Maui News

Plaque Commemorates Role in Founding of the Kīhei Charter School

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South Maui Learning ʻOhana and Kīhei Charter School Founders gather at the school as a plaque is placed to commemorate the decades long struggle to create the school and a building to house it. From left to right: Cheryl Zarro, Diane Perrella, Malia Johnson and Gene Zarro. Not shown is Junius Johnson and Ray and Carla Hart. The school was chartered on May 17, 2001 and in the coming school year will have an estimated 700 students. PC: South Maui Learning ʻOhana.

South Maui Learning ʻOhana, Inc. and its founders were honored in a plaque unveiling ceremony at the Kīhei Charter School. SMLO is recognized as the founding organization of the Kīhei Charter School, which was chartered on May 17, 2001.

Ground was broken on Dec. 30, 2016 and the building was occupied 22 months later on Oct. 22, 2018.

The Kīhei Charter School founders are Gene Zarro, Ray Hart, Malia Johnson, Cheryl Zarro, Carla Hart, Junius Johnson and Diane Parrella.


In comments made prior to the unveiling ceremony Malia Johnson, Board Chair said, “The plaque means a great deal to me and my husband Junius Johnson who died in September 2016. It represents a long journey that the founders of the South Maui Learning ʻOhana took as they envisioned a school that would represent the beginning of the charter school movement in Hawaiʻi. The Innovative Building of the Kīhei Charter School was designed to provide the transformative education needed by students preparing for challenges in the 21st Century.”

Board Secretary and school Founder Diane Parrella said, “It was so gratifying to me to see the plaque. To me, it represents the culmination of the hard work of SMLO over many long years to reach our goal and finally see the completion of our Charter School and see the students getting the benefit of what we did. The names on the plaque recognize the wonderful group of people who worked hard to make this dream come true and in the process became dear friends.”

South Maui Learning ʻOhana CEO Gene Zarro and his wife Cheryl have dedicated the last 24 years of their lives to the creation of the Kīhei Charter School.


They reflected on the plaque ceremony with Cheryl saying, “The plaque is a dedication to the successful road the South Maui Learning ʻOhana, Inc. has traveled. (It represents) The ability to thank the members for the contribution to allow this dream to come to fruition. The founders have stuck together since 1996 to assure an improvement in the education of our next generation of citizens. The building was dreamed about in the early days of getting a charter law passed into law here in Hawaiʻi… We are proud members of the SMLO founders who have stuck it out for the 24 years and love that we can (now) formally thank the team.”


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