Molokai Middle School wins award for most improved public school in state

Kupuna who lobbied the State of Hawaii Board of Education to separate the intermediate grades from the high school eight years ago attend Thursday's ceremony at Molokai Middle School.

Kupuna who lobbied the State of Hawaii Board of Education to separate the intermediate grades from the high school eight years ago attend Thursday’s ceremony at Molokai Middle School.

Colette Machado, chairperson for Office of Hawaiian Affairs, congratulates the grade seven and eight classes on proving that rural schools can excel in academics.

Colette Machado, chairperson for Office of Hawaiian Affairs, congratulates the grade seven and eight classes on proving that rural schools can excel in academics.

By Cheryl Corbiell

Ho`olehua — On the grass courtyard of Molokai Middle School (MMS), students, parents, faculty, administration, kupuna, church leaders and community members cheered and applauded the State of Hawaii Board of Education chair, Donald G. Horner, yesterday at a school celebration for academic achievement when Mr. Horner publicly announced MMS was the “The Most Improved Public School in Hawaii.”

“Since separating from the high school eight years ago, this school has now achieved AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) and that is a significant achievement,” said Horner. “What you have done is send a message to 180,000 children from Kauai to the Big Island. Those students are looking at you and saying, if they can do it, we can do it to. Thank you for what you’ve done and will continue to do.”

State of Hawaii Board of Education chair, Donald G. Horner, congratulates Molokai Middle School for winning the “Most Improved School in Hawaii.”

State of Hawaii Board of Education chair, Donald G. Horner, congratulates Molokai Middle School for winning the “Most Improved School in Hawaii.”

The test scores in July 2012 showed MMS had outscored the district and state in the science category of the Hawaiian State Assessment; achieved 65 percent of students testing in math at the proficient or higher level; and exceeded the national math standard. Plus, the school achieved a whopping 15 percent increase in reading scores. MMS’s persistence elevated the school onto the path to excellence.

The students excel outside the classroom as well. In last year’s Maui County science fair, MMS students had more winning projects than any other school. Then at the Maui County engineering competition, a wahine team won when its popsicle bridge withstood 250 pounds after the judges ran out of weights to test the bridge. Other student bridges withstood only 50 pounds.

Another outstanding performance was the robotics team, which took first place in the Maui County competition. The team is headed for the state finals in December.

Students celebrate winning the “Most Improved School in Hawaii.”

Students celebrate winning the “Most Improved School in Hawaii.”

At a math competition at Iolani School, the MMS team excelled. In the head-to-head tournament where the two highest scorers compete against each other, a MMS eighth grade student emerged as champion of the tournament. With only 209 students, MMS is changing people’s minds about what success can look like in a rural school.

Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) Chairperson and Trustee representing Molokai, Colette Machado, said, “So often we hear rural communities can not comply with the No Child Left Behind Act. The statistics say if you come from a rural area and have a majority of Native Hawaiians, you will not succeed. In 2010, Molokai Middle School was second to the lowest in the state, and I’m proud to tell you now the statistics say you have increased in every subject area. This school with the majority of its students being Native Hawaiians and many living on homestead lands is proving to people you can excel in school,” said Machado.

The Molokai Middle School is composed of 81 percent Native Hawaiians, which makes it one of the largest Native Hawaiian school populations in a Hawaii DOE school.

The school was a recipient of an OHA community grant in 2011-12. The funds were matched by a Mycogen Seeds grant and used to purchase rolling computer labs, which increased access to information and streamlined the Hawaii State Assessment online testing. This technological improvement is credited with turning the corner for the school’s transformation.

What is next for this small school of 209 students? Principal Gary Davidson said, “Our next goal is to be the best school in the state, and we are already working on it.”


Congresswoman Hirono introduces resolution honoring Mother Marianne

Congresswoman Hirono visits Mother Marianne’s gravesite in Kalaupapa, where she left ho`okupu, a traditional Hawaiian offering.

Rep. Mazie Hirono Press Release

Congresswoman Mazie K. Hirono (HI-02) today was joined by Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa (HI-01), and two Republicans, Congressman Richard Hanna (NY-24) and Congresswoman Ann Marie Buerkle (NY-25) in introducing a House Resolution honoring Mother Marianne Cope for her life’s legacy of compassionate care and dedication to those she served at the Hansen’s disease settlement at Kalaupapa on the island of Molokai.

“Even at a time when partisan disagreements too often dominate our headlines, it’s heartening that Democrats and Republicans can come together and agree that Saint Marianne’s remarkable life of service should be honored. I welcome and am grateful for the support from my colleagues across the aisle,” said Congresswoman Hirono.

Mother Marianne was canonized as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church on October 21, 2012, by Pope Benedict XVI at St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City. Catholics from Hawaii and across the country traveled to the Vatican to witness the historic event. She joins Saint Damien of Kalaupapa among the 12 American Catholic saints.

“Mother Marianne Cope dedicated herself to a lifetime of selfless service. Her tireless compassion directly improved the lives of the suffering and forgotten,” said Congresswoman Hirono.

Hansen’s disease, which is also known as leprosy, damaged the skin, nerves, limbs, and eyes of those with the disease before a cure was discovered. Native Hawaiians, who largely lacked immunity to the disease, were disproportionately affected. Those with the disease were forcibly exiled by the government beginning in the mid-19th century to the isolated Kalaupapa peninsula on Molokai. Mother Marianne’s Sisters of St. Francis and other religious communities were often the only ones who would care for the physical and spiritual needs of the Hansen’s patients.

“Mother Marianne’s incredible legacy will forever be connected with the history of Hawaii. At a time when Hansen’s patients were shunned and exiled, she courageously opened her arms in the name of human dignity and compassion. She serves as a shining example and inspiration to us to be of service to others. In Mother Marianne, her service was of such extraordinary depth, leading to her canonization and the recognition and honor she deserves, but never sought,” said Congresswoman Hirono.

Mother Marianne died at the age of 80 of natural causes at the St. Elizabeth Convent at Kalaupapa and was buried on the grounds of Bishop Home in 1918.

To watch Congresswoman Hirono introduce the resolution on the House floor, click here.

To see 11 related stories about Mother Marianne Cope, type “Mother Marianne” in the search bar at the top of The Molokai News home page.

Molokai M.O.M presents free dinner, smoothie and movie

The community organization Molokai M.O.M. will present a smoothie and a movie Friday night, Nov. 30, at the Kulana ‘Oiwi Halau from 5-8 p.m.

On Facebook, the group, run by Mercy Ritte, is called Molokai Mom on a Mission. They promote community awareness on issues that “harmfully affect our health, environment and way of life.”

In particular, the group has lobbied against the open-field testing of Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs, that are grown in the cornfields of Monsanto and Mycogen.

In September, the group held an event at Kulana ‘Oiwi showing the movie “Living Downstream” about chemical contamination. Molokai M.O.M. also organized a protest against Monsanto in September.

On Friday, Molokai M.O.M will be showing “Dirt, The Movie.” It is advertised as a “story with heart and soil.” A light, healthy meal will be offered followed by informational speakers and organic popcorn.

In promoting the movie, the following description is given:

“Dirt feeds us and gives us shelter. Dirt holds and cleans our water. Dirt heals us and makes us beautiful. Dirt regulates the earth’s climate. Dirt is the ultimate natural resource for all life on earth. Yet most humans ignore, abuse and destroy our most precious living natural resource.

“The film offers a vision of a sustainable relationship between humans and dirt through profiles of the global visionaries who are determined to repair the damage we’ve done before it’s too late.”

Bring your hali’i for a movie on the lawn. The movie and a smoothie is sponsored by Hawaii Seeds, Molokai Community Service Council and the Queen Lili’uokalani Children’s Center (QLCC).

Who is behind anonymous phone survey asking about Molokai Ranch, wind turbines and the undersea cable?

I Aloha Molokai News Release

Can anyone solve this mystery?

Over the past few weeks many Molokai residents have received anonymous calls, asking for personal information and personal opinions about Molokai Ranch, about the proposed wind turbines and undersea cable, and about a variety of so-called “benefits” which might be offered. This phone poll is being conducted by Ward Research of Honolulu. But when you ask, “Who’s paying for it?” the callers say, “Sorry, we can’t tell you.”

Ward Research of Honolulu is conducting a survey of Molokai residents for an anonymous source. The survey is asking about Molokai Ranch and the proposed wind turbine project. This view from Kepuhi Beach shows what an industrial-scale windmill project would look like on the West End.

Some of us have answered the questions; others have just hung up. But we can only guess who ordered this poll, and why.

If it’s a local group, local readers should be able to clear up the mystery.

Some survey questions relate to Molokai Ranch. Perhaps they ordered this poll. But if so, then why the anonymity? The Ranch is on island, employs local residents, and says it wants to be a good neighbor. Anonymity just sows suspicion and distorts the response.

If this was a government survey, we would have been told up front. According to some government officials, Ward Research is not one of the pollsters they use. As of last Monday, Senator English’s Office and Representative Carroll’s Office knew nothing about it, advised citizens not to participate in anonymous polls, and planned to call Ward Research for more information. Council members Mateo and Baisa were also unaware, began inquiries of their own, and asked to be kept informed. One helpful staff member from the Public Utilities Commission did call Ward and reported back that there are two surveys, one just completed and one just starting. The second concerns “consumer satisfaction with electric service,” and is statewide. But Ward Research refused to tell even the PUC who paid for the surveys! When asked about HECO (an obvious candidate for the second survey) or a cable bidder (a possible candidate for the first survey) the PUC could only say, “they are private companies, so they can do what they want.”

If the Molokai survey was ordered by a private company, such as Molokai Ranch and/or a wind developer, then we need to ask ourselves this question: Is it a good idea to let private interests snoop around, asking leading questions about public issues? And how can they possibly discuss “benefits” when no agreements have been reached and no contracts signed? In the case of bidders, it should be against the law for them to manipulate local opinion, even after a contract is signed. How much worse then, before they are hired!

It may seem innocent to ask opinions, but this poll is clearly more than that, and it clearly has big money behind it. On Molokai nearly everyone is being called, even the cell phones of “snow birds.” Questions are being asked about demographics, such as “May I speak to the man of the house?” or “Are you aged 25-49?” Some of the questions seem designed to plant specific ideas and test the reactions of different groups of people. This isn’t just polling, but targeting, a kind of surveillance where you divide the community into different target groups who can be approached in different ways. A poll like this is not just fishing for existing support, but trying to figure out everybody’s price or breaking point.

Someday soon, someone will announce the results of this poll. Will all the results be reported, or only those convenient for the buyer? Will the results include all the people who refused to answer an anonymous questioner? Of what value is the poll? None of those who responded knew who ordered it or who wrote the questions. We don’t know who or how many were called. And how can we trust the results when the buyer refuses to be identified?

A poll like this is typical of mainland-style hardball politics. It can be made to say whatever the buyer wants it to say. If the buyer wants to say that Molokai residents are divided about the industrialization of their island, then that’s what the poll will report. Those who want to ram these wind turbines down our throats, can then use the poll to say, “Well, since opinion is divided, we have to choose, so we choose windmills. Have a nice day.”

Sooner or later the secret pollster will crawl out of the bushes. But the bigger mystery is, why is opinion-poaching permitted at all? Why are private companies allowed to masquerade as public agencies, spinning discussion and cooking the books on sensitive public issues? If I put on a ski mask and hold up the corner store, I go to jail. How is it then that a corporation, wearing a similar mask, can interrogate, tempt, and divide a community without even raising eyebrows?

At the very least, these polls should be cleared with our elected officials. Instead, our officials are themselves in the dark, and are turning to us for information! Perhaps the one official whose help we need right now is our State Attorney General, whose sworn duty is to prosecute those who subject us to misrepresentation and fraud.

We are I Aloha Molokai, and we believe that public business should be conducted in public, by our elected officials. The next time an anonymous caller wants to ask you questions, we suggest that you tell them to “have a nice day.” Mahalo.

New Zealand woman overcomes high winds, jellyfish and other challenges to swim Kaiwi Channel

Kimberley Chambers climbs out of the water at the China Walls swim spot in Oahu after successfully completing a 26-mile swim across the Kaiwi Channel. Following international rules, Chambers could not wear a wetsuit and could not be assisted entering or leaving the water for the swim to officially count.

A New Zealand native, Kimberley Chambers successfully swam the Kaiwi Channel earlier this month. The 26-mile crossing from Molokai to Oahu is one of the top seven open ocean swims in the world, collectively known as “Oceans Seven.” The Kaiwi Channel was Kimberley’s second crossing after accomplishing the Cook Straits swim in New Zealand this past March. Here is Kimberley’s account of her harrowing journey.

By Kimberley Chambers

Living in San Francisco I knew I wanted to swim this channel but I didn’t know where to begin. My good friend and Hawaiian local, Rachel Ross, connected me with her friend, Linda Kaiser. Linda Kaiser is the only woman in the world to have swum all nine major channels in Hawaii, eight as a solo swimmer and one as part of a relay team.

Chambers had to battle high winds and large open ocean swells during her crossing.

Through Linda Kaiser I was able to assemble a team to support my crossing, which included Matt Buckman as the boat pilot, Steve Haumschild and Sheila Lee as kayakers and Hawkins Biggins as a sports photographer.

On the afternoon of Nov. 8, 2012 I departed Oahu by boat for Molokai. We were forced to travel by boat to Molokai because there were no flights available. The four hour journey over was bumpy but as we approached Molokai, the winds died down, the seas flattened and it appears as if we were going to have a gentle easterly wind, pushing me towards the beaches on Oahu.

I entered the water at Kaluakoi, Molokai, at about 8 p.m. Thursday. Initially the seas were calm and conditions looked as if they would be optimal for the swim. But after a couple of hours things changed dramatically. Winds began to pick up from the north and swells increased, often with white caps. At times, winds reached speeds of 20 miles per hour.

Chambers boyfriend Joe Locke comforts and congratulates her after a successful swim across the Kaiwi Channel that took more than 19 hours.

It became increasingly difficult, if not almost impossible to feed from the boat. Steve and Sheila battled the wind and waves in the darkness to make sure that I had the food and liquid needed to keep going.

In addition to the high winds and rough seas, I also encountered many jellyfish and suffered over 50 stings all over my body.

Following traditional English Channel marathon swimming rules, I was not allowed to use a wetsuit and given the high salt content in the water, patches of my skin were worn off due to chaffing with my swimsuit.

This was harrowing and the waves were just massive. I had to fight against the current most of the night to make landfall on Oahu. I spent a large portion of the swim battling choppy seas and winds that reached close to 20 miles per hour, making the swim increasingly harder. The rough waters also made it tough on my escort crew who were made very ill during the night.

My boyfriend Joe Locke who was managing my feeding schedule was particularly seasick. However, he had some respite in the morning when he jumped in with me six miles off the coast and escorted me into shore.

There were also truly wonderful moments. I had dolphins swimming with me at one point. Also, when I was about five miles off of Oahu, I heard whales communicating deep in the ocean. The rising moon was spectacularly bright to the point where I initially believed it was a boat right behind me.

I actually swam farther than planned, when rough seas and strong currents caused me to overshoot my original destination at Sandy Beach. I pulled myself out of the ocean at the China Walls swimming spot at Portlock nearly 19-and-a-half hours later, crying tears of relief after finishing what may have been the hardest thing I had ever done in my life. I’d been crying all the way around the corner, just overwhelmed knowing that I was close, as I swam the final few yards.

My finish at China Walls had its own set of challenges. I had to climb out of the water without help for the effort to count. Basically, the rules state you have to start on land and you have to finish on land. I successfully swam across the Kaiwi Channel, finishing the roughly 26-mile journey at just before 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 9.

Next year I’ve got the Catalina Channel and the English Channel on the calendar. The Kaiwi Channel is the second channel of the Oceans Seven challenge I have completed. The first was my successful crossing of the Cook Strait in my home of New Zealand in March of this year.

People ask me why I do these swims. My answer is that you get to push yourself beyond your wildest dreams. It’s painful, but you come out the other side and it’s just surreal.

New book on Kalaupapa’s first church, Siloama Church

Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa News Release

Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa, a nonprofit organization dedicated to remembering everyone who was sent to Kalaupapa, has published “Adjourned With a Prayer,” a book based on the minutes kept by the congregations of Siloama and Kanaana Hou Churches from 1866 to 1928

“Adjourned With a Prayer” is the title of the recently published book on the Siloama/Kanaana Hou churches. Cover photo courtesy Hawaii State Archives.

Siloama Church, a member of the United Church of Christ, was the first church organized and built at Kalawao, the original settlement on the Kalaupapa peninsula where people with leprosy were sent beginning on Jan. 6, 1866. Barely six months after the first people arrived, 35 men and women came together to form the Siloama congregation. It is believed that some of these founding members were kama`aina, joining with those who had been taken from their families and their church congregations on their home islands to be sent to Kalaupapa.

The church was built in 1871. A branch of Siloama was established on the Kalaupapa side of the peninsula in 1878. This branch later became Kanaana Hou Church, which was built in 1915.

The book has already become a valuable resource in helping families learn more about their ancestors at Kalaupapa. Molokai resident Timmy Leong was moved to tears when he found the name of one of his ancestors in the book.

“It was a surprise to find my kupuna, Kahooilimoku, in `Adjourned With a Prayer,’ ” said Leong. “I had often wondered what his life was like in Kalaupapa in the late 1800’s. Finding this book was like finding a time capsule. It felt like an old dusty window had been opened offering a fresh glimpse into the past.

“I could picture him in a meeting discussing church related business; accommodating a new minister, finding housing for a family, providing compensation for a janitor and trying to settle a dispute … All of these agenda items would not be out of place at a church meeting today.”

The first Church Secretary was J.D. Kahauliko, who was among the first group of people sent to Kalaupapa and is the first person whose name is listed in the Kalaupapa Admissions Register. Kahauliko and the 15 secretaries who followed him are listed as the book’s authors.

The minutes were kept in Hawaiian and recorded in a ledger that became lost sometime after the last entry in 1928. Ten years later, when cleaning the Siloama Church yard for a wedding, the Reverend Alice Kahokuoluna discovered a vault beneath the building and saw a corner of the book. The minutes were still easily legible and were translated into English by the Reverend Henry P. Judd in the mid-1940s. Judd also copied down the names of hundreds of members of Siloama and Kanaana Hou.

For reasons that are unknown, there is a large gap of the minutes between 1894 and 1927.

‘Ohana historian Anwei Law edited the minutes and wrote additional text with quotes from current or recent Kalaupapa residents. Carol L. Silva provided additional translation. The books were published in association with the United Church of Christ and the Hawaiian Mission Children’s Society Library with grants from the G.N. Wilcox Trust and the United Church of Christ. Proceeds support the ‘Ohana’s ongoing programs of advocating for the Kalaupapa community, helping families learn more about their ancestors and working in partnership for the preservation of the history.

The book costs $20 each with $6 shipping charges for books ordered through the mail – one or two books can be shipped for the $6 charge (for slower delivery that takes up to six weeks, shipping costs of $3 should be added). Books may be purchased by sending a check to the Hawaii Conference United Church of Christ, 1848 Nu`uanu Avenue, Honolulu 96817. To pick up a book on Oahu without the shipping costs, call ahead to the church offices at 537-9516.

More information on how to purchase the book and the activities of Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa can be found at the group’s website. For more information contact Valerie Monson, ‘Ohana Coordinator, at 808-573-2746.

Aka’ula School fundraiser, Ku Ka Lau Lama, set for Dec. 8

Keli’i Kaneali’i and Healani Youn will be providing the evening entertainment at the Ku ka Lau Lama fundraiser for the Aka’ula School Dec. 8.

Ku Ka Lau Lama, the signature annual fundraising event for the Aka’ula School, will be Dec. 8 from 5-10 p.m. at the Molokai Community Health Center in Kaunakakai.

The private school in Kualapuu serves students from grades 5 through 8, offering a “quality, multi-age, transitional environment for Molokai students.” Many of the students attend on scholarships and the Ku Ka Lau Lama helps fund tuition costs as well as the many extracurricular and travel opportunities available.

The Dec. 8 fundraiser features a silent auction, entertainment and a dinner of prime rib, chicken or tofu stir fry, potatoes au gratin, rice, Caesar salad and dessert shooters. Tickets cost $40 and a VIP table of ten can be reserved for $1,000. VIP guests receive preferred seating and gift bags.

Aka’ula is a 501(c)3 organization and all donations are tax deductible.

“We’re looking forward to a fantastic evening under the banyan tree,” said Aka’ula founding teacher Dara Lukonen.

Reserve your tickets by calling the school at 808-567-6980 or email Lukonen at