The Samuel N. and Mary Castle Foundation continues to be a proactive, fully staffed and engaged charitable foundation. Founded in 1894 and with charitable roots stretching back to the 17th century in America, our founder was a 19th century abolitionist, feminist, Christian spiritualist and philanthropist who, after the emancipation of slaves in 1865, adopted women rights and early childhood education as her primary cause. Mary Tenney Castle, with the advice of her children, drew up plans for a perpetual family foundation at the death of her husband in the 1894. Her primary charge was that the foundation provide teacher training in connection with the founding and establishment of progressive kindergartens inspired by family friend John Dewey of the University of Chicago. In addition, her foundation provided funds to build kindergartens, provide capital improvements to facilities and tuition assistance to families in need of support to enroll their child in one of many private kindergartens on Oahu. Her Castle Kindergarten, established with the help of John Dewey in 1899, was the lab school for Hawaii until the UH Lab school was built by the Foundation in 1941 (Castle Memorial Hall).
Today, the Foundation is managed by a direct descendant of the founder and the trustee body is composed of a majority of family members. Dr. Robert Peters, a prominent early educator, serves as a community trustee and president. His service has enhanced the expertise of the foundation in early education and extended its reach in Hawaii. Staff is small and the executive director depends on volunteers and community advisors to achieve the reach of a state-wide funder. The Foundation is open 7 days a week including all holidays. Preschool directors who deal with the Foundation often say how much they appreciate being able to work with the Foundation on weekends when children are not present. Saturdays are also devoted to parents of children helped by the Foundation. Parents are encouraged to let us know where opportunities for investment lie.
As the recognized leader in early education funding in the state of Hawaii, the foundation continues to provide investments in tuition assistance, small capital improvements to pre-k facilities, construction of pre-k facilities, teacher training opportunities, scholarships to study at Chaminade University, Colorado State University and the University of Hawaii system for preschool teachers or aspiring pre-k teachers, support for advocacy for children, support of federal and state policies that advance the education and well-being of children, management training for pre-K leadership and substantial support for development of teachers for the public pre-school system. Additional funds are made available to support early education conferences in Hawaii and a select number on the mainland. A continuing interest of the Foundation, as originated by Mary Castle and her family, is public advocacy for improved access to high quality pre-k for all Hawaii’s residents. Advocacy for state policies that favor early learning is funded through an intermediary, Hawaii Children’s Action Network. Federal advocacy is achieved through active membership in national groups such as the Early Education Funders Collaborative. In addition, for many years, Alfred Castle was active on the Hawaii State Early Learning Advisory Board with Dr. Peters serving as the Chair of that board. Alfred Castle served as the representative of the philanthropy sector in the state on ELAB and then the ELB for almost 7 years. Both have attended and presented testimony to legislative panels. Additionally, both have met with public officials to advocate for a “holistic” approach to early learning and child well-being. With the expiration of Al Castle’s term on the new ELB governing body, he ended his membership October 1, 2017.
Continuing the Castle Foundation’s national work and especially partnerships with prominent national foundations, Al Castle co-sponsored and co-planned a national panel on culture-based early education. Working with his W.K. Kellogg Foundation partners, a popular panel featuring the program director of the Ka Pa’alana pre-school for homeless children (Danny Goya) was held October 23, 2019 in New Orleans. The Grantmakers for Education panel emphasized Hawaii pluralist educational delivery systems and the skilled use of native Hawaiian culture to improve outcomes for children as well as parent education (see press interview with Al Castle). A new Orleans – based Creole education also presented.
Nationally, Mr. Castle is an active participant with the Early Education Funders Collaborative and in that capacity has served as a program specialist. His efforts to promote Hawaii to national funders have brought funding to Hawaii as well as greater understanding of Hawaii’s unique assets and needs.
Al Castle serves on numerous committees and task forces in Hawaii as well as advising foundations which are interested in Hawaii’s non-profits. He served as an instructor (and founder) of the Weinberg Foundation Fellows program and the Weinberg Foundation Awards Committee for excellence in nonprofit management in the health and human services for 30 years. He manages the Hawaii grants of Pettus Foundation, a St Louis, Missouri-based foundation which has invested millions of dollars in Hawaii since 1977. In 2016, he was re-elected a trustee by Northern Trust Company and given responsibility to co-direct all St. Louis grants. He has established an office through the St. Louis Community Foundation to staff his work. Informally, he advises the following national and regional foundations: The Conrad Hilton Foundation, the William R. Hearst Foundation, the Martha S. Trimble Charitable Trust (he serves as a trustee for life), the William Irwin Foundation, the Levi Strauss Foundation, and the Kresge Foundation. He remains a valued advisor to the WK Kellogg Foundation which has been a co-funder with the Castle Foundation for numerous projects in Hawaii. Recently, he has worked with the family and staff of Warren Buffett to establish national standards in teacher training. This latter work continues through 2020. He continues to serve as a valued advisor to the Weinberg Foundation in Hawaii.
After spending many years as a college educator and administrator, AI remains active as a researcher and writer. His contributions have been recognized by Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the World, and Who’s Who in the West. He is also active with his Phi Beta Kappa chapter at Colorado State University. He was a Liberty Fund Fellow 5 times from 2015-2018.
Executive’s Director’s Hawaii Service in 2019
Periodic advisor to the Cooke Family Foundation, Weinberg Foundation, and the Atherton Family Foundation.
Hawaii Manager of the Pettus Foundation. Trustee of the Pettus Foundation.
Advisor to emerging professionals in philanthropy (EPIP).
Instructor and curricular advisor, Weinberg Foundation Fellows Program and Award Committee Chair.
Advisor to several national foundations interested in Hawaii.
Historian of the American Protestant Mission and the role of the Castle family in Hawaii and America’s philanthropic history.
Speaker at numerous conferences and seminars.
Provides ample technical assistance in fund raising to private pre-school directors and boards.
Member of Advisory Council, Hawaii Early Childhood Data Sharing Governance Program (term ended July 1, 2017).
Instructor in the Castle Colleagues program.
Advisor to the Aloha United Way initiatives in early learning and investments in strengthening low-income families.
Panelist for a PBS-Boston program on trauma-informed early education and care.
Speaker at the 2019 Grantmakers for Education Conference in New Orleans.
Foundation Goals for 2020
The Castle Foundation does its best work when it maintains its focus and courage to take risks on behalf of children. We have also done some of our most impactful work when staying active in the public policy arena, while remaining politically independent. Our focus is provided to us by Mary Castle’s charter which names teacher training for early educators as her highest priority. Her family followed these directives for decades and while providing some general grants, they advocated for a public kindergarten system to supplement the many private kindergartens the family had helped to start and/or sustain. The Foundation played a key role in obtaining full-day publicly supported kindergartens in 1943 and in training public school and kindergarten teachers in Castle Hall, the UH Lab School.
2020 will be a challenging year as the Castle Foundation continues to influence public policy at the state and federal levels. The Foundation will work closely with the Department of Human Services, the Early Learning Board, with the DOE and the Governor’s office if possible. In addition, while seeking out opportunities to impact the quality of the public pre-k through sponsoring teacher and administrator training opportunities, we will need to continue our successful work encouraging and funding accreditation by private preschools state-wide. The private sector is likely to handle 80% or more of the families seeking early education for years to come, and thus we must remain vigilant in finding gaps needing to be filled. In 2019, we continued a public and private pre-k early mathematics training program with the Erikson Institute and CEED at KCAA. Chaminade University has also been most helpful in launching this program. Erikson will return in 2020 for a 6th year of training in early mathematics while also working with our Foundation to provide additional teacher and administrator training. In addition, the Erikson Institute is teaching a third cohort in early literacy teacher training. To supplement the two existing cohorts, Erikson Institute has been funded to develop a state-of-the-art social-emotional learning cohort in 2020.
As much as possible, Al will continue his work seeking out national grants for Hawaii projects. The Castle Foundation is widely respected nationally, even internationally, for its historic work as well as its present contributions. We may have special opportunities to continue co-funding with the Kellogg Foundation in 2020 and efforts are being made to secure renewed investment from that large national funder. It is very common for organizations other than preschools to ask our office for endorsement letters to other mainland foundations. As much as possible, the Castle Foundation wants to continue its work as a “go-to” resource for many of our non-profit organizations.
In addition, in 2020 Al will continue preparing preliminary notes for the writing and re-issuing of the Foundation’s history, “A Century of Philanthropy,” for the 125th anniversary edition. Al hopes to complete the book’s 3rd edition by 2025. In addition, Al will be active in many mainland and local venues promoting the understanding and appreciation of the work of his great-great grandmother and her ongoing philanthropy in Hawaii.
2020 will bring many challenges to the Castle Foundation as we enter a year of economic uncertainty and a presidential election. This uncertainty regarding future leadership and education priorities could slow our campaign to increase access to a high quality public early education system. The issue of funding for the EOEL’s efforts to expand the public pre-k combined with the deadline for the public charter schools which opted to include preschools to find legislative funding grows near makes our strategy unclear. What does seem clear, however, is that the private preschools in the state are only now able to handle about 50% of the 17,600 4-year-old’s, not to mention the thousands of three-year-old’s who might want access to the pre-k’s in the state. Without a major public commitment to accelerate the rate of quality public preschools in the coming year and years, the EOEL will be responsible for managing incremental quality improvements in the existing elementary school venues. It is essential, and very fitting given our history in funding and shaping the well-regarded public kindergartens in Hawaii, that we maintain our level of support for quality enhancements in the public preschool arena through support for teacher training. Our two ongoing cohorts in early mathematics and early literacy as taught by the eminent Erikson Institute of Chicago has been very well received by the State Department of Education and the EOEL. I will seek to maintain this support if there is demand while also searching out opportunities for supplemental training for teacher aides and assistants. In addition, we will continue our support for management training for preschool personnel through an abbreviated version of Castle Colleagues. Currently, we plan to offer a series of workshops directed at private pre-school personnel and governing boards. These one-day workshops will be managed by HANO (Hawaii Association of Non-Profits) and will employ the faculty of the residential program formerly managed and directed by Holly Henderson. It is our wish that the workshops be flexible, responsive to emerging or continuing needs of the essential private preschool community and offered free to all who seek technical assistance.
In 2020, the Foundation will consider an aina-based STEM teacher training program administered and taught by senior Hanahauoli teachers. The Erikson Institute will also initiate a year cohort in social-emotional learning.
I continue to believe that both the H.K.L. Castle Foundation (our sister family foundation) and the Samuel N. and Mary Castle Foundation might profitably collaborate to upgrade kindergarten teaching skills in the DOE. Once the reason for much of our work in the first half of the 20th century, kindergartens enjoy a positive reputation with the public. What also seems to be the case is that many of our public kindergarten teachers need more background in child development and other essential skills. Erikson Institute might well be the provider of this training. In addition, should the DOE opt for creating a coordinated preschool-grade three continuum with respect to curricula, teaching, outcomes and assessment both Castle Foundations could find a funding role moving that pedagogical agenda. With the slow creation of a high quality public pre-k system, the next few years might provide us a unique opportunity to advance a meaningful and productive pre-k-grade 3 continuum.
An especially important goal for 2020 is for our Foundation to lead the way in supporting the training of kindergarten teachers in implementing a comprehensive kindergarten readiness assessment statewide. This assessment, if properly administered, would provide kindergarten teachers with knowledge of where students have strengths and weaknesses in their social-emotional and cognitive development. It would also provide a key information loop back to the preschools to let them know how they are doing in their own student presentation. The Castle Foundation in doing this seeks only to improve preschool instruction and consequently k-readiness. Our trustees are also mindful that the business community, legislators, parents and the public want evidence that public and private investments in early education is paying social dividends. I fear that we have waited too long to develop and implement an individual student assessment. In the past 5 years, the Castle Foundation has assisted in the costs to develop an assessment tool. We now have an opportunity to co-fund with the EOEL and the DOE to train kindergarten teachers to use the assessment while also assisting to collecting key student-readiness data to share with our public and private preschools. Where it is determined that some of our pre-schools need to be strengthened academically and developmentally I would strongly urge that those pre-schools get funding priority. We may need to lead this effort as the public sector has been very slow to move despite legislative and public pressure for “proof” that early education is valuable. There is some skepticism in Hawaii about this as is occasionally reflected in newspaper stories, letters to the editor, etc. Without an appropriate, tested assessment tool for the kindergarten child we will not have a good baseline of data establishing where the keiki are beginning in their k-12 life. I could further envision a culminating Castle Foundation-funded effort to “test the test” as well. This would continue the viability of the best test instrument while strengthening use and reliability.
Significantly, we must continue all of our primary projects and programs to enhance or create quality in private pre-k’s, providing capital improvements and pre-school construction, scholarships for pre-school teachers, support for current pre-school teachers planning to re-enter university training, and perhaps tuition assistance for very low-income students. There is a real question about how long we can commit to tuition assistance as those dollars might better be used for improving quality and creating better systems. Tuition assistance is much appreciated by the public but does not make a huge difference in the number of children whose families can afford private preschools. A better strategy might be to expand the public sector and ensure quality for low-income children. The trustees will need to monitor this carefully. The key question for our trustees and executive staff is where can we invest our dollars so that they do the most good for the most children.
In 2020, The Castle Foundation will complete the fourth year of its state-wide initiative in providing unrestricted program support for human services and health agencies working to strengthen families with young children and assist in providing the basic conditions for child wellbeing. The trustees have recognized that before a child of 3 or 4 is ready for pre-school the child needs to be safe, healthy, secure, housed and ready to learn. No one funder, not even the state of Hawaii, can afford to provide every need for every child in the state. What private funders can do is to support innovation in service provisions as well as assisting to maintain or expand programs that are already working well and that have been broadly assessed for positive outcomes. The family strengthening initiative supports a dozen highly regarded human services organizations that are seeking to strengthen programs such as Early Head Start that are working well. The Castle Foundation grants allow the executive directors to use funds wherever and whenever the funds can best advantage proven programs. In many cases this means that the funds go to expanding a program and allowing more at-risk members of the public to be served. In at least one case, the Castle Foundation has joined hands with the Atherton Foundation, the State of Hawaii, the McInerny Foundation, the United and others to provide an innovative pre-school for homeless children in A’ala Park. The program is conducted by PACT and the Institute for Human Services The effort is consistent with the Castle family’s historic interest in generating educational opportunities while providing a measure of social justice in a state plagued with poverty. It is my early hope that the Foundation can continue this broad direction in the coming years. Doing so guarantees that our charter’s purpose will be honored (early education largely in center-based locations under the guidance of degreed teachers) while also addressing some of the needs of the “whole child” movement. It also ensures that the Foundation is in line with national efforts to narrow the income and education gap, or the so-called opportunity gap, between the working poor and the very poor and the middle and upper classes in our state and country. To that end, I will recommend renewed funding at $600,000 for this initiative in 2020. The trustees may wish to consider additional opportunities to improve the life of children in 0-3 age groups. We need to recall that children need to also be ready for pre-school. A healthy and safe development and period from 0-3 is critical to being prepared for pre-school.
2020 promises to be another important year. We have an opportunity to impact quality, policy, legislation and systems. Emboldened by our founder and our history of solid accomplishment, we will continue to provide 7-day a week office staffing and leadership. The Castle Foundation, which is widely respected in the state and on the mainland, aims to continue being among the most effective and hardworking foundations in our state.
Specific Goals for 2020
- Continue to provide a user-friendly accessible and responsive full-service grants office for Hawaii.
- Continue to assist trustees as needed with projects that complement the tactics and strategies of the Foundation.
- Continue to work with Morgan Stanley and BOH to improve investment performance of the Foundation’s portfolio.
- Continue to represent the Foundation in national committees and organizations where doing so improves Hawaii’s chances of receiving federal and/or national foundation financial support for early education.
- Continue the work of gathering information and data so that a third edition of the book “Century of Philanthropy” can be published by the Foundation’s 125th anniversary.
- Continue national service as a grant maker in Hawaii, Colorado and Saint Louis, Missouri.
- Continue to manage mainland grants to Hawaii’s early education and human services community (Pettus Foundation).
- Continue to provide technical assistance to preschools seeking grants and mentorship for accreditation.
- Continue to seek our innovative teacher training opportunities for preschool and kindergarten teachers in both the public and private sectors.
- Work with the Foundation president and all trustees to find ways to increase quality in the emerging public preschool sectors.
- Advise the Charter School Commission on sustainability issues.
- Work with the Director of the State Department of Human Services to co-fund where possible early education in the state. All possible public-private funding opportunities will be pursued aggressively.
- Work with the Harold KL Castle Foundation to co-fund and maximize support for early education in Windward Oahu; find opportunities to co-fund kindergarten teacher training.
- Seek out opportunities to assist and fund efforts to align a quality preschool curriculum with the K-12 and increase school readiness.
- Continue to participate in Early Education Funders meetings, work with HCAN, HAEYC, ELB and other organizations to advocate for additional public support for early education.
- Continue to inform the public in Hawaii and nationally about the long history of the Foundation and its continuing contributions to Hawaii’s children and families.
- Work with Native Hawaiian organizations to increase early education and family support to meet the special needs of this community; continue to support culture-based early education where possible.
- Develop innovative ways to work with Child and Family Service and other organizations pioneering a two-generation approach to fighting the cycle of poverty (support for quality preschool and child care combined with support for parents and custodians of children)
- Maintain a flexible, pro-active approach to meeting unexpected challenges to early education and continue to work for universal access to high quality early education and universal school readiness.
- Continue to develop the successful RFP for unrestricted giving to organizations serving children and families at-risk.
- Administer and evaluate the continuing initiative to provide tuition assistance to low-income 3-year-olds.
- Be responsive to unexpected emergencies in the early education sector.
- Work with the Hawaii Community Foundation on the child behavior health initiative.
Long-Term and Ongoing Goals for the Castle Foundation
- Building the skills of the Early Learning workforce. Promote coaching and mentoring for preschool teachers, aligned with curriculum and assessment systems; scholarships or compensation associated with continuing education and training in early childhood education; training for principals and superintendents in early childhood development; and enhancements that bring compensation for early educators to parity with early elementary teachers. The Foundation will seek co-funding opportunities with mainland and local foundations.
- Building a continuum of high-quality early learning from birth to third grade. New investments to continue early education programs and services beyond federal investments in home visiting, infant and toddler care, or preschool in a state or region. Public and private leaders, like our Foundation, can invest in infant and toddler services where a federal Pre-school Development Grant is awarded, or in preschool where an Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership grant is awarded.
- Enriching early education experiences. Strengthened language and literacy instruction in preschool classrooms; mathematics and science learning opportunities; resources for comprehensive health and mental health services (e.g., screenings, early identification, and management of physical, behavioral, emotional, and cognitive developmental needs), and family engagement. Greater support for the transition from pre-school to kindergarten. Parent education programs and other resources for caregivers and educators about the importance of adult-child interaction and talking, singing, and reading with children in their earliest years.
- Promoting equity in early education. We can support providers and policymakers to implement policies that eliminate suspensions and expulsions in preschools and child care centers which disproportionately impacts children of color.
- Supporting early education infrastructure and facilities. Financing and facilities acquisition to expand the availability of high-quality early education, particularly in high-poverty neighborhoods with a shortage of quality programs.
- Promoting innovation in early education. We can support pilots for innovative programs, technology, and new approaches to early education. Support for research, evaluation and documentation to build the next generation of early education strategies and models.
- Promote the well-being of the “whole child” through innovative and impactful grantmaking. In addition to supporting K-12 readiness, we may want to work to promote pre-school readiness through support of children ages 0-3 and their families. The 2016-2019 RFP for human services programs serving children and families is integrated to this strategy.
- Seek out and support new parent education programs in Hawaii for both private and public pre-schools.
- Work to promote public awareness of the importance and power of early education to improve educational and social equity.