Board weighing allegations that Kona Pacific Charter violated contract

  • The administrative Office at Kona Pacific Public Charter School. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • The lunch menu is displayed at Kona Pacific Public Charter School on Thursday. (Photos by Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • A student waters the garden Thursday at Kona Pacific Public Charter School.

  • One of the kindergarten classrooms on the campus of Kona Pacific Public Charter School in Kealakekua.

  • The Kona Pacific Public Charter School campus is seen above the Kona Hospital. (Photos by Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • The Kona Pacific Public Charter School campus is seen in Kealakekua. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — The state commission for public charter schools has yet to make a decision on allegations that a Kona charter school violated its contract by failing to maintain accurate enrollment data, reportedly netting them more than $300,000 in overpaid funding.

The governing board for Kona Pacific Public Charter School though is disputing that figure and said any discrepancies were the unintentional result of factors such as an inability to officially disenroll students without signed parental consent forms and a lack of clear guidance to charter schools on enrollment requirements.

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The school’s board further said the allegations don’t reflect the school’s current procedures, which were put in place in the 2015-16 school year, and that those who were responsible for enrollment errors are no longer employed at the school.

Kona Pacific Public Charter School, located in Kealakekua, is a kindergarten through eighth-grade charter school that received a charter from the State Public Charter School Commission in November 2007, according to documents filed with the commission. Its current charter school contract runs from 2017-2020.

In October 2016, during a previous contract term that started in 2014, the school’s principal at the time reported to the commission about “troubling” alleged practices in regards to the enrollment, withdrawal and transfer of students, according to documents filed with the commission.

Those practices, documents state, are alleged to have inflated the school’s actual enrollment numbers, and improperly increased its per-pupil funding. Commission documents put the potential overpayment amount at more than $300,000.

After its review, the commission said the school wasn’t complying with parts of its contract, issued a “notice of concern” to the school and scheduled a meeting at the beginning of March to discuss taking action on its concerns.

The commission’s communications director said the commission didn’t make any decision at the meeting, held March 8, and said the earliest the commission will take up the issue again will be its April general meeting.

“We are still engaged in the intervention protocol of our charter contract and will continue to communicate with the school’s governing board in the hopes of remedying the concerns listed in the submittal on the school’s enrollment, withdrawal and transfer practices,” said State Public Charter School Commission executive director Sione Thompson.

The commission’s focus is on allegations that the school hadn’t removed students from its enrollment system even when the school knew the student either hadn’t come to school or withdrew from the charter school to home-school, moved to the mainland or transferred to a private school.

For charter schools, their enrollment data in a statewide student information system determines their funding. Under state law, charter schools are funded based on a “per-pupil” figure based on the statute and the official enrollment tally as of Oct. 15 each year.

In a review of the school’s records, commission staff found discrepancies in 35 out of 65 student files which commission documents said suggested Kona Pacific Public Charter School failed to remove students from the enrollment system in a timely manner, “resulting in KPPCS being paid for the student for the school year and in some cases for multiple years,” pegging the figure at more than $300,000.

In its response to the commission the chairman of Kona Pacific Public Charter School governing board said some of the student records identified in the investigation were actually properly enrolled at the school and included in the student count.

Others, the chairman said, withdrew to home-school, but for the first several years, the school was told the associated paperwork was required to be filed with the neighborhood DOE school.

And while he noted that there may be some records that contain errors resulting from a lack of record-keeping procedures, clerical errors, trouble getting signed withdrawal paperwork from parents and challenges with the student information systems, he also noted enrollment data has proven a challenge throughout Hawaii’s schools.

The board referenced a 2013 DOE internal audit that said the department’s enrollment and withdrawal processes were functioning at just a “marginal” level. The report referenced a lack of comprehensive policies and procedures as well as a lack of oversight, monitoring and accountability at the school level, saying “it appears there are no consequences for DOE schools that do not follow proper procedures.”

The audit states that in a sampling of 450 records, the report said, there were 201 instances — about 45 percent — where the student shouldn’t have been included in the official enrollment tally because the student was either a “no-show,” the student’s last day of attendance was before the count day or there was a parent notification that referenced a release day before the count date.

The chairman told the commission that to avoid future errors, the school was adopting specific actions such as requiring staff training, and working with the attorney general to develop an automatic withdrawal procedure for when a student isn’t attending school but the school has trouble getting a withdrawal form from parents.

The commission, for its part, dismissed the school’s argument that it was unable to withdraw a student without a parent’s signature as “untrue and unacceptable.”

In a statement to West Hawaii Today, the school’s governing board said it continues to dispute portions of the allegations and said the school instituted actions to “correct and clarify” its enrollment and withdrawal procedures in the 2015-16 school year.

Now, the board said, it is “in the process of continuing to refine and improve those procedures.”

The valuation of overpaid funds is also a point of dispute between the commission and charter school. The governing board said the commission’s submittal, which was published March 5, was the first time its members had learned of the alleged overpayment figure.

The board said it is awaiting clarification on how that $300,000 figure was determined and said that the school is prepared to take “appropriate corrective action.” The board added it is unaware of any public school being asked to return funds that were distributed because of errors in enrollment data.

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The notice of concern sent to the charter school outlining the commission’s allegations does not include an estimate of overpaid funds.

The board further noted there was no opportunity during the commission meeting to discuss in a confidential setting the specific student records the commission referenced in its own investigation “without violating … (student privacy) laws.”

  1. fishman2 March 19, 2018 5:37 am

    A long history of shady deals at that place.


  2. diverdave March 19, 2018 7:26 am

    “The people that did it (admission of guilt) are no longer employed here.”
    Nothing to care about, move along folks. “It was only $300,000 dollars”.

    Is no one accountable anymore?


    1. Monroe Wiliams March 19, 2018 10:25 pm

      The people who did it broke the law and should face the consequences. Also, where did that money go? I doubt it went to the teachers, curriculum supplies or the students. I don’t trust those who are accused at all.


      1. Anthony Aquino March 21, 2018 3:20 pm

        Good point where did it go? Collect $50 and go to jail!


      2. Anthony Aquino March 21, 2018 8:42 pm

        Yes they underfund programs to make sure it fails. Then blame the teachers for its failure. $1.75 funding per student 200 students on schedule , Where did the money go?


    2. Anthony Aquino March 21, 2018 8:37 pm

      The truth is those people responsible are still there making decisions and playing with tax payers money!


  3. Dean S March 19, 2018 9:54 pm

    They stole $300,000 and had 4 day weekends. Do you believe these clowns? They expect us to believe that taking attendance is complicated. Taking the money was real easy though.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/dced725bd1d01e59a5823551a5603221fc971890368a26cb9718f96b3bbaeea9.jpg


    1. Mike March 20, 2018 11:05 pm

      Where did you read that anyone said that anyone stole anything? Sounds like you have a personal grudge to me…


      1. Dean S March 21, 2018 7:27 am

        Fraud is stealing to most people.


        1. Kawika March 21, 2018 9:34 am

          There is zero suggestion of fraud in the article.


        2. Anthony Aquino March 21, 2018 3:52 pm

          Apparently not all people Are honest and see it that way. Dah! Right


    2. Monroe Wiliams March 20, 2018 11:44 pm

      FYI: That school is usually open five days a week. The picture in the paper of the chalkboard with the schedule drawn upon it was most likely from a week with a holiday or a shortened week due to P-T conferences.


      1. Monroe Wiliams March 20, 2018 11:45 pm

        Most of the teachers there have integrity. It’s the integrity of the past administrators and/or board members that is questionable.


        1. Anthony Aquino March 21, 2018 9:05 pm

          Yes they are awesome teachers and awesome people but they are also in the dark regarding the shaddy and dishonest things that had been going on there at kona Pacific charter school. Past ,present Let the ones responsible be held accountable.


    3. Anthony Aquino March 21, 2018 3:43 pm

      Clowns is an understatemen :/


  4. Monroe Wiliams March 19, 2018 10:15 pm

    This is just the tip of the iceberg. The question now is: Where or to whom did all that money go?


    1. Anthony Aquino March 21, 2018 3:50 pm

      Yes even an elephant has less digested grass at its feet. They are in deep doodoo!


  5. konamakua March 20, 2018 9:39 am

    There appears to be an admission that the school received hundreds of thousands of state (and likely federal) taxpayer funds that they were not entitled to due to inflated enrollment figures. Perhaps the state attorney general, HPD, and/or FBI should be investigating to determine whether there were any crimes committed by any people responsible for falsifying the enrollment figures. People go to jail for much less.


    1. Mike March 20, 2018 11:04 pm

      I read the over 75 page submittal. I read the article. What are you talking about? No one has been officially accused of anything and no one admitted anything. Did you even read the article?


    2. Kawika March 21, 2018 9:36 am

      I didn’t see any admission like that, or any claim that anybody falsified anything.


    3. Anthony Aquino March 21, 2018 3:40 pm

      Yes collect $50 and go straight to jail


    4. Anthony Aquino March 21, 2018 8:59 pm

      I see a conflict of interest? Who owns the fancy car? Not the regular worker who
      made the enrollment errs yeah right.


  6. Kawika March 21, 2018 9:32 am

    This kind of sounds like classic “selective enforcement” by the charter school commission that was itself the subject of a long investigation by the BOE. So there is a report from the DOE stating that 45% of sampled DOE schools had similar problems in overstated enrollment, but not one DOE school was ever investigated or fined? I went and read that DOE report – the conclusion was that it was the DOE’s fault for not providing a centralized place for information about enrollment procedures, and not enough trainings for registrars. So why are charter schools being targeted for having the same challenges as DOE schools?


  7. Anthony Aquino March 21, 2018 3:15 pm

    I know first hand that the administration responsible for the fraud allegations at kona pacific did it deliberately and knowing and they instructed past employees to conduct shaddy activity regarding enrollment during work hours for several years. They like to point fingers at others but they are the very ones responsible. The past administration might not be in active school positions at this time but they are active on the school board that control the schools daily operations and money. Also Friends of kona pacific the owners of the property that the school rents the facility from. The past administration responsible for the fraud allegations at kona pacific are active personel governing the Friends of kona pacific . I’m sure you can see the transparency here. :/ As keakua knows the truth of my words we are all responsible to serve the children and their famlies of kona pacific with honesty and integrity. I know their original intent for conducting bad buisness choices might have been meaningful but two wrongs don’t make it right. The school needs to be closed and their charter revoked also all administrators that were involved need to be removed entirely from school board and Friends of kona pacific. The school should be reopened next year with a new controlling board and administration.
    Mahalo keakua
    Uncle Tony


  8. Rise Above March 21, 2018 3:57 pm

    Kona Pacific is a wonderful school with well trained, caring teachers and a great staff. Like all charter schools, they’ve had their challenges over the years. I used to work for a charter school on Oahu and know how hard it can be to run a public school with significantly less funding than the regular DOE schools receive.

    Some of the comments below are pretty hateful, some of them from ex-employees with an obvious axe to grind. Sometimes schools need to let people go, when they break the rules or don’t do their job properly, and sometimes those employees feel the need to go on the attack, sometimes pretty viciously.

    The commission is just doing its job and the school is just doing its job. There’s no need for defamatory statements. The process will move forward, things will become more clear. The school is apparently very committed to doing what needs to be done. According to the article, they figured out what they were doing wrong and fixed the enrollment process more than two years ago already!


    1. Anthony Aquino March 21, 2018 4:28 pm

      ALOHA for your words but this has been going on for seven years the registrars were instructed to do this by the administration. All the evidence will come out light of truth will shine.


  9. Anthony Aquino March 21, 2018 4:32 pm

    Chemtrails in our air and chemtrails in the truth keakua please help us all.


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