HAWAII'S TOP PRINCIPALS
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
A ceremony held yesterday at Island Insurance Center recognized seven finalists for Island Insurance Foundation's Masayuki Tokioka Excellence in School Leadership Award. Honored were, in the front row, Lisa DeLong, Kahuku High and Intermediate, left; Nancy Soderberg, Konawaena Middle; and Christina Small, Liholiho Elementary; and in the back row, Randall Miura, Leihoku Elementary, left; Bruce Naguwa, Kipapa Elementary; Fred Rose, Kilauea Elementary; and Alvin Shima, Kihei Elementary.
Seven of Hawaii's best principals got rare pats on the back yesterday when they were named as finalists for the $25,000 Masayuki Tokioka Excellence in School Leadership Award.
"We hope that this award will showcase their leadership and inspire others in public education," said Colbert Matsumoto, chairman of Island Insurance Foundation, which created the award in recognition of the challenges that principals face.
Research shows that school leaders play a crucial role in school success, and principals are under intense scrutiny these days as federal law demands constant improvement in student test scores.
"Public schools are rarely recognized for the daily improvements and long-term planning we do," said Patricia Pedersen, principal of Waipahu High School, who won the first Tokioka award last year. "The award has truly become a catalyst for change and innovation for Waipahu High School."
Pedersen is using the award to help create a wireless network and develop mobile labs for her campus.
The finalists for this year's award are Lisa DeLong, Kahuku High and Intermediate School; Randall Miura, Leihoku Elementary; Bruce Naguwa, Kipapa Elementary; Fred Rose, Kilauea Elementary; Alvin Shima, Kihei Elementary; Christina Small, Liholiho Elementary; and Nancy Soderberg, Konawaena Middle. Only middle and elementary schools were eligible this year.
Each finalist received a $500 check. The winner will be named at the Public Schools Foundation of Hawaii Dinner on May 1, and will receive a $10,000 cash award and another $15,000 for a school project.
The Masayuki Tokioka award is named for the founder of Island Insurance, who immigrated to Hawaii at age 12 and credited his public school education with putting him on the path to success.
[MEET THE FINALISTS]
Kahuku High and Intermediate School
"She is a prime example of a leader making a difference in a public school. She is very concerned about the students." -- Tessi Toluta'u, student body president
Principal of Kahuku High and Intermediate school for six years, Lisa DeLong is devoted to creating a community of lifelong learners. She called on all stakeholders to identify barriers to Kahuku's academic performance and together they came up with a solution. The school has been shaped into "small learning communities," where students and their teachers stay together for much of the school day, allowing educators to understand and meet the needs, interests and goals of each student.
Leihoku Elementary School
"Students of all ages have a great deal of respect for Mr. Miura. He leads by example and treats everyone with the respect they deserve." -- Gail Gomes, parent
Principal Randall Miura came to Leihoku Elementary School in Waianae 11 years ago and has lifted expectations for students on the part of staff, community and the children themselves. He expects socially correct behavior, demands high academic achievement and instills purpose in staff. As a result, students have improved on tests and the school met the federal achievement targets. Leihoku has become a "recognized pillar in Waianae due in large part to his enthusiasm and devotion," said state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa.
Kipapa Elementary School
"His leadership style is warm and open, but there is never a question that his priority is a focus on learning." -- state Rep. Marilyn B. Lee
In his four years as principal at Kipapa Elementary School in Mililani, Bruce Naguwa has worked to create a culture conducive to learning. Under his leadership, the school has developed its own guides for reading and writing. These literacy guides spell out grade-by-grade standards and performance indicators, along with "I can" statements, that allow students to describe the standards in kid-friendly terms. Hawaii State Assessment test scores have risen consistently at Kipapa.
Kilauea Elementary School
"I have worked with close to 100 schools and find Mr. Rose to be a model of excellence and an inspiration to other educational leaders." -- Lisa Mireles, education professor and Kilauea Elementary parent
Fred Rose believes that students will learn effectively when they link abstract academics to practical, everyday problems. He has been principal at Kilauea Elementary on Kauai for five years. Through the adopt-a-school program, Kilauea has partnered with Envisioneering Inc. and Princeville Corp. Students have learned about lasers, alternative-fuel vehicles, rocketry and aerodynamics. He has also started innovative programs such as Enrichment Wednesday, an arts instruction period, offering everything from cartooning to guitar lessons.
Kihei Elementary School
"He has made a positive difference in my life by showing me how you can change a child's life by becoming involved and caring." -- Cindy Lester, president, Kihei Elementary School Parent Teacher Association
Under Principal Alvin Shima's leadership over the past five years, Kihei Elementary School on Maui has transformed, and moved from failing state academic standards to meeting them. He introduced reading program that led to the school being recognized as a "Beacon School" for reading, attracting visitors from other schools statewide to learn from Kihei's teachers. The school offers extracurricular activities as well as a Family Literacy Night that helps parents work with their children on reading.
Liholiho Elementary School
"For Mrs. Small, anything worth doing is worth doing well -- the best you can. She takes the time to know the families, the children and the teachers." -- Bob Allen, president, Liholiho Parent Teacher Organization
As principal of Liholiho Elementary School for 11 years, Christina Small has emphasized the role that teachers, staff, parents and the community play in the school. She has drawn on their opinions and ideas to adopt innovative programs and get results. The school provides early intervention for students needing extra support to succeed academically and socially. Its Primary School Adjustment Project was recognized by the district and is under review for national certification.
Konawaena Middle School
"These are the qualities we have found in our principal: true leadership and a sincere dedication to community empowerment." -- Lunakanawai Hauanio, parent
With principal Nancy Soderberg at the helm for six years, Konawaena Middle School on the Big Island has won awards, including being named one of the top 100 effective middle schools in the nation. She has encouraged students to become more responsible for their learning. Student-led conferences, for example, have replaced the traditional parent-teacher conference. Students describe their academic achievements and challenges as well as their goals, presenting a portfolio of their work to parents and teachers each semester.