VIDEO: Hawaiian Immersion Lottery at Pāʻia School Postponed
By Wendy Osher
A controversial lottery for placement in Pāʻia Elementary School’s Hawaiian Immersion kindergarten program has been postponed.
“The selection process for Papa Mālaaʻo scheduled for Monday, May 6th has been postponed to allow the district office and OHA to continue their efforts which hopefully result in a viable alternative to this process,” school Principal, Susan Alivado stated in an email to Nā Leo Kākoʻo O Maui, the nonprofit group that organized a demonstration opposed to the planned lottery.
Those opposed to the lottery say the system denies children the right to Hawaiian language immersion education and restricts the growth of language revitalization.
“It’s not going to happen today, at least. So, one thing accomplished for now,” said parent, Kyle Farm.
A demonstration by those opposed to the planned lottery continued along Baldwin Avenue fronting the school this morning, seeking support for equal access to education for Hawaiian Language immersion students.
“After the overthrow in 1893, three years later in 1896, the provisional government enacted a ban on Hawaiian language which prohibited Hawaiian from being taught in school and spoken in other government areas. For us, this is sort of reminiscent of a ban,” said Kaheleonolani Dukelow, demonstration organizer.
“So, our larger issue is that Hawaiian language immersion should be treated equally and fairly as with English. They would never turn away 13 students hoping to get into an English kindergarten in the public school system… We should not be limited to the decision of an individual principal. There should be a BOE policy that provides for fair and equal treatment of Hawaiian language in our schools,” said Dukelow.
In a letter to parents of prospective Papa Mālaaʻo Haumana (kindergarten students) dated April 26, 2013, Principal Susan Alivado said the numbers of applicants for Geographic Exceptions received by March 1 had exceeded the school’s two-classroom capacity.
A total of 53 applicants had reportedly sought admission into the program, but according to Alivado’s letter, the lottery would limit GE approval to the first 40 names drawn in the lottery format.
The letter further stated that a Bingo game cage would be used for the selection process, and marbles with corresponding numbers would be placed in the cage and recorded as they dropped.
“The remaining names will be put on a wait list and receive a call from me with an explanation of available options,” the letter stated.
Alivado’s letter further stated:
“Being on the wait list does not automatically mean your child’s GE is denied (unless that is your preference). Family plans sometimes change and parents may decide not to enroll their child at Pa‘ia School. We are also reserving slots for our current Junior Kindergarten keiki who may need the gift of another year. Should their status change, their slot will be opened to those on the wait list.”
Today, keiki joined parents and supporters in holding signs opposed to the lottery, with a variety of messages including: “What if we put you in a cage to determine your future? Shame on you!”; “Don’t gamble with our keiki’s education”; “Children are not bingo balls. How about the other 13?”; and “Gambling is still illegal in Hawaiʻi, or did the law change?”.
“The parents here, as well as other parents whose children are already in Kula Kaiapuni have come out to support and call the principal to task that all keiki should have access to the education if that’s the desire that they want. So, we’re just out here letting the school know that we want all of the kids to be included,” said Sheri Daniels, parent, and pelekikena (president) of Nā Leo Kākoʻo O Maui, the nonprofit support group for Ke Kula Kaiapuni O Maui (the Hawaiian Language Immersion Schools).
“This is our only option. I’m not going to send my keiki to any other school. If he doesn’t get in here, I don’t really have any recourse,” said Farm, who already put two kids through the program, and is in the process of seeking district exception for a third child.
“I’m not going to accept a private school or my in-district school. This is the only school that we have an option for… I don’t have an answer for my child if they are denied access here. I really wouldn’t know what to do, accept move islands and go to another immersion school,” said Farm.
The solution he said is to expand the program, which underwent its first expansion from one kindergarten class to two, three years ago. “Every year numbers have steadily increased, and this year is no different. But we have the numbers to justify three classrooms,” said Farm.
Event organizers said budget is not an excuse for denying kids access to education in an official language of the state.
“If you’re not aware of the near-death of Hawaiian language, in the ’80s we were about, I think 1,000 speakers, which when you look at languages across the world, it’s pretty much considered a dead language. We had been able through college programs and especially Kula Kaiapuni to make that number grow–to I would estimate between 5,000 and 6,000, maybe a little higher,” said Dukelow.
She continued, “But, in order for a language to be out of being endangered, we have to have about 10,000 speakers, and we’re not quite there yet. So the idea that–we have some people who speak Hawaiian in the state is OK, no. We want Hawaiian to become an integral part of our community, and we are certainly not even close to being there. So the growth of our programs, we need the to grow in order to reach that goal,” said Dukelow.
In Alivado’s letter on Sunday announcing the lottery postponement, she said Alvin Shima, the complex area superintendent, would be contacting key people and “would like to hold a meeting to discuss options/solutions.”
Alivado further explained in the letter that, “Sterling Wong (with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs) received a voice-mail informing him of the postponement. When he and I spoke on Friday, he was not able to make any commitments on resources from OHA however was willing to continue to work towards an alternative solution.”
In a telephone interview this afternoon, Alivado said, “We are hoping to find a better solution. Having the selection process is not the ideal.” She continued saying communication has been one of the major hurdles, but school officials hope that further meetings and brainstorming sessions with key contacts will result in a better resolution.