The Mystery of Waimea Middle School Principal’s Departure Deepens

February 12, 2012

The independent governing board for Waimea Middle Public Conversion Charter School, the Oahu-based Ho‘okako‘o Corp., says the Principal, John Colson, resigned.   They issued a press release Saturday, February 11, at noon, more than a week after Colson indicated he was no longer in charge of the school.  They say there was no impropriety on Colson’s part and praised his work.

Students and parents, as well as faculty and staff, have expressed shock and anger at Colson’s departure.   Despite the statement by the Ho’okako’o Corp that Colson resigned, many believe he was actually fired.    Parents plan informative and supportive  sign waving on Monday, February 13, Tuesday, and Thursday at the main intersection in Waimea town, about a half a block from the school, to protest.  Many have indicated they will home school their children on Monday as a further protest, rather than send them to Waimea Middle School.

Colson’s last day on the job was Friday, February 3,  On Monday evening, February 6, interim principal Megan McCorristor, who is also president of the school’s governing board, asked the staff and faculty to be at an emergency meeting on Tuesday, February 7, at 7:20 a.m.   She advised them Colson would not be returning to the school, but gave no explanation.

They then held an assembly for the 280 students at the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade school.  McCorriston advised them Colson would not return.  She also said it was a personal matter, and that they had to respect Colson’s privacy in providing no explanation.  Students asked many questions, and decided they wanted to walk the short block to Colson’s house and chant for him, to express their love and support.

The first time parents heard anything about the change was Tuesday, when they picked up their children from school.  Brenda Case Resendiz says her 8th grade daughter was crying and upset..  Melissa Mahi Lindsey saiys her 6th grade son was also crying and complaining of stomach pains.  Other parents say their children were equally upset…and they were too.  The first communication most parents had from the governing board was in the form of a letter signed by McCorriston on the school’s web site, and sent home to parents, on Wednesday.   The letter gave no explanation for Colson’s departure, but did promise a public meeting to address any questions or concerns.  It also said Colson brought stability to the school.

Lindsey says she represents the views of many parents that Colson epitomizes the spirit of aloha.  She says her son has learned more under Colson’s tutelage than in any of his school years.  She also says Colson truly lives the values the school teaches.  Part of her concern about the Ho’okako’o Corp. takeover is what she says is the lack of professionalism in handling the situation, and in informing children prior to involving their parents.  In the Saturday, February 11 release from Ho’okako’o, Board Chair Keith Vieira concurred with Lindsey assessment of Colson–he said Colson’s work and comportment epitomized the core values of the school.

Resendiz said she was speaking not only as a parent, but as a ten-year volunteer at the school, and a former student.  She says she met with McCorriston Friday, and expressed concern there were only two reasons a Board would let a principal go in the middle of the term:  he’d jeopardized the students’ safety, or he’d jeopardized their learning.  Resendiz says McCorriston assured her neither was true, but gave no other explanation.

Board Chair  Vieira said Thursday evening that they would have a release that would explain everything by Friday.  When the release came on Saturday around noon, it said Vieira had accepted the resignation of Colson effective March 31, 2012.  It praised Colson for his work in raising the Hawaii State Assessment test scores, strengthening the educational and social environment, and instilling core values.  The release also praised Colson for preventing Furlough Friday days off for students (which he and the faculty and staff did because out of 280 students, 60% of them are on school feeding programs and they feared students would go hungry for three days).

The release also said the Board will have an interim principal for now (currently Megan McCorriston) and search for a new principal.  It also included a statement from Colson saying Waimea’s been his home for 35 years and he hopes to find a leadership position in education in the area.

Colson came to Waimea Middle Public Conversion Charter School four years ago, after 25 years at Hawaii Preparatory Academy, much of it as headmaster.  He is extremely well thought of in the Waimea community, and among educators everywhere on the island.  Former colleagues at HPA  praised his work, his ethics, his integrity, and pointed out he had intended at one point to retire but was asked by HPA to stay on.

On Sunday, February 12, McCorriston said the release stands on its own:  the Ho’okako’o Corp. says Colson resigned.  Colson isn’t commenting, but the statement includes comments from him that Waimea has been his home for more than 35 years and he “hopes to find a leadership position in education in the area.”

Those who know Colson say he would never just quit, never leave his students without advance preparation and planning.  And they also say he would be highly unlikely to leave abruptly in the middle of the school year–especially just two weeks before the critical Hawaii State Assessment tests.  Those are the tests on which the students and the school will be judged.  Waimea Middle School, from principal to faculty to staff, have gone out of their way to prepare the students physically and psychologically for the testing…and people who’ve known Colson for decades say there is no way he personally would jeopardize students’ ability to do well on the tests by upsetting them so close to test time.

McCorriston said Sunday she’s trying to arrange for Board Members to come to Waima to hold a public community meeting to address concerns.

Other than Vieira, no other Board members have returned calls seeking comment.  The Board Meeting minutes are online at the Ho’okako’o Corp’s web site, and indicate not all Board members were present at the last three meetings, when their decision was likely reached in Executive Session as this was a personnel matter.

See previous story here:


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