Kamehameha Schools has admitted a third non-native Hawaiian student.
The student will attend classes this fall and was picked from a wait list of 45 students because there were spaces available, according to a letter from the board of trustees and chief executive officer posted on the school’s website and e-mailed to school alumni. The letter does not say what campus the non-Hawaiian student will attend. The private school has campuses at Kapalama and on Maui and the Big Island.
"Non-Hawaiian applicants who meet our admissions criteria can be admitted if vacancies exist after the preference is applied," the letter said.
Kamehameha’s decision to admit its first non-native Hawaiian in 2002 sparked controversy and forced the board of trustees to defend its recruiting efforts, admissions procedures and native Hawaiian preference policy.
Dee Jay Mailer is the school’s chief executive officer, and Corbett Kalama is chairman of the five-member board of trustees.
The school said there were five additional spaces in the 11th and 12th grades after all applicants in the wait pool were admitted, allowing five additional native Hawaiian applicants in the sophomore wait pool to be admitted on Maui.
"I think they didn’t have a choice (under the school’s admissions policy)," said Roy Benham, a past president of the Kamehameha Schools Alumni Association.
"I think they did the right thing, and they didn’t deny admission to any Hawaiian applicants," he said. "The good thing is that more students were admitted in the lower grade. You generally don’t get many students trying to get in the 11th and 12th grades."
Some 800 new students will be starting at Kamehameha Schools’ three campuses next month. Kamehameha Schools was founded in 1887 by the will of Bernice Pauahi Bishop, great-granddaughter of King Kamehameha.
The school gives preference to applicants of Hawaiian ancestry, orphaned and indigent students who demonstrate the ability to be academically successful.
Wise Nicola Sr., 54, of Waianae said he is concerned that at some point the number of qualified native Hawaiian students will diminish and a greater number of non-native students will be admitted.
"If in time there are not enough of what they are calling qualified native Hawaiian candidates, then they should follow the Pauahi’s vision and admit indigent Hawaiian students, regardless of whether they qualify or not," Nicola said. "They’re there. They’re Hawaiian. It’s better to put them in a Hawaiian school like Kamehameha where they will have a chance to catch up rather than to put them in the DOE system where they’ll be pushed aside like opala."
While the school offers extensive outreach programs for Hawaiian students who are enrolled at other schools and staffs offices around the state to provide assistance to applicants, Nicola said its resources would be better directed toward getting more Hawaiian students into the school at a younger age.
"There are some families that just can’t teach them certain things they need to pass (the entrance) tests, but these are the types of students the school should be bending backwards to get," he said.
Nicola said he tried repeatedly to get his son and daughter into the private school, but to no avail. Both were successful students at Waianae High School. Nicola’s daughter now attends Linfield College in Oregon.