Hualalai Academy Head of School Responds to the Financial Collapse of the School

Yesterday, I posted about the possibility of Hualalai Academy on the Big Island of Hawaii closing down at the end of the year or possibly sooner.

Hualalai Academy

Hualalai Academy

John Colson, Head of School, responded today with the following letter explaining the financial collapse of the school.

 Aloha Hualalai Academy Ohana:

Now that the sting of the Board of Directors’ announcement has settled a bit, I write as Head of School to clarify the announcement and the progress we have made to date.

First, I ask that you look at the situation with an open mind and realize that there is no one to blame for the financial collapse of the school. Over the years, the student enrollment has dropped substantially from a high of 235 to today’s enrollment of 112. This decline has led to staffing adjustments and annual borrowing from the bank to be able to continue offering a quality independent school program. The collective nature of the annual borrowing over the years has reached the point where lenders have no interest in working with us due to our lack of cash flow. Consequently, we have tried to turn over as many rocks as we could to see if some lender would work with us. Our final option told us “No” on the 15th of January. The Board of Directors met on the 16th of January and the announcement was made on the 17th to faculty and parents. The announcement was made in mid-January to give families time to apply to other independent schools that have an application deadline of January 31, 2014 should they so desire.

Our immediate task is to acquire a bridge loan that will allow us to finish the school year in total. I am pleased to tell you that as soon as the financial hardship was made public, several members of the HA Ohana stepped up and either offered cash contributions or bridge loans to ensure we serve the students correctly. More specifically, we have received over $25,000 in direct gifts and two bridge loans totally $300,000. With this level of support already in hand, we will most definitely be able to finish the year as currently calendared.

Once that is complete, we are committed to looking for that magical gift that would allow us to eliminate the collective debt and cancel the closure of the school. In the last 24 hours we have received contact information for potential donors who might help a special school like HA. I have to tell you it is a long shot but we are committed to trying as it is for the benefit of the students.

For me, this has been very hard as I care deeply about each student and want what is best for them. I would not have come to Hualalai Academy if I did not believe I could help build the school into the finest independent school in Kona. That being said, circumstances have dictated this action for now and with some good old fashioned luck, we may just be able to pull the rabbit out of the hat.

Please join me in doing your best to assist the students as they work to have a highly successful second semester. Tomorrow we celebrate the life and teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King. His teachings taught us to work together and to do so with a spirit of aloha and service to others. Anger and blame will not change anything but positive action has a chance. Come Tuesday, we need to support the students and faculty in the most appropriate fashion possible. Your cooperation and support is necessary and will be beneficial for all.

If you have questions, please contact me at at your convenience. If I don’t have the answer to your question, I will surely get you an answer.

E malama pono,

John (Colson)