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East // East Oahu Coverstory
Carol Chang

Adult School Plans For Frugal Future

A man who’s spent three decades with children is now fighting to save adult education for East Oahu, and he’s hit the ground running after one year on the job.

“We have a plan that preserves adult education with 300 part-time jobs and about 1,500 students per session,” said Randal Tanaka, Kaimuki Community School for Adults principal, who wants to build on the school’s popular special-interest classes. “We’ve devised a self-sufficient fiscal plan that requires no state funds, and we’re uniquely able to do this through tuition, fees and the high enrollment in our special interest courses.”

KCSA could close at the end of June, he admitted, but it’s also possible it could become the first adult charter school in the state – and also pay for itself. “I always thought adult school would be easier!” laughed the former Waianae High and Kalakaua Middle principal.

“We came up with a charter school application – a five-year, 100-page plan. We put it in and we’re crossing our fingers right now.” He and his staff also set up an interim school board that could keep classes running after July 1, while the upper-level approval process lingers on for months after.

Tanaka’s team also surveyed its special-interest students and found that 81 percent are willing to pay higher fees to keep the school afloat. “The staff worked really hard; they went to classes to sell the plan. (If it’s rejected), it could be a loss for our East Oahu district (McCully Street to Kalama Valley).” It currently offers about 130 classes to more than 4,000 students yearly at Kaimuki High, Aliiolani and Kuhio elementary, and at the now-closed Liliuokalani and Wailupe sites.

With the adult ed budget cut in half for 2012-2013, the DOE may close all but the McKinley and Waipahu adult schools, and convert the other eight into satellites with a site coordinator and one aide.

So KCSA decided to reinvent itself. “We made changes. Now we’re hungrier and more aggressive. We began beating the bushes for GED students, going door-to-door at Palolo Housing – and 40 of them just got their C-Based diploma!” To beef up its accounting courses, they talked to Kaimuki’s small businesses about ways the school could assist employees with language and job skills.

Their own academic awards graduation packed 500 into the auditorium.

“We’re pretty creative here, and we can do some good for the community.”

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