An Investigative Report into The Past Trustees of Kamehameha Schools

The Trustees of Kamehameha Schools during 1992-2001 would be apart of one of the biggest scandals in the history of Kamehameha Schools

Courtesy of Star Bulletin

The Trustees of Kamehameha Schools during 1992-2001 would be apart of one of the biggest scandals in the history of Kamehameha Schools

In the period of 1992-2001, the trustees of Kamehameha Schools committed acts of abuse of power that would entail months of investigations and news reports. The public would not be aware of the actions of the trustees until students, faculty, and staff of Kamehameha Schools spoke up about the trustee’s mishandling and abuse of school policies. The result of the Kamehameha Schools protest led to government officials completely restructuring the way trustees had power in the affair of the school.

Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, specifically writes in her will, “I give, devise,  and bequeath all of the rest, residue and remainder of my estate real and personal, wherever situated unto the trustees below names, their heirs and assigns forever, to hold upon the following trusts, namely; to erect and maintain in the Hawaiian Islands two schools, each for boarding and day scholars, one for boys and one for girls, to be known as and called the Kamehameha Schools.”

On February 26, 1993, at the age of 53, Lokelani Lindsey, was appointed as the first female trustee, serving along with the following trustees: Dickie Wong, the senate president, Henry Peters, the speaker of the House, Oswald Stender, and Jerry Jervis. Her appointment made it the first time all 5 trustees were Native Hawaiian since 1883. Prior to receiving a trustee role, she taught physical education for eleven years, served as vice principal at three different schools in four years, was principal at a school in Honolulu for one year, and district superintendent for 11 years on Maui. 

She was appointed as head of education by Dickie Wong and given no specific job description. She interpreted this as the opportunity to do what she wished on the school’s educational platform, and so she did. This led her to her abusing power. She had her staff shop, pick up her grandchildren, and drive them places. When she received a “Notice of Violation” on September 16, 1993, regarding her beach house in Punalu’u, she ordered two high-status staff to take care of the matter. Numerous plane trips were also taken on behalf of the trust’s resources with no clear reason as to how they related to her work as a trustee. Lokelani, on her own will, used the school’s money to buy the Robert Van Dyke book collection in 1995 even though it was already turned down by Trustee Stender for the reason that they already had copies in better condition.

In July of 1996, Lindsey directed elementary teachers to return during summer and redo the curriculum within less than two weeks, because she did not approve of it. This action was also not approved by the Board of Trustees. Lindsey then, in the Spring of 1997, instructed the vice principal to change the seventh and eighth grades to the quarter system for the upcoming school year. The Board did not approve of changing the trimester system neither did they approve of having Lindsey issue a directive. Even in doing so, the Board never received reports from Lindsey regarding the change. This action of Trustee Lindsey directly specifically violated principle number 4 from NAIS Principles of Good Practice for Independent School Trustees which reads, “An individual trustee does not become involved in specific management.” Lokelani Lindsey even tried to alter the way the teachers were teaching the Hawaiian language because it was not the mother language. She became so invested in shaping the school into her vision that she had insignificant consideration for the negative impact it had on the Kamehameha community.

In fact, Lokelani Lindsey also did not get along with the president of the school, Michael Chun, who was a favorite amongst the teachers and students. Michael Chun would try to speak up for the students, but in return, Lindsey had lowered his role to vice president and the current vice president, now president. This action was a shock among many, especially the student body president. 

Kamani Kualaʻau, the student body president, formed a petition in support of Michael Chun with the intention of sending it to the Supreme Court. Lokelani Lindsey caught hold of the news and had Kamani pulled out of school to attend a 2 ½ hour meeting with her off-campus. Here he was threatened with a letter that would be sent to Princeton, the college he would be attending the following year, saying that he was a “rabble-rouser.”

Despite the fear of losing their jobs, the students and faculty began to organize together to advocate for themselves against this tragedy and corruption.  They inevitably wanted their voices heard so that some sort of positive change could happen against all the turmoil that had been going on. Meetings were set up between teachers so that they could express their beliefs on how the Kamehameha educational community should function. The group of these teachers was called “Nā Kumu.” From Nā Kumu, they eventually formed the Kamehameha Schools Faculty Association.  

Another small group of Kamehameha alumni began to form, because they knew things at Kamehameha could not carry on properly in the direction it was heading. They called themselves “Nā Pua O Ke Aliʻi Pauahi,” meaning the children of Princess Pauahi. Nā Pua had obligated themselves to make the happenings of Kamehameha Schools public. They held the Nā Pua March of May 15,1997, which started at Pauahiʻs tomb in Nuʻuana Valley and ended at the headquarters of Bishop Estate at Kawaiahaʻo Plaza. This march caught the attention of the public and significantly made the crisis at Kamehameha known. 

Newspaper articles exposed the public to the corruption of the trustees and the public became more informed each day. 

One essay published on August 9, 1997, in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, entitled “Broken Trust,” also made a prominent impact on the Bishop Estate Trustees. It was a series of articles which talked about how the trustees weren’t carrying out their role as trustee responsibly. These articles reached out and educated the public of the turmoil that had been going on between the Kamehameha community.

After one scandal involving Gerard Jervis, people had had enough. The public, especially the Hawaiians, felt betrayed due to all the build up of problems the trustees have caused. In the spring of 1999, the story made national and international news. From here, people across the globe were now informed of what the Kamehameha Schools had gone through. 

After a series of complaints, articles, petitions, and a report filed by the IRS saying that all five trustees must step down or it may revoke the estate’s tax-exempt status, trustees were removed by the probate court. 

As a result of all the Kamehameha community had gone through in chaos, the Kamehameha Schools began re-organizing their system. A CEO, CIO,  and COO were added for more balanced power. New rules and restrictions were being made. Now, in order for a new trustee to be appointed the current trustees file a petition in probate court to begin selection. The court then appoints a screening committee of at least seven people that fit the qualification requirements for the new trustee needed. The court then reduces the screening committee to three finalists, publishes their names the newspapers, and gives 30 days for public comment. The finalists are then allowed to give statements on how they will carry out their role as a trustee for KS. After all of that, the court decides who the new trustee will be and notifies KS of an appointee from the court.

Even though the problem had been fixed back then, the Kamehameha Schools community continues to face problems with miscommunication and lack of trust within the faculty all the way through the positions of trustees. There are still faculty and alumni as well as currents students pushing to fix what they see as problems at Kamehameha Schools. 

The happenings in this era shows that for any trusts no matter how big or small, if there is something that is not right, stand up for what is right. You are not only helping yourself, but you are also helping the future of the people being affected. 

 The Kamehameha Schools had gone through an era of tragedy with the people who should have been the most trusted and triumphed with their voices being heard to work together to fix what had gone wrong. Imua Kamehameha.