Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Schools on Maui – Can Your Children Get a Good Education?

Public schools on Maui are not known for their outstanding academic caliber. (Sorry Maui!) Schooling can be the trigger that causes some families to leave the island. They don’t want their children in public schools but they can’t afford private school tuition.

Public schools can also be difficult for some Caucasian or haole children who are not born on Maui. Schools can be places where kids are picked on for being different or from the mainland (what we call the continental US), especially if the children have a lighter hair color. There is an element of reverse racism in the islands, which is exacerbated if your kids are pushy (trying to boss others), don’t play well with others, or are super sensitive. If they cringe when they hear the word haole, public school is not a good bet.

A hybrid is Kihei Public Charter School, a public school that functions kind of like a private school for elementary, intermediate and high school. Parents are expected to be highly involved with the school. Another innovation is Hawaiian Language Immersion Schools, at three schools on Maui.

Some parents choose to send their children to public schools initially because there are some quality elementary schools on Maui, and then put them in private school when they get older. All of my friends like the public elementary school in my district.

True Story: A friend who was born and raised on Maui attended two public elementary schools, then a private school that she didn’t like, a public intermediate or middle school where she had lots of friends, then a private religious school where she was considered "behind," a private high school where she was considered even more behind because she didn’t memorize all the saints (unlike her classmates), a public high school for about a year where she had a horrible math teacher, then quit and got her GED at age 15. By the way, she is also Caucasian or haole. Also, in case you're wondering - did she turn out ok? Yes, she is a competent adult, who is smart, good-hearted, well-balanced, has her own home (and mortgage) and is attending college. 

I asked her if she ever felt discrimination or bullying due to race. She said no, but was intimidated by the big local football players at her high school since her locker was near theirs. She said they never gave her a hard time, and was comfortable once she got to know them better. She added that high school was very cliquey -  locals tended to hang out with locals, haoles with haoles, and she tried to make friends with all different ethnicities. My note: I think high schools tend to be cliquey anywhere in the US. If it’s not skin color or ethnicity, it’s economic class, or “jocks, geeks and popular kids.”

My story: I went to public school on Oahu. Some classes and teachers were great. Other classes not so much. The weakest department was science. I was good at school, so I got accepted into a good college and received AP credit for English, History, and Calculus. It is possible to get a decent education in Hawaii’s public schools, but certain college classes were rough for me. (I suspect this is true for most public school students anywhere.) I have managed life somehow without knowing all the names of the saints.

Other parents choose private school from the beginning. Please feel free to SKIM and jump to the bottom unless you’re very interested.

Maui Private Schools include (list is probably incomplete):
Haleakala Waldorf School – For parents who love Rudolf Steiner’s teaching and life philosophy. The campus is located in Kula, in upcountry Maui, and offers K-12. The high school campus opened a year or two ago at the Hui No’eau Art Visual Arts Center. (I’ve heard that Waldorf does not push reading until they feel the child is ready.) It’s a pretty tight knit community of parents, staff and graduates.

Montessori School – For parents who prefer Maria Montessori’s educational philosophy. The campus is located in Makawao, a little closer to “town” and teaches only up through intermediate school. This is another close-knit community of teachers, parents, and graduates. I know a lot of people are happy with the Montessori School and a friend worked there as a teacher until she moved to the mainland.

Montessori Hale O Keiki - Not affiliated with the other Montessori School. In Kihei. Preschool, Elementary and Middle School.

Carden Academy – Elementary and Middle School. One friend’s daughter seems to be doing well here.

Kamehameha School, Maui Campus – Intended for children of native Hawaiian ancestry, though I believe they have allowed a few children with no Hawaiian blood whatsoever due to a court case. They are funded by a special foundation so the campus is large and extensive, and covers K-12. I believe tuition costs are very low for qualifying children. Competitive admissions.

Seabury Hall – Middle and High School, based in Makawao, Upcountry Maui. This is Maui’s elite private school. Education is considered top notch. Students from Montessori and Waldorf School try to go here. Admissions are competitive.

Clearview Christian Girls School – Kula, Upcountry. One friend’s daughter seems to be doing well here. For girls only. Christian focus. Intermediate School.

Upcountry Academy - Upcountry. Coed private religious high school. Affiliated with Clearview Christian School.

Doris Todd Christian Academy – Paia, but inland. One friend graduated here and she said the education was more rigorous than public school. Christian education.

Emmanuel Lutheran School – Central Maui. Preschool, K-8. Religious focus.

St. Anthony’s Junior-Senior School – Central Maui. Upper grade levels. Religious focus.

St. Anthony’s Grade School – Central Maui. Affiliated with St. Anthony's Junior-Senior School.

Horizons School – Kihei. Primarily for children with special needs.

Roots School Maui – Haiku. Experiential learning, Preschool and K-8.

Maui Preparatory Academy – Preschool, K-12 on the West Side.

St. Joseph's School Early Learning Center - Makawao, Upcountry. Preschool to age 6. 

Living Compass Maui School - Haiku. Experiential learning based on nature. Preschool to age 12.

Hawaii Technology Academy - An accredited public charter school, K-12, with learning centers in Pukalani, Kahului and Kahana.

Yet another option is homeschooling, which is very possible because of the internet. If you can’t teach math, your child can learn via Khan Academy on Youtube.

For higher education, there is the University of Hawaii, Maui Campus

Here's a shortcut to the archives for the A to Z Challenge and other blog posts.

*Mahalo to Hawaii Life for a recent post on Private Schools on Maui.

The theme of this year’s A to Z Challenge is Living on Maui: A Beginner’s Survival Guide. While I can’t include everything in only 26 short blog posts, this is my foolish attempt.

If you are participating in the A to Z Challenge, please use either Disqus or Facebook to comment below. Please include your link so that I can visit you back, but it might be as late as May!


  1. You've made some great points and a lot of local residents here would appreciate your viewpoint. People are very protective of local culture which is changing as more and more people move to Hawaii. There's a slogan here, "Respect the culture." Maui is the island with the highest growth rate from people moving here. I even wonder if what I am doing is a good thing - do I want to encourage people to move here? On the other hand, people already have that idea regardless of any information I share on one blog, since the Hawaii Tourism Authority is sooo effective at bringing people here to visit. I do want people to know the pros and cons and that's it's not a cakewalk living here. It's not for everyone. Absolutely, education does start at home. My mother was very involved in my education and known at the schools I attended. I'm glad that you were able to get the education you needed. It's awful when role models and authority figures pronounce these dire verdicts like "You won't ever make into college."

  2. You are what we call in Hawaii, hapa... It means half and half. Half one thing, half another thing. It's actually totally acceptable here, and even desirable to have more than one ethnic background. People are so proud of where they come from and can rattle off all the ethnic groups and countries their ancestors came from.

  3. I've been thinking about it! A friend, Tui Snider of Unexpected Texas turned her A-Z posts into a book, and I won a copy last year!

  4. We were in Georgia, north of Atlanta, a little town that had a Wal-mart and it was so diverse. Apparently, refugees from warring countries are resettled in this part of Georgia. Hawaii has been diverse from the 1800s at least because of all the plantation workers coming here from so many different countries, and it seems that the rest of the country is also becoming more diverse. Germany is surprisingly diverse with Turkish people, Eastern Europeans, South Asians. France has lots of Muslims, Barcelona when we visited had a lot of Chinese people who lived there.

  5. That's one less thing to worry about as a parent! Public schools are stronger when parents are involved and can hold them up to high standards.

  6. Go for it! There are some great internet courses on writing a book that go through all the details like Transformation Author or How to Write A Bestseller in a Weekend. Hay House also has writing/publishing classes.

  7. A public Catholic school, oh wait, it's because you went to high school in Hungary, right? Can't imagine a public religious school anywhere in the US. Actually the saints would probably have had some very interesting lives, but it's how the information is presented that makes it interesting!

  8. You should consider it this time. It will be a very helpful resource. :)

  9. You didn't say anything rude! I have never heard anyone in Hawaii from California complain that there were not enough "California style cultural events" in Hawaii. Maybe it's because they moved back so they're not here to complain about it!

    And there are lots of cultural events in Hawaii. It's just ridiculous the # of free events on Maui, that are within 30 minutes of driving or maybe up to 1 hour. Nothing like CA where one has to drive for hours. I try to do an event listing each month on my blog. I don't know where these people were hiding? Or maybe they lived on Kauai which is a really quiet island w/ not a lot going on. But on Maui and Oahu, a lot is happening!

    I don't know think it's a conscious choice to change the places one moves to, but it happens... like the Japanese immigrants to Maui brought bamboo with them and look, now it's spread all over the island! It reminded them of home, and maybe they wouldn't have brought it if they had known how much it would have taken over native areas, but they didn't know any better. I think it's in human nature, but yes, I would agree that if you're going to a place that is different from home, and you expect it to be like home, that's gonna be a problem! I think that's why the Target on Maui has generated such a controversy... people want the convenience of mainland stores but it changes the nature of the island.

  10. I think as someone else mentioned in the comments that you should definitely make your posts into an ebook, Courtney. You have shared a wealth of knowledge and information here. It would be really useful to people looking to move to Maui. :)

  11. Public school gets a bad rap everywhere, I suspect. Not having gone to private school, I have no idea if private schools are really better than public schools. Maybe they do if they are getting more individual attention from their teachers. I contend that any kid, in private or public school environment, would do well academically if he/she gets the support to help him/her succeed, which may come from teachers, parents, or both. I know two people who graduated 8th grade from the same private school and then went to our public high school. One is articulate, using proper grammar and such on paper, while the other is not.

  12. I think it depends on the public or private school. Some are good, some are questionable. There are two on Oahu which are elite and considered academically tip-top: Punahou and Iolani. On Maui, the equivalent is Seabury Hall. I've been told if a child is interested in a subject, they will find a teacher to teach it, even if it means recruiting someone from the mainland to Maui. Not sure if this is a myth. Some public schools are really good too, In college, some of my classmates from public school had a much better background than I did, especially in science.

  13. Thanks Lanise!


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