A Travesty of Justice: Principal John Colson Kicked to the Curb: Corporate Arrogance Reigns
Such arrogance such injustice difficult to comprehend. With all the difficulties faced over the years achieving a Waimea Middle School that was successfully working towards a better future for its students, it is hard to believe the Honolulu based Ho'okako'o Charter School Board would kick its "treasured" principal to the curb. But that is just what happened. And don't be fooled by the smokescreen contention that he resigned. Think about it: One evening the Board meets with Colson and lo and behold on the spur of the moment out of the blue he announces his resignation. Right! How stupid do you think we are. But let's just say Colson for whatever reason did out of the blue decide to resign coincidentally at the time of this Board meeting with him. What would you expect to be the appropriate response by the School Board to a principal who just scored a 4.8 out of 5.0 on his annual evaluation? Wouldn't the common sense response be to implore him to at least stay through the end of the year? No, not a morsel of intent in that direction did we hear from any Board member. Let me be clear, we as a community do not believe Colson voluntarily resigned in the middle of the school term. As I see it, Colson did not bow low enough to please these folks. In other words: no kowtow = no can stay.
Yes there was a massive response to this travesty of justice-- in terms of the Waimea community's massive outpouring of outrage, sadness and criticism. And how did the Ho'okako'o School Board handle 350+ parents and community members questioning the Board's lame assertion that the principal "resigned" for some reason and that reason is a secret and they have to respect that secret behind closed door decision-making. Sorry folks if this method of decision making contravenes the mission of partnership and collaboration that is supposed to be the School's governance guiding principle. Yes the Ho'okano'o Board members listened patiently -- but otherwise didn't budge didn't blink. Instead the Board members asserted their power -- their top dog on the totem pole mentality claiming the right to make an irreversible decision (god-like to be sure). They went on to assure us that there is no avenue for appeal.
The community did ask that 1) the Board and Colson agree to tell the real reason(s) for Colson's departure, and 2) reconsider this decision. The Board seemed willing to at least discuss with Colson the possibility of telling the truth. Unfortunately those of us who thought the Board would manipulate that directive were not surprised that there was no joint truth telling session scheduled. The Board instead translated this request into asking Colson to reveal the severance package they gave him. Bull. Not what we wanted to know. Assuredly we are not pleased by this twisting of the Community's requests.
Now if you think I am misrepresenting the motivation and intent of this corporate Board... consider the following and judge for yourself: Yes Colson was allowed to return to the school to say good bye to the students -- so he could urge them to continue to embrace the core values he had taught them and to accept his departure without protest and to do their best under the circumstances. Well what else was he to say? Kahu Billy Mitchell also spoke briefly. I am told that at the close of the meeting, one of the Board members present made a comment about how the session went down the way she wanted it to. And now consider the following manipulation of Colson, faculty, staff, students, and parents: Colson was allowed only 10 minutes to speak. The faculty were not informed he would come speak at noon until 9 am or so and were instructed they were not to inform any parents about the Colson meeting. The students were also not informed of the meeting in advance. My point is that this "behind closed doors" attitude epitomizes "plantation era politics" . In other words: treat the students, faculty, parents, and community with disrespect (by assuming they are not important enough to be told the truth) and assume they collectively may fuss a bit - but watch and see they will accept Colson's departure as a done deal. A reasonably arrogant point of view.
Clearly the Board figured this community would not fight back and believed parents know their place --and would accept their opinion does not matter -- and the welfare of the kids midterm does not matter, cause the Board's rules grant itself total power, such that the Board can simply tell everyone to "move on for the sake of the children". It is also apparent that the Board figured it had an extra ace in its hand: Colson's wife has been very ill -- with a heart transplant -- so they could count on being able to control Colson's response since he is not in a position to chance being "fired" and losing whatever heath and other severance benefits they gave him to keep him quiet.
Hilo attorney Brian DeLima, who is the Big Island's representative on the State Board of Education, said the Board's decision was not made in the best interest of the students. He went to say that it is time for the Board to admit they made a mistake and reconsider their decision. Read more about DeLima's opinion HERE
Read about the Ho'okako'o School Board and its vision of its role, which includes the following: "Our board has had to balance the need to let strong and visionary leaders lead with the need to intervene and even remove leadership in order to make sure our students are well served" See entire statement HERE
In my opinion it is time for the community to meet again and continue its discussion about this travesty of justice.
Here is my testimony at the Board meeting with the community: [to be added]
Read the statement by parent Steve Summers HERE (at Damon Tucker's webiste)
Read the statement by parent Randy Horne HERE (at Civil Beat)
Watch more video of the Board meeting with the Community HERE
Read about DOE Board member Brian DeLima's statement HERE
Here are some photos of the Board meeting with the community (taken towards end of meeting after many folks had departed)
County Councilman Dominic Yagong testifies in favor of reinstating Colson.
HERE ARE SOME PHOTOS OF Colson's meeting with the students:
Kahu Billy Mitchell is here welcomed at the school.
Faculty and Staff watch as Ex- Principal Colson speaks:
Colson speaks about the importance of observing the core values he taught them:
Students approach Colson -- with hugs and leis.
^A melodious thrush and some other residents from Waimea