Changes abound as new school year starts

Parents of students who ride the bus may have some special back-to-school tasks

The 2017-18 public school year begins Monday, with students seeing some old and new faces at the helm of several schools and in the state Department of Education administration.

School officially begins Monday, but parents and guardians should contact students’ schools to confirm actual start dates, which may vary.

Students who rely on school buses to get to school and back home may face some early-year inconvenience. Last week, public school officials announced that bus service was suspended for some students at Lahainaluna High, Baldwin High and Iao Intermediate schools because of a shortage of qualified bus drivers for a new transportation provider, Ground Transport. Maui High bus riders will also be affected because certain routes will be consolidated, meaning longer wait times for students after school. Special education and elementary school students will not be affected.

On Friday, Mayor Alan Arakawa said the county’s Maui Bus system cannot handle an influx of students in addition to daily passengers. His statement came after public school officials announced last week that student bus riders would be eligible for free Maui Bus youth passes.

“Right now, I just want to make it clear to parents that our Maui Bus cannot handle an influx of 250 students with a couple of our 30-passenger buses,” he said. “Barring a resolution before Tuesday, I strongly urge parents to please make other arrangements for their children to get to school.”

Routes for students on buses bound only for Baldwin, Lahaina and Iao will be affected; students on routes that include other schools will still have service.

All students at Iao, Lahainaluna and Baldwin begin classes on Wednesday. Sixth-graders at Iao begin Tuesday; freshman orientation at Lahainaluna is set for Monday and Tuesday and freshmen begin at Baldwin on Tuesday.

As for leadership changes, this month new Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto assumed the top spot on Oahu, replacing Kathryn Matayoshi, who ended her term in June.

And, on Maui, recently retired Maui High School Principal Bruce Anderson is serving as the temporary complex area superintendent for the Baldwin, Kekaulike and Maui high school complex area. Former superintendent Leila Hayashida has transferred to a position on Oahu, the Education Department said last week. Anderson also held the complex superintendent position prior to serving as Maui High principal.

Other changes in public school leadership include new Principal Kim Mukai-Otani at Pomaikai Elementary in Kahului. She takes over for Bernice Takahata, who took another position in the department in December. Paula Inouye, a vice principal from Waihee Elementary, served as the temporarily assigned principal for the remainder of last school year.

At Maui Waena Intermediate, former Vice Principal Jacquelyn McCandless assumes the permanent principal position. She replaces Jamie Yap, who has taken the reins as principal at Maui High School.

Matt Dillon is a permanent principal at Iao Intermediate after serving as a vice principal at Puu Kukui Elementary. He had been assigned as an interim principal at Iao in January.

Other recent permanent principal positions are Cynthia Rothdeutsch at Kamalii Elementary in Kihei. She was a former vice principal at Paia Elementary School.

Francoise Wittenburg has been appointed as principal at Lokelani Intermediate, and Lynn Kaho’ohalahala is now the permanent principal at Lahainaluna High School.

The Education Department reported it has only one temporarily assigned principal currently, at Kihei Elementary School while the incumbent is on a temporary assignment.

Officials said the principal vacancies and temporary assignments stemmed from retirements and interschool transfers of principals that normally occur during the summer.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at