Pahoa Man Arrested for Attempted Murder and Other Offenses

A 32-year-old Puna man has been arrested on a Grand Jury indictment for attempted murder and other offenses.

Gilbert H. Waiau

Gilbert H. Waiau

Gilbert H. Waiau of Pāhoa was arrested Monday morning (July 21) on the strength of a bench warrant following a Grand Jury indictment charging him with attempted second-degree murder, attempted first-degree assault, attempted second-degree assault, first-degree terroristic threatening and second-degree criminal property damage. His bail was set at $85,000. He was held at the Hilo police cellblock pending a court appearance Tuesday.

The charges stem from an incident on April 30, 2013. Puna Patrol officers responded to a report of a possible domestic dispute on the roadway. Officers responded to Kahakai Boulevard at Puni Mauka Loop, where a 23-year-old woman reported that Waiau had followed her in his car and tried to run her off the road, then intentionally hit her car with his. When she got out of her car, he reportedly attempted to ram her with his car.

The case was routed to the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney and then presented to a Grand Jury.

Big Island Police Arrest Pahoa Man for Trying to Run Down Two Officers

Hawaiʻi Island police have arrested 38-year-old Riley Asuncion of Pāhoa on suspicion of attempted first-degree murder and two counts of attempted second-degree murder for attempting to run down two officers on Monday.

Riley Asuncion

Riley Asuncion

Asuncion was taken to the Hilo police cellblock shortly before 7 p.m. Monday (July 21) after being released from Hilo Medical Center, where he was treated for a bruise to his torso sustained when the officers fired at him when he tried to run them down while they were on foot.

Asuncion was also arrested on suspicion of unauthorized entry of a motor vehicle, unauthorized control of a propelled vehicle and assault for an incident that started in downtown Hilo. In that case, passersby reported what they thought was a domestic dispute in a vehicle traveling from Hilo to the Panaʻewa area. The 30-year-old female victim, who was an acquaintance of Asuncion’s, managed to escape from the SUV before police located and began to pursue it. Police later located her in Hilo.

The pursuit began shortly before 11:30 a.m. Monday, when South Hilo Patrol officers responded to the reports of a domestic incident in a pink sports-utility vehicle.

The officers located the SUV. When they attempted to contact the operator, it fled. Officers followed it to Stainback Highway, where it turned around on a side road and drove recklessly toward two officers, who had exited their police vehicles. In response, three shots were fired toward the SUV, which continued down Stainback Highway. It then stopped a short distance later and the suspect fled into the bushes.

Police determined that no one else was in the SUV at that time.

They located Asuncion a short time later, arrested him and took him to Hilo Medical Center.

Asuncion remains at the cellblock while detectives from the Area I Criminal Investigations Section continue the investigation.

As is standard practice in any police involved shooting, the Police Department’s Area I Criminal Investigations Section is conducting a criminal investigation into the shooting and the Office of Professional Standards is conducting an administrative investigation. The two officers involved are on desk duty during the investigation. One has been with the Hawaiʻi Police Department for six years and the other for approximately a year.

Pahoa Man Steals Milk – Leads to Other More Serious Offenses

Hawaiʻi Island police have arrested a 25-year-old Puna man in connection with a burglary and two auto thefts in Puna.

At 2:10 p.m. Monday (July 14), police responded to a report of a burglary in the Ainaloa subdivision. A 51-year-old woman was home when an unknown man reportedly entered her Hilonani Street home and removed a gallon of milk. Responding officers found the suspect nearby in the bushes.

Lake Charles K. Lively

Lake Charles K. Lively

Lake Charles K. Lively of Pāhoa was arrested and found to be in possession of hydrocodone and marijuana. He was held at the Hilo police cellblock while detectives from the Area I Criminal Investigations Section continued the investigation.

On Tuesday, Lively was charged with burglary, theft, promoting a harmful drug and promoting a detrimental drug. He was also charged with unauthorized control of a propelled vehicle in an unrelated case. In that case, an Acura Integra was reported as stolen from a property in Kurtistown sometime between June 25 and June 26.

Bail for the above offenses was set at $38,000.

After Lively reported to court for those offenses on Wednesday, he was arrested and charged with another count of unauthorized control of a propelled vehicle. In that case, a Honda Civic was stolen from the parking lot of a business in Kurtistown and found behind a vacant house in Kurtistown. Bail for that offense was set at $10,000. Lively was taken to Hawaiʻi Community Correctional Center pending his initial court appearance on that offense.

Senator Ruderman Hosts Meeting With Governor Abercrombie in Pahoa

Senator Russell Ruderman hosted a meeting with Governor Neil Abercrombie including about twenty-five Puna community leaders. This was the first time in several years that the Governor has visited Puna to specifically listen and address concerns of the district. The meeting was held at Hawaii Academy of Arts and Sciences school in Kea’au on Saturday, July 12th.

Ruderman Abercrombie

It was a productive meeting, with both the Governor’s staff and Puna leaders expressing great appreciation for the opportunity to meet directly with one another to address community concerns.

Governor Abercrombie intently listened as the issues of the Puna District, such as substandard subdivisions and the problems they are facing including roads and other necessary infrastructure; emergency access; geothermal; need for social & medical services; unsafe highways; safe access to medical marijuana; charter schools; and a variety of other concerns were presented by those in attendance. The governor acknowledged their concerns, asked questions, and agreed that Puna is in need of long-denied attention and resources.

One theme emerged repeatedly, as Senator Ruderman explained, “Puna is the state’s fastest-growing district, and includes some of the state’s poorest population areas, yet it has received less funding than other districts for several decades.”

Ruderman at Haas

One example of the problems this has caused is that Lower Puna has only one road for access and emergencies (Highway 130) and this overburdened highway is the most dangerous road in the state. As Community leader Jon Olson said “We’re dying out here, literally, on the unsafe state highway.”

The Governor stated, “This is the 21st Century, and we need to look at things anew.” The old assumptions about our subdivisions, roads, and what Puna residents deserve must be re-evaluated. The Governor agreed to focus more attention on our needs and will follow up with more communication.

Senator Ruderman coordinated this meeting to create a productive avenue of communication between the administration and the Puna community, which has been lacking in recent years. Senator Ruderman said “For this meeting, we put aside the most contentious issues and focused instead on all the other basic issues so desperately in need of attention in Puna. I am thankful for this renewed dialog between my community and the administration.”

Who Took Pahoa’s Trash Cans?

I noticed the other day that trash was beginning to pile up in Pahoa around different spots of town.

Pahoa Town

Pahoa Town

Today as I was driving around… I noticed that the public garbage cans that were around town had been removed.

I asked Pahoa Businesswoman and County Council Candidate Madie Greene what happened to them and she said that the contract for the people who were taking care of them had expired.

Greene said that the garbage cans should be back this week with a new contract in place but she wasn’t sure which company is contracted for the services as of yet.

Also if you haven’t heard, Business Services Hawaii has now set up a recycling redemption center right across from the Pahoa Post Office.

The Super Moon From the Big Island of Hawaii

Here is a picture of the “Super Moon” I took from my iPhone just now in Pahoa, Hawaii:
Supermoon in Pahoa

Big Island Police Searching for Missing Pahoa Man

Hawaiʻi Island police are asking for the public’s help in locating a 49-year-old Pāhoa man who was reported missing.

Yuriy Shvydkova

Yuriy Shvydkova

Yuriy Shvydkova is described as 6-feet tall and 300 pounds, with medium-length partially gray hair, brown eyes and a fair complexion. He may be operating a 2005 White Nissan Sentra.

He was last seen in Nanawale early on the morning of Monday, June 9.

Police ask anyone with information on his whereabouts to call the Police Department’s non-emergency line at 935-3311.

Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call the islandwide Crime Stoppers number at 961-8300 and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000. Crime Stoppers is a volunteer program run by ordinary citizens who want to keep their community safe. Crime Stoppers doesn’t record calls or subscribe to caller ID. All Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.

POLL – Hawaii County Council District 5

Who will you vote for the Hawaii County Council District 5 Race?

POLL – Hawaii County Council District 4

Hawaii County Council District 4 Poll:

Big Island Police Seeking Help Identifying Pahoa Theft Suspect

Hawaiʻi Island police are asking for the public’s help in identifying a man wanted for theft in Pāhoa.

Have you seen this guy?

Have you seen this guy?

The incident took place in a market, where the 56-year-old victim briefly put his wallet down and an unknown man grabbed it.

The man is described as Caucasian, possibly in his upper 50s, with a medium build.

Police ask anyone with information on his identity or whereabouts to call the Police Department’s non-emergency line at 935-3311.

Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call the islandwide Crime Stoppers number at 961-8300 and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000. Crime Stoppers is a volunteer program run by ordinary citizens who want to keep their community safe. Crime Stoppers doesn’t record calls or subscribe to caller ID. All Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.

Puna Students Participate in Medeival Games on Oahu

Students from Mālamalama Waldorf School recently participated in the Medieval Games at Camp Erdman on the North Shore of Oahu. This is a hands on experience of sixth grade curriculum, which studies medieval history in depth.

Two members of Cheshire compete in pillow jousting, as the King pays heed to their style and technique

Two members of Cheshire compete in pillow jousting, as the King pays heed to their
style and technique.

Students dressed in tunics adorned with hand stitched family crests and were divided into shires (Cheshire, Berkshire, Hampshire and Yorkshire), each shire engaged in four events, archery, jousting (with pillow sacks), stilt walking and conquering a 30 foot vertical climbing wall. Waldorf schools from
throughout the state participate in this annual event, hosted by Honolulu Waldorf School.

Waldorf Education strives to provide experiential learning experiences for its students by utilizing the head, heart and hands while learning, creating real life experiences, allowing the student to live what they are learning.

Mālamalama Waldorf School is the only non-sectarian, non-denominational independent Waldorf School on the island of Hawai’i offering the internationally recognized Waldorf curriculum. If you would like your child to benefit from an amazing education please contact us at 808-982-7701 or visit us @ www.hawaiiwaldorf.org and enroll today!

Wordless Wednesday – Backseat Barn

As seen at Paul’s Gas Station in Pahoa a few minutes ago:

I asked the guy what his goats name was and he said something like Ganji!

I asked the guy what his goats name was and he said something like Ganji!

Pictures From the Pahoa Spirit Parade

Today was the first ever Pahoa Spirit Parade.  While the turn out wasn’t that great… the spirit was there.

Here are some pictures from today’s parade… Click to enlarge:

HAAS Principal Busted for International Drug Running in the ’70s

According to an April 16, 1972 article in the Pacific Stars & Stripes, “Thai Police Nab 2 on Drug Rap (Bottom Left)” Steve Hirakami, the current principal at Hawaii Academy of Arts and Sciences (HAAS), was a former international drug runner who got busted in Bangkok back in 1972.

Click to view paper.  Warning you can only click a few times w/out buying a subscription to the paper.

Click to view paper. Warning you can only click a few times w/out buying a subscription to the paper.

“Two Japanese-American men have been arrested on charges of possessing 62 pounds of hashish worth 2 million baht ($100,000.00) police disclosed Friday.

Gary Masashi Ohashi 25, and Steven Anthony Hirakami, 26, both from Honolulu were arrested Thursday morning while they were in their hotel rooms in downtown Bangkok.  Police found two suitcases full of hashish in each room.

According to police, Ohashi and Hirakami came to Bangkok on April 8 for  a tour.  They went up to Ubon Ratchathani, a north eastern province about 300 miles from where a U.S. air base is located to see an American Air Force man named Sgt. Jack Williams.  Williams hired them to deliver the two suitcases to an address in Honolulu.  Williams then left for Manila.

Williams paid them $100 each, police said.  The two young men claimed that they did not know what was in the suitcases.”

According to the Hawaii State Judiciary site.. Hirakami found himself in trouble and remanded for something in 1991 as well:
Hirakami Case

I have to wonder if this principal told the hiring board of the school of his past troubles?  Would you want your child attending a school that is supervised by a former international drug runner?

HAAS School Board Hides Executive Session Meeting – Cops Called to Protect Board – More Abuse Commentary

Last night there was supposed to be a resolution to an executive session that was going on with Hawaii Academy of Arts and Science (HAAS) school alleging teacher abuse made by a few parents of students that attended classes instructed by a teacher there named in the newspaper as Shannon Smith.

Shannon Smith

Shannon Smith

The meeting was originally scheduled for today at 5:00 at HAAS School in Pahoa.  When parents and community members arrived they were met with a sign that basically told them the meeting was an executive session and that it had been moved to an undisclosed location per HSTA.

HAAS Meeting 363

We then thought of places where this meeting might have been moved to and we drove to HAAS’s Virtual Campus located behind Black Rock Cafe and we saw cars that we recognized as board member cars and decided we would wait outside the meeting there to get the results that we were told we would have last night.

HAAS Parent David Marquis outside the Virtual Campus.  HSTA Rep Tanya Yamanaka on the left by the building.

HAAS Parent David Marquis outside the Virtual Campus. HSTA Rep Rae Yamanaka on the left by the building.

When we arrived HSTA Member Rae Yamanaka was waiting outside along with a few other HAAS teachers.   I talked with the HSTA member (Ms. Yamanaka if I remember correctly) she told me she wasn’t aware of why she was called to the meeting.

About 20 of us were outside and then a bunch of Hawaii County Police Officers showed up.

HAAS Meeting 374

I listened to what the Police officers were saying and one of them was talking to a supervisor and he said to his supervisor that nothing was going on just a bunch of folks standing outside waiting around.

One of the Police Officers asked me I if was “Damon Tucker”.  I told him yes I was.  He asked me what I was doing there… I told him that I wanted to hear the results of the executive session.  He asked me why I was so interested in it.  I told him I had a nephew that was allegedly abused by the teacher.  The officer then asked me who my nephew was… I told the officer it was none of his business who my nephew was and quit talking to him.

HAAS Meeting 376

Around 6:00 HSTA member Yamanaka drove by the group and informed us that the meeting was cancelled and she didn’t give us a reason.

The board members continued to stay inside the building and we were intent on waiting outside until we got answers from them.  When they did finally leave the building the following unfolded including one of the Board Members telling us that we were stalkers:

So now we are still left looking for answers.

HAAS parent David Marquis sent me the following commentary on what he feels is going on:

My name is Dave Marquis and my wife and I have a child in the Mana’olana program. We have known this teacher since the beginning of this school year, August 2013, and more than once or twice, we thought she was a great teacher. She is confident, energetic, knowledgeable, very firm on students. She was working on teaching the students “respect” all the time. We wish we could listen to her side of the story from her mouth, in person. I really wish we could. It would’ve been so easy to hate her not knowing her in person. We drop off and pick up our child every day at Mana’olana, and get to see other students playing after school while they wait for their parents to pick them up and to see this teacher every day also.

For those who consider HAAS as a great school with many wonderful teachers, it must be hard to believe this numerous amount of abuse incidents as well as the principal Mr. Steve Hirakami and the Ohana director Ms. Debra Derbyshire covering up this whole thing. They did nothing about it this past 3+ months (since the end of January) and not only that, they wanted to pretend like nothing happened. We wanted to believe that this was a good school. However, they handled this matter very poorly. They didn’t do what they were supposed to do and trying to even cover up these incidents. They did nothing for these children after the incidents were reported. They did one thing though; they were trying to suppress the facts and to protect their reputations.

The kids this age exaggerate, we know it as parents. However, if you have a good relationship with your child, you probably can tell if your child is telling the truth or not, making it up or not, exaggerating just a bit or a lot. We feel so guilty about not paying more attention to what my child has said about his teacher in the past. There were many signs of the abuse from the beginning. Whoever is in doubt should’ve seen when she was yelling at the kids. When she yells, she does so like an old sister yelling at their younger siblings, far from how teacher should handle children. She stabbed the student’s hearts with all these mean words if not physically. Do not get fooled by her previously perceived good reputation. We are sure some people only know her wonderful side. In fact, we were the ones. We believed that she was a great teacher because we thought my child was exaggerating. How can you believe what he said, “This boy got duct taped on today!” You would be thinking “You gotta be kidding me! A teacher should be smart enough not to do that nowadays.” Sadly we learned that she has another side as well. Believe it or not, we wanted to believe so bad that she was a decent teacher after we learned that she got in trouble. We did not know what kind of trouble”s” she was in, but we thought there was some misunderstanding or something. We had high hopes for her as my child’s teacher until recently, but sadly it is shuttered completely after all of these things that have happened to our son and his classmates.

There are always 2 sides to the story; however, we strongly believe the student’s side of the story this time. They are 4th graders, smart enough not to mess around with this kind of stuff. They do not make this up. They have scars from their teacher who should be caring and loving. They can imagine what the consequences Ms. Smith will face after everything comes out in public. That is why it took so long for them to speak up. They were not telling parents everything they have experienced. They must have been in fear. I heard some students having nightmares because of what their teacher had done and without the help of the two assistant teachers who knew all about it but didn’t do anything.

My son was very afraid of her, he still is, from the very beginning. My husband and I used to think she was like a fire cracker, in a good way. We thought the students in this class will have lots of fun! She did not seem like a typical gentle kind type of teacher. She sounded like a very energetic, confident, fun, outgoing teacher who is never boring to be around. We moved from mainland just 2-3 weeks before this school year started. Everything was new to us. My son was probably somewhat nervous as he is the new student of the class where most students knew each other already.

We can personally attest to the effects that have changed my son forever. His innocence has changed in ways that shouldn’t have been for his age. He has trust issues that were never there before Shannon Smith crashed into our lives like a wrecking ball. He has had a hard time trusting us as parents for fear that we would get his hands or feet chopped off, screamed at, hit with books or have his ears flicked and it has taken quite a while to open up about what transgressed at the H.A.A.S Manao’lana. My son has also been dealing with unexplained anger issues that cropped up after he started the 4th grade class under Shannon Smith. He would be so full of uncontrolled rage that we would have to practically restrain him at times to explain how this or that behavior was unacceptable. He becomes very scared at the slightest correction from his parents. Sometimes even terrified we would say. He started to say “What the heck!” and “I don’t know” as an answer for question. He was afraid of expressing what he was feeling because he was afraid of Ms. Shannon Smith in class. He has to say “I don’t know” first and see the reaction, then only after he knows that he was safe enough to say what he was thinking, he could say, I think ____ or ____. He had to say something Miss Shannon Smith wanted to hear or he could possibly meet with her anger.

Shannon Smith came to H.A.A.S highly praised for her work in a tough Los Angeles, CA school, but I guess warning bells should have been tripped. I heard all these things in a matter of 1-2 weeks after school started. We thought my son was exaggerating. We didn’t believe what he said 100%. We thought whoever got duct-tape on was not listening or misbehaving or something, and thought she would not put a full force in that kind of discipline. She says “What the heck!”all the time and “What the hell!” occasionally. She yells at students or says “Shut Up!”, this is like everyday thing. She was even yelling at some 1st students that are the next door.

It seems to us that she decided that the Mana’olana students in 4th grade were out of control and need some “inner city” type discipline because that is what they received, maybe even third world discipline from what our son is telling us. Shannon Smith also has two teaching assistants that saw a lot of what transpired but failed to stop the abuse or report it. The HAAS counselor, Uncle Matt, who is very close friends with Ms. Shannon Smith apparently witnessed and or knew about abuse and did nothing to stop it.

These two Teaching Assistants and the school Counselor are still working at H.A.A.S and one aide is even still in the classroom at Manao’lana, who were present but didn’t lift a hand to stop Shannon Smith nor did they report the abuse as required by law.

She was so annoyed too frequently by these students for just giggling and laughing or even just a noise of somebody making constantly, like pushing the mechanical pencil or making noise on the desk with fingers or making noise on the floor with the shoes, etc. Our son always said “You are going to get flicked the ear by Miss Smith if you keep it up!” when his younger sister was making noise in the car one day. He did say the same thing every time his younger sisters did make some constant noises.

Shannon Smith threatened our son and the other classmates to chop off their hands and feet if they couldn’t hold them still. Shannon also threatened to break the hands of children if they couldn’t keep them to themselves or hold still. A few months ago our son had two day break down when he had been acting out and we were upset at his behavior. He sobbed and cried for many, many hours in belief that we would be chopping off his feet because of what he had done. We didn’t know about his mental torment that he endured at the hands of Shannon Smith and her teaching assistants. At first we found it a bit funny, but he didn’t. He was terrified to his core! Shannon Smith had engrained it into my son that bad kids get their hands and feet chopped off and he thought that was going to happen to him. How evil! It was a rough and shaky couple of days to calm him down.

She would scream threats at children. My son has also told me that Shannon Smith would often tell him and the other classroom students that they were idiots or stupid. Shannon Smith also would scream and yell at the 1st grade kids that are right next door on a often basis. She also used rough language with the students and used curse words on the children. We have had an ongoing issue keeping our son from telling other kids to “shut up” and he has learned to say “What the hell” quite often from Ms. Smith.

We were told one day that the desk and chairs had been removed from the classroom when our son returned home from school, which was our second clue that there was something wrong in the Manao’Lana classroom. This was done apparently because of one student’s actions from what we understand. We wonder if this student has moved to the mainland to get away?

I received this email that same day that was posted on Shannon’s Shutterfly web site from another parent:

“Is it true that our children have had their desks and chairs taken away and made to sit on the floor these past few days?  If so, I am interested to hear the reason why.”

I posed an inquiry on Shannon Smith’s web forum about the removal of the desks, chairs, books and other classroom materials and why I was learning this from my son and not some form of official classroom change and this seemed to be weird to me. She exploded and sounded like she did the right thing and there was nothing for the parents to do other than trust her actions and skills. I was greeted with this response from Shannon Smith:

“Quite frankly, I did not have the time to call 17 families on Monday. It’s almost 4:00 PM, and I am nowhere near being able to leave here today as I prepare for tomorrow and next week.” I wonder how my child’s back felt like hunched over while trying to write? I know I wouldn’t be happy with this situation and I wanted to know more.

I responded to Shannon Smith with:

“I feel the same way and I need to know if my son is causing the trouble at school. I am not sure the removal of the desks is the right answer.”

This is the reply I received from her:

…. “appreciate your concerns as parents, but please trust my judgements and actions as a teacher. I do, in fact, have a master’s degree in Education, and am well versed in both working in a childs’ Zone of Proximal Development, and developmentally appropriate learning activities. I am happy to discuss these more in-depth with you, and even provide literature if you would like. Heck, read my thesis if you want. Moreover, if you have a concern, feel free to contact me personally via email and not on this message board.”

It was big news that Ms. Shannon Smith was removed from the class room and came as a surprise. It was the end of January when we learned from my son that Ms. Shannon Smith didn’t come to school and was not coming back for a while because of the “police” investigation.

Our conversation in the car on our way back home was something like
- How was your day?

- Fine.

- How was Miss Smith?

– Oh she wasn’t there. She is not going to be at school for a while.

- Why? What’s going on? (We had no clue!)

- I don’t know………… She got in trouble.
- Why?

-Because (boy’s name) got duck taped on. I told you a long time ago.
-Yes I remember you said that. You weren’t joking??

-No I wasn’t.

-Did they do anything to you guys?

-I got interviewed today.

-By who?

-Uncle Matt. (school counselor)

- What did he ask?

- I am not supposed to tell you. I was told not to say anything to anybody.
- WHAT! You can always tell us anything. They just didn’t want you to tell anybody you know. But you can always tell us about everything, the stuff that is happening at school.

After that day, we were forced to remain silent until the parent meeting in April. We hadn’t been told a word about what happened at the school, or what happen to the students. Shockingly, only about 10 parents (the parents of 9 kids at Mana’olana) came to the meeting to find out what the meeting was all about. The first hour of the meeting was about how incredible this new teacher was. Mr. Steve Hirakami kept saying “We need to Imua.” (meaning to move forward) Then one parent started speaking out. We cannot move on unless something has to be done about this particular incident. Then we started learning other things as well. The school counselor lost one paper that the parents reported to him, it was the list of things Ms.Smith did to them and the other students and of things they saw in the class.

I guess this is where we should have really kept an eye on the actions and judgments the teachers at Manao’lana. I feel that Shannon Smith was way out of line and there is no excuse for these torments my son and other classmates endured.

Three months after Shannon Smith was removed from the classroom Ms. Smith shows up at the May 2nd H.A.A.S. Hoolaulea hugging, sitting and chatting with Ms. Derbyshire as if she didn’t have a care in the world. How callous of Mr. Hirakami and Ms. Derbyshire, who knew that there was a temporary restraining order against Ms. Shannon Smith, to let her show up and re-intimidate the students of Manao’lana. Have they no common sense as educators and so called “protectors” of our children?

Where was the Administration in all of this?

Why has it taken 100+ days to get a smidgen of information?

Did they not monitor Shannon Smith, a first year teacher at Manao’lana?

Did Mr. Hirakami or Ms. Derbyshire call the police to stop the classroom abuse or to perform an investigation?

Did Mr. Hirakami or Ms. Derbyshire report these incidents to the Hawaii Department of Education?

Why are the teacher’s aides still teaching at H.A.A.S let alone still present in the classroom?

In my opinion this has been a cover up from the beginning. Not only does Shannon Smith need to be formally fired and her record reflection these events, the teacher’s aides and the school counselor are also complicit in the abuse and failed our children as well and they too need to me formally fired and their employment records marked with these events. Mr. Steve Hirakami and Ms. Deb Derbyshire need to resign and apologize to my son, my family and the other children in the 4th Grade Manao’lana class as they have fail them and the H.A.A.S Public charter school as a whole.

We believe Ms. Shannon Smith, Mr. Steve Hirakami and Ms. Derbyshire should never be allowed into positions of power again as they have shown a lack of human decency and moral fiber. They have truly failed our children and community.

 

Pahoa Spirit Parade is This Saturday

The Pahoa Booster Club  is pleased to showcase all Pahoa schools including Pahoa High and Intermediate, Kua O Ka La and HAAS, all wearing their school colors.  Please join us in celebrating the students, athletics and clubs.  The Pahoa Spirit Parade will begin at 9:30 with Village Road being closed from 9:00 a.m. thru 10:30.

The Hawaii County Band at the 2013 Holiday Parade

The Hawaii County Band at the 2013 Holiday Parade

The parade will be led by Governor Abercrombie and featuring the Hawai’i County Band  and most all students from Pahoa, Kua O Ka La and HAAS.  This year’s Grand Marshall is Diane Hultman, a lifelong volunteer in Pahoa and Puna.  The Parade will wind thru the historic Pahoa Village ending up at Sacred Heart Church where a Steak BBQ fundraiser will be hosted by the Pahoa Booster Club and Lion’s Club in support of all schools in 96778.

There will be a 5 k run beginning at First Hawaiian Bank at 7:30 a.m.   All proceeds from the 5k run will go to the Pahoa High Cross Country Team.  Anyone interested in participating is encouraged to be at First Hawaiian Bank in Pahoa no later than 7 a.m.  Grand Prize for the 5k run is a GoPro3 Camera, valued at over $450.

Pahoa Community Center SignParking will be available at the Community Center.  If you wish to be in the parade, line-up begins at 9:00 a.m., at Apa’a (Rubbish dump) Road and Village Road.  All proceeds will benefit the Pahoa Schools athletic programs. We hope to see you there!!!

Commentary – A Giant Tree Almost Killed Me Last Night on HWY 132

I received the following commentary:

Dear Damon,

I really had a close call last night.

Tree Smash

Was driving down on my way home in Kapoho through the tree tunnel by Lava Tree state park. I heard a thunderous crack and saw for a split second a giant branch on it way down directly in front of me…not sure if I hit it first or it hit the road first but I hit it hard.

Tree Smash 2

Airbags went off and smoke filled the cabin…when I came to I was choking from the airbag smoke I got out from the car, dazed. The occupants from the car behind me asked if I was OK and said that they saw the tree come down and I was lucky to be alive…Police said I was lucky to be alive as well.

The force was enough to crack the block on the engine and spray oil and engine parts on the road.

Tree Smash 3I drive through that tree tunnel of old junk albizias every day… So do my loved ones and friends. Almost every local resident has a story of branches of all sizes down in the road and near misses.

I ask why does the county allow such a persistent and inevitable threat to exist? All one has to do is look up at the mass of giant tangled limbs and it not hard to see the gravity of the situation.

Who’s next? Will they be lucky like me? Only sore, bruised and shaken or will they be more gravely injured? 

I am a farmer by trade and don’t think I will be picking up any baskets of ginger for a while.

I will be writing letters to the County of Hawaii public works, road maintenance division as well as our council members asking the same questions above.

Tree Smash 4

In a perfect world my sincere story would be enough to get them moving to take care of this obvious problem, however If you would like to share my story on your blog it may help shine a light on this issue.

Thank you kindly,

Daniel Kelly

Puna Music Festival Takes to the Streets of Pahoa

Last night folks from all over Puna, decked out in their party attire, took to the streets of Pahoa for a music festival that went on until about 10:00 pm.

Inside the Akebono Theater

Inside the Akebono Theater

I’m trying to figure out what smell was the stronger smell in the air… Patchouli or Pakalolo?

HPD officers were on the scene to make sure no one got out of hand

HPD officers were on the scene to make sure no one got out of hand

Here are some pictures from the evening… feel free to click on them to enlarge:

Pahoa Photographer Finalist in Smithsonian Photo Contest

A photo that Pahoa Photographer Gisele Cassarotti Prescott took, is a finalist in the 11th Annual Smithsonian Photo Contest.

In creating In Wonderland #6: Red Queen Marching, Cassarotti Prescott says she wanted to bring back memories from her childhood. "Alice In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll was part of my childhood, and I believe it was part of many generations before and after me." (Pahoa, Hawai'i, May 8, 2013, Canon 5D Mark II)

Wonderland #6: Red Queen Marching (Pahoa, Hawai’i, May 8, 2013, Canon 5D Mark II) Click to Enlarge

In creating In Wonderland #6: Red Queen Marching, Cassarotti Prescott says she wanted to bring back memories from her childhood. “Alice In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll was part of my childhood, and I believe it was part of many generations before and after me.”

The Readers’ Choice voting is now closed. They will announce the Readers’ Choice, Grand Prize and six Category winners on May 15, 2014.

The Readers’ Choice voting is now closed. We will announce the Readers’ Choice, Grand Prize and six Category winners May 15, 2014.

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/photocontest/photo-contest-finalists-11th-annual-180950372/#yEo8O845wBIMJgBI.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

Teacher Allegedly Assaults Students at Big Island Charter School

Last night at Hawaii Public Charter School Hawaii Academy of Arts and Sciences (HAAS) a bombshell was dropped on parents, faculty and community members at their local school board meeting as allegations of physical and emotional abuse were told by parents of students attending the school.

Some members of the HAAS School board prepare for the meeting.

Some members of the HAAS School board prepare for the meeting.

Many folks submitted written testimony that was not read at this meeting however a few people read testimony that they had previously prepared while others spoke from their heart about the problems that they were having with the administration at the school and some folks felt that there was a cover up going on and they wanted answers.

Before the meeting began.

Before the meeting began

Puna resident and parent David Marquis started off the testimony and was so upset by the end of the night after hearing others testimony… he went out and protested the school today:

David Marquis shows his disgust with the school and the administration

David Marquis shows his disgust with the school and the administration

Here are a few of the testimonies that were read via verbatim:

Aloha,

I am Dan Biegler, parent of a 4th grader at Mana’olana. I just wanted to give you some background/demographics of the 4th grade classroom at Mana’olana. This 4th grade started with 18 students 7 of which are children of employees at HAAS. 5 students have dropped out since the incidents and 2 of those 5 being children of HAAS employees.

The reason I am coming forward is for the children and parents who may go through this in the future and for those parents and children who are or were enrolled in the 4th grade at Mana’olana. This is why I asked those questions to the board in a previous email.

  1. Would you as parents want to know if there was any kind of abuse going on in your child’s classroom?
  2. Would you as parents want to know if your child has seen any kind of abuse in their classroom?
  3. Would you as a parent want to know if your child was questioned by a school counselor regarding abuse going on in the classroom?

If your answer is yes, then why haven’t the parents of 4th grade Mana’olana been granted these rights?   We have not gotten any information regarding what is happening in the classroom other than letters brought home by students stating “There will be a long term sub till the end of the school year”.

Here is a rough timeline of the incidents at Mana’olana 4th grade:

  • First Semester – The teacher was allowing 10 year old student to do their own lunch/recess supervision. This was causing major conflict between classmates.
  • Teacher showed video of Central Africa current events to show kids how good they have it here. “Dead Africans being loaded into the truck.” Teachers response to my inquiries were “I known the students have seen worse” How dare she make judgements on what 10 year olds have or have not seen.       Isn’t that what parents decide, not teachers.
  • Teacher has children sit on hands to keep them to themselves or to not work ahead. If students took their hands out from underneath them the teacher would say “Keep your hands under you, or I will cut them off” This was repeated many times.
  • The incidents listed below were reported on Wed. January 29th after school. Teacher duct taped another students mouth because he was “whining, I don’t get it” Teacher flicked students ears and hit students in the back of the head.
  • Thursday Jan. 30th – Teacher was allowed to go back into the classroom and work an entire day.
  • Friday Jan. 31 – Teacher on admin. Leave.
  • Three letters go home to parents stating that there will be a long term sub. No other information shared or given to parents.
  • April 9 215. Parent meeting announcement sent home with children. Parent meeting held. 6 parents were present out of 18. No new information was given. I am guessing the purpose of the meeting was to show how good the long term sub was going to be. Administration and counselor sit in the back of the room letting the sub speak almost the entire time. Principal standing in the open door repeating “I’m sorry I have to leave, I have a very important meeting to attend” Three times the sub tried to answer questions for the admin. Admin and counselor get into a dispute. I felt shame and embarrassment for being associated with HAAS. In the meeting, principal states that the long term sub and him had just been introduced to each other the week before at the school wide meeting on April 2nd.
  • At this April 2nd meeting long term sub asks me, “Who should he talk to in regards to curriculum”?   I was shocked to find out that the long term sub had just met the principal April 2nd and he didn’t know who to talk to in regards of 4th grade curriculum two months after the removal of the teacher.
  • May 2nd – HAAS Ho’olaue’a. I see the fired Mana’olana teacher, sitting with HAAS Administrators and teachers enjoying the school function, making contact with her former students. What message does this send the kids, adults, teachers and community?
  • May 5th – A teacher asks me “Why is the fired 4th grade teacher contacting me about curriculum and questionnaires? The teacher asks “If she is back working with HAAS, why doesn’t she take the middle school opening next year?”

So here I am asking about my child’s former teacher and why no information has still not been given to the 4th grade parents. I have stayed impartial and silent for too long. Now I come here for answers. How is it that a teacher gets fired and begins working with the long term sub that is replacing her, the administration that got rid of her, and coworkers that she is no longer coworkers with? Again, what message does this send to the children, parents, faculty and community? It’s ok to bully, threaten, abuse children as long they are hanai daughter to someone at school. As long as parents are kept in the dark on what goes on in the classroom.

This abusive teacher got a 3 month paid vacation, traveled to California, surfed at Pohoiki, while HAAS teachers, parents, children and the greater community has been splintered shamed, kept in the dark. If your not going to take care of your own, who will you take care of? 7 students of employees at HAAS in the 4th grade Mana’olana, 5 are left and they have all been greatly negatively affected by this teacher. They lost their fiends, their school, their trust in speaking out when wrong is being done. I am speaking for all of those families, fiends, colleagues, that are still battling the effects of this one teacher, the administration and now the board. I am also speaking for the silent majority now and in the future who will not speak out, will not be the whistleblower. I ask the board and the administration to protect ours and your children.

Mahalo

Dan Biegler

The next person to testify was Debra Isabel:

My name is Debra Isabel.

I am here to provide factual information as I have witnessed in a situation involving myself and my child that occurred here at Hawaii Academy of Arts and Science where I am uncomfortable saying that I am currently employed.  I have remained silent and entrusted HAAS to conduct a fair investigation while I paid close attention to the details as it unfolded.  It has been 98 days.  I refuse to remain silent any longer.

People want to know details about what has happened in the 4th grade class at Mana’olana.  I am at liberty to share our experience and YOU, the Governing Board and HAAS Administration have an obligation to share YOUR knowledge of the details of what took place with US.  We are concerned parents, community members, tax paying citizens, and we deserve an explanation and have a right to hear the facts so that we may make an INFORMED decision if we want HAAS to be the school of choice for OUR children!

January 29, 2014 is a day my family shall never forget.  It is the day that my 9 year old son, a 4th grade student of HAAS, along with his classmate found the courage to speak out about the torturous behavior they were being subjected to by their teacher since the start of the school year.  Imagine having your child report to you that he was hit from the back by his teacher with a forceful open hand slap to the back of his head in the area that he wears his hearing aids; unprovoked, and completely unprepared.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, imagine hearing that the teacher of this class used duct tape over my child’s mouth as a means to shut him up because he needed help and used a whiny voice to say “I don’t get it”.  It was also the day we realized that the recent changes we were witnessing in my child was a direct result of what he was experiencing at school.  What once was my outgoing, independent, carefree child, was slowly turning in to my worried, needy, scared, angry child.  Having had extremely nurturing and caring teachers in the past, he knew early on that this new teacher was nothing like the others.  In my son’s words, she was “mean” and a “bully.”

This teacher, when concerns were brought to her attention by parents, responded harshly stating that we needed to trust her judgments and actions as a teacher because her possession of a Masters Degree in Education from UCLA somehow made her think that was her ticket to do as she pleased; to inflict physical harm and mentally humiliate and emotionally abuse the students that were assigned to her.

It’s amazing that someone so educated believed that she was invincible.  Does she not recognize that a person with a UCLA degree faces the same legal punishment as a homeless person living on the streets? This teacher was also the mentor and responsible for a Student Teacher studying to become a teacher as well an Aide assigned to that classroom.  Imagine the role modeling that was taking place with this teacher as their guide.  To this teacher, these may have been just students; mere puppets in training. To me, this was my child, the son that we waited 7 years for, the person that completed our family, the youngest grandchild of my parents, our prized possession.  How dare she do that to MY child!

I reported this incident to the School Director immediately after finding out about it on January 29, 2014.  As an educator myself, I recall having attended a workshop being presented by Child Welfare Services here at HAAS where we were trained as mandated reporters to treat incidents of violence seriously.   Having reported to administration that my child and at least one other student was physically and mentally abused by their teacher, I expected this act of violence to be treated seriously.  Instead of a call being placed to the Police, a call was placed to the Ohana Director to handle the situation.

I knew then and there that my report was not being handled properly or taken seriously.  I asked for the assistance of the Campus Safety & Security person who happens to be my relative, a person I know is professionally trained to handle situations like this.  It was at that time that protocol began to take place. My child, with my permission was interviewed providing firsthand information of what he experienced.  Following my child’s interview, I asked my son to hit me exactly like he had recently been hit.  He refused at first saying that he was afraid he would hurt me or get in to trouble.  When I insisted that he proceed, he apologized and hit me with such great force that my head jerked.

Not only was I stunned, I was also in a bit of pain.  This teacher, didn’t pat my son on the head, she hit him with the intent of hurting him! At that moment, I knew administration wasn’t going to do it, so I chose to file a police report and press criminal charges on this teacher myself. The school failed to follow protocol.  They failed to protect my child!  My child complained of headaches and pain in the area that he was hit.  He was seen by his pediatrician the next morning and continues to have recurring headaches.  My son expressed that he was afraid to return to school because the teacher was still there along with the student teacher and the aide assigned to the class.

The following day, with knowledge of these allegations, the school allowed the teacher to return to the classroom.  The school failed to protect the rest of the children in that class! According to administration, that same day the school also told the Safety & Security person that he could no longer perform his job.  They claimed it was a conflict because he was related to my child.  Good and fine.  Instead, they assigned the school counselor, a personal friend of the teacher, to continue the investigation.  Was that not a conflict as well? A person with no education and experience to perform such a task.

I know this for a fact because his first order of business was to call my home attempting to contact my husband.  When my husband was able to speak to him, he told my husband that his purpose for calling was to get his “side of the story”, as if our stories differed.

A week had passed since reporting and there was no communication from the school.  My husband and I requested a meeting with Admin. to get an update on the investigation.  We were told that the teacher had been placed on leave with pay while they continued to investigate.  This meant that she was not allowed on property during this time.  However, the following day my husband happened to drive through the school parking lot and witnessed this teacher in plain view of everyone on campus talking in a carefree manner with the school counselor.

We had been deceived.  According to administration, the school counselor conducted a thorough investigation in to the facts of my child’s allegations by personally interviewing the students at Mana‘olana.  Interesting enough, the school counselor never bothered to interview my son to complete his so-called “thorough“ investigation.

Through the police investigation, information was revealed to me that validated my decision to proceed with criminal charges.  This teacher openly admitted to the School Director and other school personnel that she hit and flicked students and that she threw things at them.  She also admitted to duct taping my son and claimed that it happened so long ago that she almost forgot about it but she recalled that it was so funny. This person, who may have been deserving of the title “teacher” for the past 2 ½ years, had now earned herself the title of “self-reported perpetrator”.

As laymen, we would expect, an allegation of physical abuse accompanied by the admission of the perpetrator would constitute immediate punitive action; so why, at the time of her admission was the Police not contacted?  Was that not sufficient evidence to act upon?  Are the School Director, Ohana Director, and School Counselor exempt from mandated reporting? I know for a fact if it was a parent in this situation, police involvement would take place without hesitation.

Instead, the school’s administration underhandedly dished off that responsibility to the Governing Board, a body of people with partial, one-sided information, and opinions and theories of their own. Is this how personnel disciplinary matters are systematically handled in Charter Schools?  If so, I’d like to see a written policy where that is stated.  If not, what has the Governing Board and HAAS Administration done in the 98 days that has passed to ensure that a policy for employee infractions are clearly written and in place should this repeat itself?

I was informed a month later, by a parent of 2 children in the same class that she too had filed a report with the school counselor about similar incidents involving her children and the perpetrator just a day after my child reported being hit.  Nearly ¼ of the children in the class along with their parents had brought this to the school’s attention.  Instead of investigating the reports by 4 different students individually, they strategically combined the reports.  What did the school do?

When asked, they claim to be restricted to provide us limited information.  At one point, stating that they were in “negotiations” with the perpetrator and her union and was close to a “settlement.”  What if the tables were turned, and MY child physically abused his teacher or a classmate?  There is a clearly defined discipline policy in place called Chapter 19 whereby student consequences for various infractions are mutually understood, clearly written, lawfully supported, and most importantly, non-negotiable. So, the statements of the administration, the actions of the perpetrator and other HAAS employees closely tied to the perpetrator,  has led me to the conclusion that the self-reported perpetrator has been allowed to walk away from an incriminating situation with the consequence of paid administrative leave, the ability to “negotiate” a “settlement offer”, and the possibility to continue to repeat these horrific acts elsewhere.  What power and influence does the perpetrator have over the Governing Board and the school administration?  That is the million dollar question!

In the current school year 2013-2014 brochure explaining HAAS Ohana Programs for Grades K-8 (hold up copy) the following statement appears “Our mission at HAAS is to provide every student an education where learning needs are met by implementing flexible and effective teaching strategies which target the full range of learning styles.”  Unless you consider physical and emotion abuse a “flexible and effective teaching strategy”, I say this statement is FALSE!  Perhaps that is why at an April 2nd Faculty Meeting, before the end of the current school year, the mission of HAAS suddenly changed and any mention of teaching strategies or learning styles conveniently disappeared.

Who was in the leadership position to facilitate that happening at this particular Faculty Meeting?  The hanai relative and mentor(as she refers to herself ) of the self-reported perpetrator!  How’s that for a conflict of interest?! Immediately after the school’s newly adopted vision was created, the change was made to the school’s website.  If the perpetrator has been terminated or removed from her position as a teacher, then why hasn’t THAT change also been made to the school’s website? WHY is the perpetrator being allowed to contact other Staff members about curriculum?  WHY was the perpetrator allowed to attend the Ho’olaule’a where confirmed victims were present, and in the company of HAAS administration and her hanai relative just 6 days ago with absolutely NO reservation about being there full well knowing that a Temporary Restraining Order and a supposed “agreement“ with the school was in place and she was not supposed to be there?

Is it because the school and the Governing Board influenced by people with a conflict of interest continue to keep this perpetrator on the school’s payroll?  Isn‘t that information that we should have access to?

In April, at a Parent Meeting where myself and another reporting parent was mysteriously omitted an invitation to attend, the School Director stated that the “threat” would not be returning to the classroom and that we should “imua”, move forward.  How is that possible when shortly after that when asked what type of counseling service was provided to students involved, the School Counselor stated that he was told by Administration not to discuss the matter with the students?

Because of the school personnel’s inability to conduct a thorough, impartial investigation, their inability to enforce an agreement made with the perpetrator to refrain from being in the presence of victims and on the campus of HAAS sites, this has created a hostile work environment for me as an employee of HAAS.  I do not understand that the stated vision of the Board of Education is : “Hawaii’s Public Schools are institutions of learning that parents want their children to attend and students want to attend.  All schools, regardless of size, are safe, nurturing learning communities where members work together and all students achieve high academic standards and become contributing members of society” yet the Governing Board along with HAAS Administration has chosen to turn the other cheek with knowledge of an admission by an employee to committing illegal acts of violence that placed children in an unsafe, militant environment where the type of learning taking place was a lesson in “do as I say, or get hit, flicked, taped or things thrown at you”.

This is WRONG!  As responsible adults we teach our children to report any instances of illegal or inappropriate behavior they have witnessed or experienced.  Numerous children did exactly that.  What did the school with the Board of Education and the Governing Board as their advisors do to live up to their vision statement?  They sided with the perpetrator and left our children with no choice but to lose trust in the people that are paid to nurture and educate them!
Why, as a community are we not as vocal and passionate about equal accountability for Charter Schools as we are about equal funding for Charter Schools?

Evidently, there is an attempt to cover up what has happened and it’s apparent that the perpetrator is being afforded special privileges by the school and the Governing Board.  So, one last question, what special privileges has the school and the Governing Board afforded the 4th grade students at Mana‘olana?

Debra K. Isabel

The next testimony that I was able to obtain was given by former long term Pahoa Teacher Winnie Enriquez:

My name is Winnie Enriquez

I am a retired elementary school teacher with 35 years of experience, 24 of those years were  at Pahoa Elementary School.  I enjoyed teaching and looked forward going to school all of those years because I realized the importance of my responsibility to those students who were in my classroom.  Each of them were somebody’s child, and therefore, I treated each of them as my own, regardless of their academic level.

The students were my number 1 priority, and it was my responsibility to meet the needs of each individual, make school a happy and pleasant place for learning, become someone they could trust, and provide a safe environment.  Isn’t this what is expected of each teacher?

I am here this evening to speak on behalf of my grandson who was physically and verbally abused by his teacher on several occasions, ONE,in whom we entrusted to enhance his learning ONE, who was trusted to treat each student equally, and ONE to provide a safe learning environment for the students.

Instead, he was humiliated in front of his classmates and other adults present in the classroom that did not take action on behalf of this child, my grandson.  Why was nothing done with these individuals?  Why were they still allowed to continue working in the classroom as if nothing happened?  These acts committed by the teacher has contributed to my grandson’s negative perspective of school to the point where he HATES school.  He HATES SCHOOL!!!!!!! No student should ever HATE school because of a teacher’s willingness to place a student in an unsafe and dangerous environment. As a grandmother, I have seen how my grandson’s demeanor towards school has changed. His level of self-confidence has decreased, he is  afraid to return to school, and he has lost trust in educators that were supposed to care and educate him.

I had put my trust in the administration and the school board of the school to take proper action and act accordingly on  behalf of students who were abused under the care of this teacher,but little has been done.

As an experienced educator with the Department of Education, I am assuming that this teacher was terminated and that her inappropriate behavior has been added to her personnel file. If this not the case, I STRONGLY request  that this teacher be terminated IMMEDIATELY and that this is reported so she is NOT allowed to continue to abuse children and have them suffer emotionally and psychologically for who knows how long. I am witnessing the effects it is causing on my grandson, somebody’s child.

EVERY student should be treated equally in the classroom and be provided with the opportunity to learn in a safe environment. These rules were broken and my trust in this school and the school board has been lost.

HAAS stands for Hawaii Academy of Arts and Sciences.  However, to me, HAAS now stands for Hawaii Academy Abuses Students!!!!!!!

Winnie Enriquez

Other parents spoke up about their kids being abused at the school as well. I wasn’t able to record the meeting because the board stated that no photography or videotaping the meeting was allowed.

I hope a thorough investigation is done by the Hawaii Department of Education and I hope that at some point I will be free to be able to release the teachers name that is allegedly involved in this.

For now… she is off the job without pay.