Who’s Who at AMICUS? Quest for Transparency

By E. Heinrich-Sanchez

Obunsha Co.’s management is being questioned and under scrutiny by the Okinawa Prefecture Assembly. Important deadlines are coming up in December and later in February for Obunsha’s management team to present its plans for the 2015 – 2016 school year at Okinawa AMICUS International.

Principal (and Executive Board member) Tomokiyo Arakawa, assisted by Deputy Director Tsuneo Yokosuka, testified at the last Okinawa Prefecture Assembly hearing, Jun. 9, concerning the management of the Okinawa AMICUS International School. In his testimony, Principal Arakawa promised that steps are being taken towards restoring the trust of the parents, students and the people of Okinawa. When the OP Assembly asked who are the Executive Board Members at the school, following persons were identified:

AMICUS Executive Board, (and later confirmed by office staff Mr. Yokosuka) The Okinawa AMICUS International School managed by Obunsha Publishing Co. is governed by the following Executive Board members:

1. Mr. Fumio Akao, Chairman of Obunsha Publishing Co.

2. Mr. Tomokiyo Arakawa, Principal of Okinawa AMICUS International, (OIST Board of Councilors)

3. Dr. Hiroko Sho, Professor Emeritus, University of the Ryukyus, (OIST Board of Councilors and OIST Board of Governors)

4. Eiji Chinen, Chairman, AU Okinawa Cellular

5. Mr. Takeo Kato, past board member, Kaisei Academy (Gakuen), Tokyo

6. (New) Dr. Ken Oshiro, University of the Ryukyus Elementary School Education and EIKEN Adviser.

The Executive Board was scheduled for having a parent-teacher representation. Next week, we will update on who’s actually on the board.

In my opinion, this issue needs to be separated into three groups:

1. Students and Teachers. 2. Teachers and Parents 3. Obunsha Co. Ltd staff and Executive Board Members including their EIKEN advisers.

For thanksgiving, I do know that many parents and students are thankful for their teachers at AMICUS. Many people in Okinawa including myself have high hopes for AMICUS, and will support those teachers so that they would be able to help their students and are provided the support, which was promised as part of the mandate of the school. Part of that mandate was to serve the children of the researchers and staff of the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST). When this mandate has been questioned, I have been told directly by key management at the school that AMICUS has nothing to do with OIST.

Testimonies at the hearings also highlight this controversy, where the appearance of collaboration is maintained yet the spirit does not prevail due to the on-going issues of “lack of transparency”. Obunsha’s management continues to be questioned by many.

It is important to note that Okinawa AMICUS International has two of its Executive Board members on the OIST Board of Councilors and one seat on the OIST Board of Governors. Dr. Hiroko Sho’s position at AMICUS is not listed in her profile. Due to the investigations and controversy, it is hoped that this “clerical” omission might be repaired for the sake of transparency. It has been questioned as to why AMICUS is so heavily represented at OIST, yet, transparency at the school continues to be an issue.

The “Hyogiin” or Board of Councilors at AMICUS, have not been provided with much of the information about what is going on in the school, its attempts towards becoming an International Baccalaureate (IB School) or the investigation, among other things. An updated list has not been made available nor posted on the website.

Although “transparency” was a key element in Principal Tomikiyo Arakawa’s hearing of June 9th, the website has not been updated to address these questions and more.

At this point, I am not sure under which group the following would fall: Okinawa Prefecture Government and Uruma City officials including the Okinawa Board of Education.

For those who would like to listen to the actual hearings at the Okinawa Prefecture Assembly, they are available on their website. Please use Explorer for optimum results.

http://www.discussvision.net/okinawaken/2.html

please click「総務企画委員会」on the left and click icon on the line of 「12月19日」.

Transcripts will be available in the future.

Key dates are as follows:

1. December 19th 2013 Teachers and Parents of AMICUS (some English)

2. March 24th 2014 Okinawa Prefecture Government Planning Division

3. June 9th 2014 Principal of AMICUS Tomokiyo Arakawa (representing the AMICUS Executive Board of Directors).

Principal Arakawa in his testimony also added that as per AMICUS’s founding mandate to provide education for the children of the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate School’s (OIST) researchers and staff, only seven children were attending the school. When asked why such a low number, he stated that efforts were being made. According to the video of the hearing, his appeals to OIST have been ignored so far with no response. According to a search on the OIST website for “AMICUS”, some positive exchange has taken place and the school is listed as an option along with other international schools in Okinawa. It is also important to note that use of the OIST auditorium comes at a price as offered to any organization who requests (and is approved) for its use. OIST will only wave the usage fee if the event is sponsored by the university.

Contradictions and questions remain on the management’s quest for transparency. I will continue to approach AMICUS and expect a reply soon for an interview along with a request for specifics regarding meetings and minutes. Mr. Yokosuka informed me that Director Keiko Kamei turned in her letter of resignation to be effective June 30th 2014. It was accepted by Chairman of the Executive Board Mr. Fumio Akao. Mr. Yokosuka himself is now on permanent sick leave after a sudden illness. We pray for his quick recovery. One of Keiko Kamei’s last duties as Director was to testify in a lawsuit on June 23rd Nagamatsu vs. AMICUS. Ms. Nagamatsu was the Vice-Principal who was forced out with supporting testimony by the previous Principal of AMICUS, Mr. Nakatsuji.

Before the new school year, a full audit both academic and financial has been talked about as a way to restoring trust in Obunsha’s management. Your questions, comments and advise are most welcome.

Comments welcome to edo@okinawaocean.org