My Turn: Setting Kona Pacific charter school record straight

My name is Zahava Zaidoff and I am a former board member and board president of the governing board of Kona Pacific Public Charter School.

I am writing this letter in response to the article that ran on May 2.

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There are a few things that I would like to clarify. There were many mistakes that were made at the school. I would like to share that many of those mistakes happened under my tenure and my leadership.

I failed as the governing board president to create and institute a leadership evaluation tool with which the school director would have been evaluated. It is as a direct result of this failure, the misinformation was spread to the community and report deadlines were missed, leaving the school with only two special ed teachers next year instead of three, the school almost missing payroll last July and many other things.

The governing board members who resigned early last week were not responsible for any of these failures. They were barely on the board for six months. More oversight happened under the tenure of Cecilia Royale, in her brief six months as governing board president, then under my tenure and time on the board of over two years.

The article attributes to Sione Thompson, CEO of the Hawaii State Charter School Commission: “the vote to accept board members’ resignations and reconstitute the board doesn’t reflect a final determination of wrongdoing — that’s still under review, he said — but instead a loss of confidence in the board’s ability to run the school and manage public funds that come to it.” This does not apply at any level to the four heroic members of the governing board of KPPCS who recently resigned.

There are many systemic issues at play. The charter school commission does not provide training and oversight to the governing boards of their schools enough to actually be helpful. Governing board members are volunteers who, in some cases, are thrown directly into a fire, without guidance.

I write this letter and call myself out in public, for several reasons. When falsehood is being perpetuated, it is our responsibility to speak out against it, regardless of the personal sacrifice. I refuse to sit back and watch bullying occur and do nothing. I have a 12-year-old daughter. It is incumbent upon me as her mother to teach her that when she makes mistakes, she needs to own them. That allowing other people to be held responsible for her actions is never OK.

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Kona Pacific Public Charter School deserves new leadership at every level. A new pedagogical director has already been hired, and I very much hope that the charter school commission honors his contract and allows him to take the school in a direction that it desperately deserves. I also hope that the charter school commission is fair and equitable in appointing a new governing board and that they plan to provide them with the actual training that other boards failed to receive.

Zahava Zaidoff is a resident of Kailua-Kona.