Friday, October 9, 2015         

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Conflict has appointee refusing charter panel seat

By Susan Essoyan


Lynn Finnegan, executive director of the Hawaii Charter School Network, has declined her appointment to the state Charter School Review Panel, citing a conflict of interest between the positions.

As head of the network, a nonprofit organization, Finnegan advocates for the state's 31 charter schools, and her salary is paid largely from their dues. As a member of the state's review panel, a volunteer position, she would help decide whether to authorize and revoke charters as well as put schools on probation.

"I definitely wanted to serve," said Finnegan, a former state House member who ran for lieutenant governor last year. "After doing some research, my participation on the panel does show a possible conflict. The other thing is that it would hinder my responsibilities as executive director of the Charter School Network."

Under state law, the 12 members of the Charter School Review Panel each represents a different role in the charter school movement and broader community. They recuse themselves from votes in which they have a personal stake.

Two new members joined the panel this month. John Colson, head of Waimea Middle School, fills the position of a "head of a conversion charter school." Jim Williams, who helped found Voyager Charter School, is the representative of the Board of Education.

Usha Kotner, who leads Kona Pacific charter school on Hawaii island, was reappointed to the panel as "head of a startup charter school."

In addition to finding a replacement for Finnegan, who was to fill the role of a "local school board member," the Board of Education must also fill three other vacant positions on the panel: one for a representative of the building trades or real estate industry; one representing the University of Hawaii; and one for a teacher from a startup charter school. Panel members serve three-year terms.

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