic development, and tourism and the Hawaii natural energy institute of the University of Hawaii, to develop a cooling master strategy and comprehensive study for the public schools and to report findings to the 2015 regular session of the legislature. Appropriates funds.
SB3083 SD1: RELATING TO SCHOOL ATHLETICS.
Appropriates general funds for fiscal year 2014-2015 for the school athletics program of the department of education. Authorizes additional coaching and assistant coaching positions for fiscal year 2014-2015 for the school athletics program.
SB2516 RELATING TO FACILITIES FUNDING FOR CHARTER SCHOOLS
Appropriates funds for the state public charter school commission to allocate to charter schools for facilities projects based, in part, on the need and performance of the charter schools. Requires annual reporting to the legislature.
SB2517 RELATING TO CHARTER SCHOOLS
Authorizes the state public charter school commission to request the issuance of general obligation bonds from the director of finance and to allocate the proceeds for the design, planning, construction, repair, and maintenance of public charter school facilities. Creates a working group to determine criteria for and to prioritize the allocation of general obligation bond proceeds to the public charters schools. Specifies that public charter school facilities funded through the proceeds of general obligation bonds are owned by the State. Requires the state public charter school commission to report annually to the legislature. Authorizes the issuance of general obligation bonds to the state public charter school commission. Repeals on June 30, 2024.
The measures go next to the Senate floor for a third reading and, if approved, advance to the House for consideration.
Photo: The goal post at Kalani High School. (PF Bentley/Civil Beat)
— Alia Wong
Researchers from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and the University of Tokyo are gaining unprecedented insight into the lives of sharks through sensors and other instruments that are tracking their travel patterns and feeding habits.
The research is shedding light on one of the most feared and mysterious ocean predators, according to a press release. It marks the first time that sharks have been outfitted with sensors and video recorders that measure and track where they’re going, how they’re getting there and what they’re doing once they reach their destinations. Until now, sharks have typically been observed in captivity and tracked only to get basic information on where they’ve traveled.
Click here to see some of the new footage.
The scientists are also studying how sharks and other big ocean predators, such as tuna, ingest and digest their prey. The pilot project uses electrical instruments that the animals consume.
The scientists’ footage shows sharks of different species swimming in schools, interacting with other fish and moving in repetitive loops across the sea bed, the press release says. The researchers also discovered that sharks use powered swimming more often than gliding to move through the sea, contrary to what scientists thought previously. It also turns out that deep-sea sharks swim more slowly than shallow-water species.
"These instrument packages are like flight data recorders for sharks," said Carl Meyer, a researcher at UH Manoa’s Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, in a statement. "They allow us to quantify a variety of different things that we haven’t been able to quantify before."
"It has really drawn back the veil on what these animals do and answered some longstanding questions," he added.
Experts say the research will help uncover crucial information about the marine ecosystem and the flow of energy through the ocean. The new observations, according to the researchers, could also shape conservation and resource management efforts and inform public safety measures.
Meyer and his colleague, Kim Holland, presented their research this morning at the 2014 Ocean Sciences Meeting. The week-long biennial event brings together more than 5,000 researchers from around the world.
Photo: A bluntnose sixgill shark outfitted with a sensor and digital camera. (Courtesy of UH Manoa via YouTube.)
— Alia Wong
The University of Hawaii at Manoa has joined forces with two New Zealand universities — the University of Auckland and Massey University — to engage in multidisciplinary, collaborative research relevant to indigenous populations.
The institutions’ partnership agreement revolves around one main mission: “To uplift the mana and aspirations of indigenous peoples.”
In other words, the research has to benefit the needs of native populations across the Pacific, said Everdina Fuli, who oversees Maori and Pacific research at the University of Auckland, in a statement.
"Our researchers want to help not only their own communities, but the wider indigenous global community,” Fuli said.
Two departments within UH Manoa — the College of Social Sciences’ Department of Ethnic Studies and the John A. Burns School of Medicine’s Department of Native Hawaiian Health — are spearheading the partnership on Hawaii’s end.
"We seek to honor our different genealogies as we bring our kupuna with us to the table,” said Ty Kawika Tengan, ethnic studies department chair. "We want to do those things that are positive to uplift the collective mana that comes when we pool this indigenous knowledge—these practices based in place that distinguish us as people of the Pacific."
Meanwhile, JABSOM and the University of Auckland, along with the University of Washington’s Indigenous Wellness Research Institute, have already secured a grant from the U.S. National Institutes of Health that is helping support a 12-week research training program in New Zealand for UH and UW students.
Keaweaimoku Kaholokula, who chairs JABSOM’s Native Hawaiian health department, said the program will help indigenous students in the medical school become biomedical and behavioral scientists.
Photo: A halau in Lahaina, Maui, in 2008. (Courtesy of pescatello via Flickr.)
— Alia Wong
The Western Association of Schools and Colleges sent Honolulu Community College a letter earlier this month notifying it that its accreditation is no longer in jeopardy, according to a press release.
HCC had received a warning from the association’s community college accreditation team last fall after the team found issues with the school’s online education programs and course quality.
The accrediting commission removed the warning status but expects the college to submit another follow-up report by October.
The school needs to prove it meets or exceeds eligibility requirements, accreditation standards and commission policies to reaffirm its accreditation.
— Alia Wong
A new report on the charter school laws in 43 states ranks Hawaii in the middle of the pack.
The annual National Alliance for Public Charter Schools report, published last month, aims to help states improve their charter school policies by comparing their existing laws to its “model state law.”
That model law entails 20 metrics, including transparent charter application, review and decision-making processes; required performance-based charter contracts; and equitable access to capital funding and facilities. Each component is weighted and comes with a total possible score.
Hawaii received 140 points out of 228 points total, putting it in 21st place out of 43 states. The other seven states — including Montana, Alabama and Kentucky — lack charter school laws.
Hawaii’s ranking actually dropped down a few notches from last year, when it got 14th place. But that’s primarily because of “aggressive changes made in other states” rather than “any steps backward in Hawaii,” the report says. Hawaii’s score actually increased by one point, largely because of clarifications to policies governing charter application transparency and the schools’ automatic exemption from certain state laws.
But Hawaii’s law, which was enacted in 1994, still has lots of room for improvement, the report says. The report suggests that the state should exempt charter schools from collective bargaining agreements and ensure equitable funding for operations and facilities, among other recommendations.
Photo: Students and their farm instructor in the community garden at Mountain View’s Na Wai Ola Public Charter School. (PF Bentley/Civil Beat)
— Alia Wong
Hawaii Pacific University has completed a draft environmental assessment for its plan to redevelop the Aloha Tower Marketplace into a mixed-use building with dormitories and commercial spaces, Pacific Business News reports.
The approval from the state Office of Environmental Quality Control means that the university is one step closer to making its controversial $30 million project a reality.
HPU hopes to convert many parts of the existing building and Pier 10 — about three-fourths of the marketplace’s total square footage — into a student village that incorporates both academic facilities and retail and restaurant spots open to the public. The second floor is slated for renovation into 83 HPU dorms.
HPU has already told 17 Aloha Tower tenants to leave by mid-March in anticipation of the renovations to the roughly 165,000-square-foot complex. Only four tenants — including Gordon Biersch Brewery and Hooters — are allowed to stay.
The project has its critics, including businesspeople who say plans have been botched from the get-go. Some even claim the state illegally granted HPU possession of the waterfront property, saying HPU was never qualified as a developer and that the final product won’t end up generating much state revenue.
It was just last January that the Aloha Tower Development Corporation deemed HPU sole owner and manager of the marketplace, more than a year after the university dished out $14 million to manage the facilities. The settlement followed an intense, long-drawn-out battle between HPU and its former partner on the project, developer Ed Bushor.
Construction is expected to start within the next few months and continue through 2015.
Read past coverage of the project:
Photo: Aloha Tower Marketplace entrance, pre-renovation (Courtesy of daryl_mitchellvia Flickr)
— Alia Wong
Gov. Neil Abercrombie announced today that he’s set aside about $62.4 million for public school capital improvement projects, according to a press release.
The approved projects, initially identified by state lawmakers, include the following:
$36,365,000 – Improving and Maintaining Facilities and Infrastructure – Planning, design, construction and equipment to improve and maintain facilities and infrastructure for various schools statewide. DOE’s estimated roadblock for repair and maintenance is at $265 million. These projects include general school building improvements, electrical upgrades and playground equipment repair, along with maintenance and other school repairs and renovations. Some of these funds will go to the overall repair project at the damaged Farrington High Auditorium.
$7,554,000 – Program Support – Planning, land, design, construction and equipment for program support at various schools statewide, including new/temporary facilities, improvements to existing facilities, ground and site improvements, and for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and gender equity. ADA projects include McKinley High, Baldwin High, Kohala Elementary and Honokaa High. Gender equity projects include Keaau High, Waiakea High and Waipahu High softball fields and Kahuku High and Intermediate girls’ athletic locker room. Funds will also complete construction of a locker room project at Lahainaluna High and complete design of a locker room at Konawaena Middle School.
$7,500,000 – Equity – Design and construction for equality projects to improve instructional spaces such as science labs, special education classroom renovations and classrooms on a statewide basis for classroom/learning environment parity. Equity projects also include energy improvements relating to heat abatement in classrooms.
$5,800,000 – Capacity – Plans, land, design, construction and equipment for capacity projects at various schools statewide nearing their enrollment capacity or are short of classroom space.
$5,200,000 – Staff Costs and Project Positions – Fiscal Year 2014 costs related to wages and fringe benefits for 60 project-funded permanent staff. The positions will provide the technical and clerical support necessary for the DOE to adequately address their CIP needs by moving its CIP project-funded staff to the vacant Liliuokalani Elementary in the near future.
Photo: Kau High School. (Courtesy of the Governor’s Office)
— Alia Wong
Wahiawa’s Leilehua High School is having its moment of fame in Hawaii’s Twittersphere — but not for the most flattering reasons.
"Welcome to Leilehua" started trending last night among Twitter users in Hawaii, meaning enough locals have been including the phrase in their 140-character posts to warrant its placement on the lefthand “Trends” bar.
The tweets offer a blunt, sometimes humorous glimpse into what students really feel about their school and peers. Many of the posts refer to drug use among both students and teachers, including at least one that references a former Leilehua special education teacher who was recently sentenced to nearly five years in prison for trafficking meth. Some examples:
"Welcome to Leilehua, where half of the teachers either deal drugs or do them." #HawaiiHighSchool— (@ohmyjosh808)February 24, 2014
Welcome to Leilehua, we can’t promise you a good education but we can promise you that there’s gonna be weed somewhere #HawaiiHighSchools— heaven (@hteheaven)February 24, 2014
Some read like they could be a line in the movie “Mean Girls,” while others allude to ethnic and cultural divisions within the school:
“@OhMyLyjah: “Welcome to Leilehua, where you can walk from Micronesia to Africa to Samoa to Mexico to the Philippines in all one recess”😂👏— Marisol’e (@alohamarisole)February 24, 2014
Check out all the tweets for yourself here. Note: reader discretion is advised.
Photo: Leilehua High’s logo. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
— Alia Wong
An amended lawsuit was filed yesterday against two of the Hawaii churches accused of underpaying the state in their use of school facilities.
Local activists Mitch Kahle and Holly Huber, who are realtors suing on behalf of the state, contend that One Love Ministries and Calvary Chapel Central Oahu intentionally deprived public schools of about $1 million in underpaid rental payments and other charges.
The amended lawsuit stems from a high-profile case that was originally filed under seal last March and publicized last August but then dismissed in December because the lawsuit lacked sufficient detail, according to the judge. The original lawsuit included several New Hope Churches as defendants.
But the New Hope churches’ parent organization, the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, settled the lawsuit earlier this year for about $775,000 on the condition that all New Hope churches be excluded from further litigation. The agreement was not an admission of wrongdoing on part of the New Hope churches, the settlement said.
The amended 60-page lawsuit, which Kahle and Huber said includes the detail the judge had requested, does not name New Hope.
It includes documentation that the plaintiffs say proves the other two churches occupied public school facilities — Kaimuki and Mililani high schools — for much longer than stated in rental agreements.
The lawsuit is a “qui tam” complaint in that private citizens are suing on behalf of the state. It seeks triple damages, or about $3.6 million. Kahle and Huber could be eligible for up to a fourth of any damages. (They also got a portion, as much as $194,000, of the New Hope settlement.)
The amended lawsuit is posted on Civil Beat’s Slideshare page here.
Photo: Kahle and Huber announce the original lawsuit in August 2013. (Alia Wong/Civil Beat)
— Alia Wong
The Hawaii Department of Education convened a working group yesterday to review the controversial sexual health education program that’s caused an uproar in recent months among conservative groups and parents.
The “Pono Choices” pilot curriculum, which is being taught in some middle schools, first came under fire during the hearings on same-sex marriage, with dozens of testifiers arguing that the program teaches children that anal sex and gay relationships are okay. The DOE suspended the program in November to address concerns about its appropriateness but then reinstated it for school use in mid-December.
Now, a nine-person working group is conducting a thorough review of “Pono Chices” with the intent of ultimately issuing a public report on whether the program meets statutory requirements and relevant Board of Education policies on sexual health education. The group is the result of a BOE meeting earlier this month, when more than 100 people wrote testimony expressing concerns over the program.
The working group met for the first time yesterday and convenes again on Feb. 27. Members of the public are inviting to share their thoughts on the curriculum through noon on Feb. 26 via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The group is chaired by DOE Deputy Superintendent Ronn Nozoe and includes a diverse cross section of the community, from a church official to a doctor to a Native Hawaiian cultural practitioner.
Here’s a list of the group’s members, taken from a DOE press release:
- Darrin Araki, executive director, Hawaii Pastors Roundtable
- Dr. Robert Bidwell, associate clinical professor of pediatrics and director of adolescent medicine, John A. Burns School of Medicine, UH Manoa
- Karen Ginoza, representative of He’e Coalition and Faith Action for Community Equity (FACE)
- Kimberly Kepner-Sybounmy, parent representative
- Noella Kong, state adolescent health coordinator, Hawaii State Department of Health
- Justin Mew, principal of Kaiser High School; former principal of Niu Valley Middle School and former science teacher
- Donna Rodenhurst, health teacher, King Intermediate School
- Kumu Hina Wong-Kalu, director of culture, Halau Lokahi Public Charter School
"Pono Choices" was one of seven DOE-approved sex-ed programs and was developed by the University of Hawaii’s Center on Disability Studies through funding from the federal government.
Read some of Civil Beat’s past coverage of and commentary on “Pono Choices”:
Photo: Pono Choices curriculum. (Courtesy of UH Manoa Center on Disability Studies)
— Alia Wong
Middle and high school students from 30 Hawaii public, private, charter and home schools will be competing tomorrow at the 10th Annual Statewide Science Olympiad tournament.
The competition, which is being held at Leeward Community College, will feature 45 events covering all kinds of topics related to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). More than 700 students from Kauai, Oahu, Maui, Molokai and the Big Island are slated to participate.
The top schools will qualify to represent Hawaii at the national tournament, which is being held in May at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.
Click here for more info.
Photo: Students at a previous olympiad at LCC. (Courtesy of LCC)
— Alia Wong