Charter School Commission Revokes Kaʻu Learning Academy Contract
News Release from Hawaii State Public Charter School Commission, 7/9/2018
Honolulu- The Hawaiʻi State Public Charter School Commission today voted to revoke the charter contract for Kaʻu Learning Academy (KLA) due to multiple contract violations. A total of 22 violations, including financial and operational irregularities, enrollment discrepancies, failure to properly maintain student and employee records, and the determination that the charter school’s purported governing board was improperly constituted and did not meet statutory legal requirements.
Additionally, on June 21, the Commission was informed by the Hawaiʻi Department of Education that after completing an investigation of possible test breaches at KLA, the 2017 assessment scores of all students tested at the school cannot be considered valid or trustworthy and will be invalidated.
The decision to revoke the charter contract was rendered during a special hearing that had been requested by the charter school’s purported governing board after the Commission initiated the revocation process in April.
Ka’u Learning Academy opened its doors in 2015 serving students in grades 3-7. The projected student count for the 2018-19 school year was 93. The revocation of the charter contract means the school closes its doors immediately. Closure notifications will be sent to parents, staff and state agencies. The Commission will secure both student and financial records and conduct an inventory of school property. Within 15 days of the closure decision, the Commission will notify the charter contract holder in writing of the closure decision and transmit a copy of the notification to the Board of Education. Within 21 days of the closure decision, the contract holder may file an appeal of the decision to the BOE. The BOE will issue a final decision within 60 calendar days of the filing of the appeal.
The Commission will work closely with the school’s students and their families to assist in the transition for students to their new schools. The Commission will also work closely with the Hawaiʻi Department of Education for any students and their families who wish to transition to a Department Public School.
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State commission revokes Ka'u Learning Academy's charter amid criminal investigations
Hawaii News Now, July 9, 2018 (excerpts)
…Internal investigations found that school managers improperly used credit cards and made payments to nonprofits linked to staffers’ relatives. A separate Department of Education probe found that KLA padded enrollment and manipulated test scores.
The school’s founder Kathryn Tydlacka stepped down in April.
“The school is a business and it wasn’t being run very well,” said Douglas Flaherty, who was appointed to KLA’s board after Tydlacka resigned. He testified against revocation.
"The best example probably was $1,000 a month cell phone bill. When we investigated the cell phones ... we found that half of them were not in the hands of school personnel," Flaherty said.
Flaherty cited other improper expenses:
"We also found payments going to nonprofits that didn't have a direct relationship to the school, except through personnel,” he said.
Big Island police have subpoenaed all of the school’s computers, financial records and student records….
"There were a few individuals with low test scores that (the school) omitted data and that gave them an advantage on their overall student scores,” said Sione Thompson, executive director of the State Public Charter School Commission.
Thompson said administrators hand-picked students with high test scores and escorted them to their offices where staffers coached them on how to take the tests. He said they also looked at students’ tests before the students handed in their answers.
"I don't remember in my time as a commissioner ever having reports of test irregularities in this number and in this detail,” said Mitch D’Olier, board member of the State Public Charter School Commission.
The DOE investigation also found that the school enrolled 10 eighth graders this year, even though KLA is only permitted to teach third through seventh grades. Three of the students transferred, and seven are now being homeschooled to preserve their credits for attending eighth grade….
read … Criminal Investigations
2017: Former Halau Lokahi Charter School Principal Charged with Theft
SA: Sudden shutdown displaces charter school’s students and teachers
CB: The Painful Demise Of A Big Island Charter School
HTH: The school has 21 days to appeal the decision to the BOE