LAHAINA - A commitment has been made; Ka Papahana Kaiapuni Hawai'i (Hawaiian Language Immersion Program) is growing on the West Side.
Through the cooperative efforts of the parents, teachers and administrators, agreement was reached at a recent mid-August meeting held in the library at Princess Nahi'ena'ena Elementary School.
"We're all on the same page," Princess Principal Lynn Kaho'ohalahala announced.
The funding for a teacher's position is in place for sixth, seventh and eighth grade students at Lahaina Intermediate School (LIS) for 2014-15.
Marsha Nakamura, the middle school principal, supports the advancement of the immersion program to her campus.
A classroom is available; the next step is to find a qualified teacher.
With the number of students enrolling in the program increasing on the West Side, "We're looking for Hawaiian Immersion elementary and secondary teachers," she said, suggesting that an ad be placed in the paper.
Kaho'ohalahala agreed and is optimistic
"The more students in the program, the faster the program will grow. As the program grows, the kumu will come to teach them," she added.
Currently, there are four immersion teachers at Princess: Liko Rogers, Leilani Franco, Kau'i Spitalksky and Kauna'oa Garcia.
The new position will be posted on the Department of Education website in February 2014.
"The other resource that we use in finding teachers is the universities," Kaho'ohalahala observed.
"We have a contact with the University of Hawaii in Hilo."
The parent's group, Na Leo Kalele, will be canvassing statewide for potential candidates.
Deidre Ruiz-Rockett is the non-profit's secretary.
"We will be sending out a press release to all major media outlets," she said.
In the meantime, stakeholder meetings will be scheduled quarterly "to continue the conversation about building the program in West Maui," Kaho'ohalahala said.
Their next meet will be in January, with the focus on funding.
"Right now in the State of Hawaii, there is an allocation for the Hawaiian Immersion Program. It's like a pie; every school has a slice in that pie," Kaho'ohalahala explained.
"There's just not enough financial support to fund all of the Hawaiian Immersion programs in the state," Kaho'ohalahala continued.
Lobbying for more funds will be a top priority in 2014.
"We will be working with Representative Angus McKelvey prior to January to establish a lobbying strategy," Ruiz-Rockett said.
To Tiara Ueki, president of Na Leo Kalele, solidarity is the next step to success.
"It is important to bring the community and families together," Ueki stressed.
"We're here, and we want to grow," she added.
The goal is the establishment of Hawaiian Immersion at the top of the hill, Lahainaluna High School.
For more information on the open teaching positions and qualifications, call Kaho'ohalahala at 662-4020.