Former administrator sues Kamehameha Schools

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A former Kamehameha Schools Hawaii administrator is suing Kamehameha Schools, the trustees of the estate of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop and one of the school’s senior administrators, alleging she was wrongfully terminated after 23 years of employment.

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A former Kamehameha Schools Hawaii administrator is suing Kamehameha Schools, the trustees of the estate of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop and one of the school’s senior administrators, alleging she was wrongfully terminated after 23 years of employment.

The civil suit was filed May 30 in Hilo Circuit Court by Honolulu attorney Richard Naiwieha Wurdeman on behalf of Liana Honda, a former elementary school vice principal at the Kamehameha Schools Hawaii campus in Keaau. Named as defendants, in addition to Kamehameha Schools, are trustees Micah A. Kane, Lance K. Wilhelm, Robert K.W.H. Nobriga and Corbett A.K. Kalama and Robert Holoua Stender, executive vice president for education for Kamehameha Schools and former headmaster at Kamehameha Schools Hawaii.

The suit claims breach of Honda’s employment contract by Kamehameha Schools, conducting a negligent investigation and terminating Honda “for acts that were not in violation of the Kamehameha Schools Code of Conduct.” It seeks unspecified general and special damages, reinstatement, back pay and benefits, including interest, front pay and attorneys’ fees and costs.

The complaint claims that in March 2015, a professional improvement plan was implemented for an elementary school teacher at the Keaau campus, a process for which Honda allegedly was not responsible. The filing claims that Stender, then headmaster, met with Esther Kanehailua, then the elementary school’s principal, trainer-evaluator Donna Moore, another staff member and Honda to discuss the teacher’s improvement plan and potential counseling for the teacher, whose name doesn’t appear in the filing.

The suit alleges that at no time was confidentiality mentioned during the meeting — which Honda claims could have included only Stender and Kanehailua, who now works for the state Department of Education, plus possibly Moore and school human resources personnel.

The filing said Honda discussed issues regarding the subject teacher with a Kamehameha Schools attorney, who was a high school classmate of Honda’s, and claims “based on information and belief” that the attorney discussed the teacher’s situation with fellow high school classmates of the attorney and Honda.

Honda claims she was fired by Kamehameha Schools on May 28, 2015, for alleged breach of school confidentiality rules, but the attorney wasn’t terminated.

According to the suit, Stender “should have made his intentions clear of the confidentiality of the information regarding the subject teacher employee and that those in the … group had a duty to ensure and protect that confidentiality.” It claims Stender and Kanehailua, who is not a defendant, were negligent “as they had the duty to ensure the information remained confidential … to those directly responsible for the supervision and evaluation of the subject teacher employee and they breached their duty.”

In the suit, Honda asserts she “never breached any confidentiality provisions as alleged” and her alleged conduct “did not warrant termination or any other discipline.”

She also claimed that Stender, who was later promoted, “acted in a retaliatory and tortious nature … by blaming (Honda) and then terminating her for conduct for which the Kamehameha Schools and Headmaster Stender and Principal Kanehailua were actually responsible for when they breached such confidentiality of the subject teacher employee.”

Kamehameha Schools spokesman Kekoa Paulsen said in an email Tuesday that the school hadn’t been served with the suit, “so we do not have a comment at this time.”

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Wurdeman didn’t return a Monday phone call seeking comment by press time.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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