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Cochran concerned about LHS Boarding Department

By Staff | Dec 3, 2009

LAHAINA — The state Board of Education is considering budget cuts, and the Lahainaluna High School Boarding Department is technically on the list.

“Given the state’s current economic picture, the state Board of Education has been reviewing all programs over $500,000,” noted Lindsay Ball, Hana/Lahaina/Lanai/Molokai Complex area superintendent with the state Department of Education (DOE).

Lahainaluna’s unique boarding program was allotted $601,196 in the Fiscal Year 2009-10 DOE General Fund Budget. There are more than 80 students enrolled this school year.

When the Board of Education’s (BOE) Committee on Budget & Fiscal Accountability met on Nov. 16, program cuts were not discussed.

BOE Maui District representative Mary J. Cochran wants to make sure board members don’t eye the Lahainaluna program as a potential cut.

“Furlough Fridays and the proposed recommendation to close the Boarding Department are part of the Budget Committee’s review on all programs carrying a price tag over $500,000,” Cochran told the Lahaina News.

“We can’t do anything about Furlough Fridays presently, until such time that there is agreement between the teachers, the BOE, DOE and Governor’s Office to end the furloughs by using the rainy day funds, and teachers relinquish future waiver and professional training days through 2011,” she continued.

“As for the Boarding Department, I… will continue to lobby my board colleagues to do the proper thing, and that is to redirect funds from programs that do not directly impact on student learning — programs that have cost millions, and will take millions more to correct/tweak, because of the lack of expertise in developing the programs in the first place!

“To trash 175 years of Hawaiian educational history that has produced outstanding students for the want of a miserable $750,000, when there are available funds elsewhere in the budget, would be unconscionable. So with past and current boarders’ help, we’ll make this a battle royale.”

Cochran said cutting the LHS program was not discussed at the last Board of Education meeting, but the appropriation may be evaluated at the Dec. 15 BOE meeting.

“But I would encourage our alumni here throughout the state and the rest of the world to begin flooding the BOE to look elsewhere in the system to cut, rather than those programs that have and continue to be successful,” Cochran said.

Cochran encouraged the LHS community to send written testimony to the board — go to www.boe.k12.hi.us and click on “E-mail the BOE” in the left column — or attend the Dec. 15 meeting and testify.

These comments “should be made to become part of the record and perhaps convince my colleagues that alumni taxpayers should be part of the decision-making process,” Cochran concluded.

Rep. Angus McKelvey and Sen. Roz Baker are also keeping tabs on the issue. If needed, the West Maui lawmakers “will call in the cavalry when the time is right,” Baker commented.

Myrna Felicilda Ah Hee of the Lahainaluna Class of 1980 began rallying graduates last week by e-mail.

“Lahainaluna Boarding Department is facing challenges and potential closure… I think that we all should fight to keep one of the oldest traditions we have here at Lahainaluna High School, if not west of the Rockies. Call your state officials, anyone in the department, the high school and let everyone know. Let’s find a solution to keep this tradition alive,” she wrote.

These challenges for boarders include Furlough Fridays. On these days, the students must vacate campus and not return until Sunday afternoon.

“It would not be the same without the Boarding Department, and many of us have lived through this tradition and know how important (it is to have) the boarding students. Pass this on and let everyone know, and let’s find a solution before they close it for good and we can’t do anything about it,” Ah Hee stated.

LHS Principal Michael Nakano was unavailable for comment at press time. In a message to school alumni, Nakano said that in 1970, the BOE approved the following selection criteria for boarding students: 1) Those in the state who otherwise would find it difficult to obtain a high school education; 2) Those in the state that may benefit by a change of environment; 3) Applicants from the Pacific Basin countries who may benefit from the boarding and day school program; 4) Other applicants in the state who are selected by the Boarding Department Advisory Board

“Some people believe that our mission has changed. It has not. We do have programs that many schools don’t have. We still continue to bring in students who would benefit by a change in environment. We also take in students from the Pacific Basin (Micronesia). And, of course, we do take in students who would be good role models. All of the above are still happening at LHS,” Nakano stated in the e-mail.

“Boarders come from homes that are at-risk, and the LHS Boarding Department does a lot to help these students. In the first two years, we focus on team building and developing good work habits. During the junior and senior years, we work on leadership skills.”

Michael Makani Tabura of the LHS Class of 1989 can trace his Lahainaluna “boarder lineage” back to his uncle in 1936.

The four-year boarder from Lanai served as an officer and vice president of the Boarding Department and Student Body president during his senior year.

Most of the men in his family attended Lahainaluna as boarders, and Tabura wanted to continue that tradition.

“Also, being from the island of Lanai, I was looking at a chance at more opportunity to grow educationally and personally,” he said. “And coming from a family of four boys, and my mother being a single parent, I thought the perfect way to ease her daily life as a single parent was: one less mouth to feed and less clothes to wash!”

Rising early in the morning to do chores around campus, Tabura learned hard work, responsibility and discipline

— “core strengths and values of a boarder,” he said.

“There is nowhere else in this world that you are not only taught these values, but you are in it, experiencing it. An ‘in the field,’ ‘on the job’ training, so to speak. You never know the fruits of your labor until you get your hands dirty or your mind thinking. Whether it was working in the orchard, in poultry or yard duties, I learned really quick… without hard work, there is no success.”

At 14, living somewhat on his own at LHS, Tabura washed his clothes, cleaned his room and the dorms on a daily basis, stayed on top of school work, chores and sports, and learned to budget his money, “all the while just trying to be a teenager.

“It’s amazing what a huge part of my adult life and thought process has come from this part of my life. This learning has taught me the true meaning of kuleana (responsibility),” he explained.

 When boarders stepped out of line, they were disciplined quickly in a manner “that made you think about what you did,” Tabura noted.

“Being a boarder changed me not only as an adult, but hugely as a teenager. I remember a senior telling me once, your goal is to ‘come in as a peanut and not come out peanut butter!’… it eventually meant to me to keep it together, don’t get smashed and lose the opportunity the school is presenting to me,” he said.   

“Prior to being at Lahainaluna, I was your typical lazy teen. I even remember my grandfather saying, ‘When you going to Lahaina? Your uncles came out good, not good for nothin’!’ ”

Fellow boarders and the school staff also helped the young man from Lanai realize life’s opportunities and his potential.

Tabura feels Lahainaluna, founded by American missionary Lorrin Andrews in 1831, and its Boarding Department are important and historic on many levels. The oldest post-secondary school west of the Rocky Mountains graduated David Malo, Samuel Kamakau and other noted Hawaiian scholars.

The program “will impact lives now, as it did when Lorrin Andrews first started it. The boarding program is as important as the Iolani Palace is to Hawaii,” he added.

Tabura said that when he thinks of the boarding program closing, “it feels like my heart has been ripped from my chest.”

Just as Malo wrote “Hawaiian Antiquities” to preserve a culture under siege from the outside world, Tabura feels the school community must perpetuate the culture of the Boarding Department.

“However, we shouldn’t have to refer to a book to remind us of what once was, but rather, send our children’s children to Lahainaluna to experience firsthand what it is,” Tabura commented.

“To close the Boarding Department would be like closing down Iolani Palace or the Bishop Museum. I cannot find the words to describe the impact of it. Just the thought and talks of it already kills my very soul,” he continued.

“Our Lahainaluna founders, scholars, kupuna and ancestors have given us our kuleana, or responsibility, to continue what they have started, for the betterment of the school, its community and its people… We must not let down our kupuna.”