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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 jcolson@hualalai.org 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)

Hualalai Academy Appoints John Colson as Head of School

The Board of Directors of Hualalai Academy has selected Hawaii veteran educator and school administrator John Colson as its Head of School effective July 2013.

John Colson

John Colson

“We were seeking a dynamic, compassionate, forward-thinking and resourceful educational leader and we struck gold with John Colson,” stated Dr. Matt James, Hualalai Academy Search Committee Chair and incoming 2013-2014 Board Chair. “John Colson’s vision and innovative leadership will position Hualalai Academy for long-term sustainability and will continue to improve the Hualalai Academy experience.”

John Colson is currently Director of Advancement and Special Projects at Hawaii Preparatory Academy (HPA). His storied educational career in public, private and independent charter schools on Hawaii Island began in 1979 and includes previous stints as counselor, coach, teacher and Headmaster (1991-2003) at HPA, Middle School Principal at Kamehameha Schools Hawaii and Principal at Waimea Middle Public Conversion Charter School.  Colson received his bachelor’s degree from Chaminade University and holds a master’s degree from Radford University.

One of Colson’s projects while Headmaster was to transition the HPA K-5 Kona Campus to an independent Hualalai Academy in 1996. As one of the early founders of Hualalai Academy, Colson’s return is a homecoming.

“Hualalai Academy has an excellent educational reputation throughout Hawaii and I am very much looking forward to working together with the students, parents, faculty and staff and Board of Directors,” said John Colson.  “With the educational mission focusing on critical thinking, problem solving and lifelong learning solidly in place, my objectives will be financial sustainability and institutional advancement in the beginning stages of my tenure at Hualalai Academy.”

Hualalai Academy, an independent and co-educational college preparatory school, serves140 students in grades K-12 with 16 faculty members on a 14-acre campus in North Kona, Hawaii. Core values are based on the Hawaiian principle of kinaole, or doing the right thing.

Hualalai Academy was one of only 16 “Schools of the Future” selected by the Hawaii Community Foundation and the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools thus benefitting from a five-year $500,000 investment.  The designation recognizes and supports Hualalai Academy’s innovative programs and statewide leadership in 21st Century Learning pedagogy and curriculum.  Hualalai Academy will celebrate its 20th anniversary during the 2015-16 school year.