|This story has been corrected. See below.|
Question: Whatever happened to the investigation of the Thompson Academy charter school’s principal and her sister who was employed as vice principal while working full time as a flight attendant? Also, a son was employed as athletic director though the school did not have an athletic program and a second son was hired as a teacher when he was just a high school graduate.
Answer: Principal Diana Oshiro and her sister, Kurumi Kaapana-Aki, remain in their jobs at Myron B. Thompson Academy, an online public charter school, where Kaapana-Aki oversees the elementary school. No criminal charges have been filed against them, and they deny any wrongdoing in a pending case at the state Ethics Commission. Three of Kaapana-Aki’s sons still work at the school.
The Ethics Commission issued formal administrative charges in 2013 alleging that Oshiro allowed her sister to work full time as a flight attendant while Kaapana-Aki was also reporting that she was on the job as a vice principal. The commission, citing airline records, alleged that Kaapana-Aki was absent for all or part of 144 regular school days between March 2007 and April 2012, while working on Hawaiian Airlines flights to the mainland and elsewhere.
The commission also accuses Oshiro and her sister of backdating leave-of-absence forms and altering records in an attempt to make it look like her absences had been approved in advance. Both administrators are accused of 162 violations, with a maximum penalty of $500 apiece. If found in violation on all counts, each could face up to $81,000 in fines.
In their responses to the commission, the sisters said Kaapana-Aki was allowed to miss school days to fly because she was taking compensatory time earned from working non-school hours and “unofficial work days.” They noted that Thompson Academy students learn largely at home via computer, and faculty and staff interact with them at all hours, not just during the regular school day.
Neither Oshiro nor Kaapana-Aki responded when contacted by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser for this update.
The ethics charges were supposed to go to a contested-case hearing last year, but the issue was was put on hold when the state Attorney General’s Office opened a criminal investigation.
Although attorney general investigations normally remain confidential, this one became public when investigators seized computers and more than 50 boxes of documents from Thompson Academy’s downtown offices on Dec. 16, 2013. The attorney general’s office also went to court to obtain records from the Ethics Commission and Hawaii State Teachers Association.
The attorney general indicated in state court that it was conducting a felony theft investigation regarding payments to school staff, and court documents filed later said it was looking into the possibility of money laundering, falsifying business records and tampering with government records.
Joshua Wisch, special assistant to the attorney general, said the attorney general’s policy is not to comment on investigations or even to reveal whether the office is conducting one.
No ethics charges were filed in connection with the hiring of Kaapana-Aki’s sons.
The state Attorney General’s office seized records and computers at Myron B. Thompson Academy on Dec. 16, 2013, not 2014, as was reported in an earlier version of this column.
This update was written by Susan Essoyan. Suggest a topic for “Whatever Happened to…” by writing Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-210, Honolulu, 96813; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.