Hawaiian language educator joins charter panel

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A Hilo-based Hawaiian language educator was tapped to help oversee Hawaii’s 34 public charter schools.

A Hilo-based Hawaiian language educator was tapped to help oversee Hawaii’s 34 public charter schools.

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Makalapua Alencastre, director of the University of Hawaii at Hilo’s Kahuawaiola teacher education program, was appointed Tuesday as one of four new members of the state Public Charter School Commission. Alencastre’s three-year term begins July 1. Commissioners are not paid.

“I’m excited,” Alencastre said Wednesday. “I really believe in charters. I think in the whole public education system, (charters) are kind of a breath of fresh air, especially for Hawaiian language immersion. … Because of my work here in teacher education, I get to witness a lot of things going on in the schools and it’s pretty dynamic. There are a lot of fabulous things going on.”

The nine-member commission was created in 2012 as part of a statewide charter school overhaul. It’s currently Hawaii’s only charter school authorizer. It maintains a performance contract with each school and decides whether to approve new charter applicants.

Nearly half of Hawaii’s charter schools are located on the Big Island, and many also are Hawaiian language or Hawaiian-culture focused.

Alencastre has served as Kahuawaiola director since 2005. Kahuawaiola, part of UH-Hilo’s Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikolani College of Hawaiian Language, trains students for teaching jobs in Hawaiian language immersion programs.

Alencastre previously taught Hawaiian language in several immersion schools throughout the state. She also founded Ke Kula ‘o Samuel M. Kamakau Laboratory Public Charter School, a Hawaiian immersion school in Kaneohe, Oahu. She isn’t the first Hawaii Island commissioner — two charter school leaders from Kona served on the commission in past years.

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Other commissioners chosen Tuesday were Mark Dillon, most recently vice commander for the Pacific Air Forces at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam; John Kim, a current commissioner who was reappointed; and Ernest Nishizaki, also reappointed.

Email Kirsten Johnson at kjohnson@hawaiitribune-herald.com.