Resignations allow charter school to stay afloat


HONOLULU — A financially troubled public charter school in Kalihi will stay open after its leaders agreed to resign.

Founder and longtime director Laara Allbrett, along with board members of Halau Lokahi Public Charter School, resigned to meet a requirement by the state Charter School Commission for a new contract, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Wednesday.

Last school year, Halau Lokahi ran up debts of more than $400,000. The school stopped paying rent in February and could not make payroll in May.

The new contract calls for the school to increase enrollment, pay off debt and cover expenses next year. The Hawaiian studies-focused school aims to serve high-risk students who struggled or failed in mainstream public schools. It also offers an online educational program.

Most of the debt is in salaries and rent. School leaders blame their financial troubles on the way the state funds charter schools, which receive no money for facilities.

Allbrett said the school is appealing to donors on the governor for help.

“I really send out a plea to our Hawaiian community especially: If you’re in a position to kokua, please help Halau Lokahi be the kind of school we intended it to be,” she said.

Commissioners said school leaders must be held accountable for the way school finances were managed.

At an emotional meeting last week where staff members warned the commission that removing their leadership would hurt the school, teacher Hina Wong-Kalu flung a handful of Hawaiian salt in the face of Tom Hutton, the commission’s executive director.

Hutton, who had recommended closing the school, calmly shook the salt out of his hair and clothes.