The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) Resource Management Committee will meet tomorrow, October 11, 2017, at 10a.m. to determine whether or not to approve Hawaiian Focus Charter Schools (HFCS) grant monies that were initially awarded to the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA). The committee may also elect to reset and revisit the HFCS grant award process.
Although the $3 million grant in question went through a standard competitive bidding process, it was revealed at the September 27 Beneficiary Advocacy and Empowerment (BAE) Committee meeting that OHA’s Administration awarded the HFCS grant before getting approval by the OHA Board of Trustees. That approval is a necessary part of the process, but was sidestepped in this instance. The OHA “Letter of Interest Solicitation” for the HFCS grant specifically states that “Recommendations for award will be presented to OHA’s Board of Trustees for Approval.” After hours of discussion and testimony, and after being questioned by the Trustees, OHA Chief Executive Officer Kamana‘opono Crabbe and a grants personnel representative admitted that the HFCS grants process was not followed.
Indeed, when it was revealed on September 6 that the money would be going to CNHA, OHA Chair Collette Machado expressed shock, claiming OHA had been “hoodwinked” into approving the monies.
HFCS administrators, staff, parents, students and community submitted powerful oral testimony at the BAE meeting, urging OHA to reconsider the matter of the educational grant and speaking out against awarding monies to CNHA. In past years, that grant has been administered by Kanu O Ka ‘Āina Learning ‘Ohana. Much of the testimony centered on several important cultural and procedural errors, such as the failure by CNHA to consult with all 17 Hawaiian Charter Schools before applying to receive millions of dollars on their behalf.
Hālau Kū Māna Principal, Dr. Brandon Bunag, said, “Regardless of what the application did or did not require, it is best practice—pono—to at least inform schools of an intent or desire to support our school by administering a grant that has been managed by another organization for so many years.”
Once the award of the grant was made public, hundreds of letters from HFCS parents and community members from throughout the state were sent to CEO Crabbe, and the Board of Trustees, asking them to reconsider awarding the $3 million HFCS grant to CNHA. At the heart of community concern is a lack of trust toward CNHA, an organization that has advocated relentlessly and ambitiously for Federal Recognition.