South Maui Learning Ohana, Inc.

A 501(c)3 Nonprofit Organization

Promoting Educational Initiatives


The Origin of South Maui Learning Ohana, Inc.

The South Maui Learning Ohana (SMLO) came into existence in the mid 1990s as a result of a community drive to establish a public high school in Kihei. The community vision also saw that the new high school would need to be able to govern itself and instill a 21st century educational model to prepare students for a rapidly changing workforce.

Little did we know at the time that the efforts of this community group would create legislation that gave birth to the charter school movement in the state of Hawaii. A movement that now has 31 charter schools on 5 islands across the state practicing and promoting innovative educational models that incorporate Hawaiian culture, technology, project based and problem based curriculum, rigorous core curriculum and much needed individualized attention to nearly 8,400 public school students and employing over 600 staff.

Kihei Charter School, a "new century public charter school"

Thanks to the efforts of SMLO, Maui has an award winning K-12 charter school, with 3 distinct educational programs serving students from all Maui.

Kihei Charter School (KCS) started out with 60 students in grades 10-12 in July, 2001. For the 2009-2010 school year, we anticipate having 440 students in 3 educational programs. Our High School Academy will have 160 students, the Middle School Academy 170 students, and the K-8 Hybrid Academy will serve about 110 students.

SMLO continues to provide support for KCS in many ways. It holds the leases on the two KCS campuses, and provides the insurance and maintenance. It also leases passenger vans to KCS which are used for taking students into the community for educational experiences and activities. SMLO is also providing consulting services for capacity building, public awareness and a capital campaign.

Kihei Charter School is fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (one of only 3 charters schools in Hawaii to be accredited) and is part of the long-established Coalition of Essential Schools, whose priciples are exemplified by personalized instruction, small class sizes, and interdisciplinary studies. Guided by a set of common principles, the Coalition of Essential Schools strives to create and sustain a network of personalized, equitable, and intellectually challenging schools.

SMLO educates our legislators on behalf of KCS on the challenges facing all charter schools in Hawaii. These efforts strive to get proper legislation in place that supports Hawaii charter schools both financially and politically. SMLO works to develop the community partnerships that are the necessary building blocks for charter schools.

The South Maui Learning Ohana is committed to aiding educational initiatives in Maui County. The first board was elected into office and given staggered terms at the end of 1996. Until this point, we were a volunteer community group coming together to establish a non profit organization and set a course for our educational mission. SMLO was incorporated in 1998 and received 501(c)3 non profit status in February, 2000.

For more information about SMLO or to make a donation,
please contact Gene Zarro (gene@smlo.org).