Despite a plea by staff and community members for his reinstatement, former Waimea Middle School Principal John Colson will not be able to return to finish the school year, he told his staff in an email.
"I write to thank you all for your incredible show of support of the past couple of weeks," Colson wrote in the message, titled "aloha," sent Sunday to the staff of the Hawaii island charter school. "I am really sorry to have put you through such an ordeal.
"I have heard from Honolulu and I will not be invited back to finish the year nor continue as your principal."
Ho‘okako‘o Corp., the Honolulu-based nonprofit that governs the school, abruptly announced the departure of the popular principal on Feb. 7, offering no explanation. The move shocked the school community, which rose up to ask for his reinstatement, asking why he would be removed after receiving a rating of 4.8 out of 5 on his annual evaluation last month.
Ho‘okako‘o issued a statement four days later saying it had accepted Colson's resignation but would not discuss the circumstances. It said there was "no impropriety" and that "Principal Colson's work and comportment epitomized the core values of the school."
Colson also has not discussed the reason for his departure.
In his email, he said he intends to return to the Waimea campus this week "to speak to the kids and hopefully find a way to refocus them before the next round of testing."
"Please continue the work to establish more local control of the school as the incredible support of the community must now shift its focus from me to the kids," he added.
A community meeting held by Ho‘okako‘o on Thursday was packed with 300 parents, staff, students and community members, who pressed for an explanation and pleaded for his return. Ho‘okako‘o board members repeated that they had accepted Colson's resignation and could not talk about it.
Community members have also been rallying, both on the roadside and in cyberspace with a Facebook page titled "Colson 4 WMS." They say they are not giving up.
"This is my plan as a parent," Melissa Mahi Lindsey, a Waimea Middle School alumna and parent of a sixth-grader, told the Star-Advertiser on Monday. "I am planning to work diligently, I'm planning to work humbly in educating myself and also our community in working to get a local school board. I know it is not an overnight thing. However, I will make sure that Ho‘okako‘o will no longer be in our jurisdiction.
"When you're part of a public charter conversion, you should be having a say in what's going on in your children's education as well as in the school in your community."
Ho‘okako‘o Corp. functions as the "local school board" for three charter schools: Waimea, Kamaile Academy in Waianae and Kualapuu School on Molokai. Its eight-member board is headed by Keith Vieira, senior vice president of Starwood Hotels & Resorts, and includes business executives and educators.
Megan McCorriston, Ho‘okako‘o's executive director, could not be reached Monday for comment. Colson did not return a call to his home phone.