Aloha, HIDOE Community
On Monday and Tuesday, the Department brought together school-level staff from the Lāhainā campuses that have been closed since the Aug. 8 West Maui wildfires to offer resources and learn how best to support our employees as we work together to navigate the way forward.
Nearly 400 staff from King Kamehameha III Elementary, Princess Nāhi‘ena‘ena Elementary, Lāhainā Intermediate and Lāhaināluna High – including teachers, counselors, educational assistants, custodial and security personnel, office staff and administrators – gathered at the Ritz-Carlton Maui in Kapalua.
To help set intention for the convening, the Office of Hawaiian Education (OHE) offered a ho‘okupu of lei to the Lāhainā school community, including lei hala, lei kou and lei lā‘ī. Each lei was purposefully strung or weaved. For example, hala can symbolize resourcefulness and transition, the kou tree is renowned for its strength and resilience, and lā‘ī can symbolize healing and protection.
I announced our tentative goal of welcoming students back to the three West Maui campuses after fall break in mid-October. The health and safety of our students and staff remains our highest priority in our plans. This is a very fluid situation and things may still change; however, we know that having a tentative reopening timeline will help with planning and bring some stability to our staff, students and families.
We were fortunate to have Dr. Melissa Brymer and Dr. Marleen Wong with the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, which is funded in part by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, join us this week. Dr. Brymer was one of the original developers of the disaster response intervention known as Psychological First Aid. Both experts have been deployed to support communities in crisis around the world.
In school breakout sessions, OHE facilitated the sharing of positive school mo‘oleo to help set a foundation for staff as we move forward. Employees were able to share hopeful stories and joyful memories of their school — anchoring themselves to one another to build strength as a community.
Lāhainā staff were able to openly discuss updates and future plans relating to school operations, share ideas, address concerns and provide feedback with school administration and colleagues. Dr. Brymer and Dr. Wong also provided schools with Psychological First Aid training, and representatives from HIDOE’s Office of Talent Management met with schools to answer questions, gauge employee staffing preferences, and to go over personnel matters.
Leaders of the three labor unions – Hawai‘i State Teachers Association, Hawai‘i Government Employees Association and United Public Workers – were also invited to participate and engage with their members. The Queen's Medical Center deployed behavioral health therapists to provide mental health supports for staff and FEMA representatives offered assistance with claims and answering questions.
Approximately 500 people also attended the first of two community meetings on Maui today to get feedback from the public regarding reopening schools and educational opportunities in West Maui. A second meeting is being held in Kahului.
These past three days have been a learning experience for me as I listened to our Lāhainā ‘ohana who have been impacted by the fires. Everyone’s story and circumstances are unique and we are committed to doing our best to serve and support our staff, students and families during these most challenging times.
I want to deeply thank our Lāhainā family for opening their minds and hearts to our state and complex area staff, and for sharing their experiences, thoughts and feedback. Your voices are heard and will definitely help to inform plans as we continue to move forward.
Keith T. Hayashi