By Kathryn Bender, Star-Bulletin
Kathleen Nagaji, a teacher at Pearl Ridge Elementary School,
reacts after being recognized as one of the four winners of the prestigious
1998 Milken Family Foundation educator award. Nagaji's daughter,
Sarah, 4, looks up at the microphone as Dr. Julis Lesner, executive
vice president of the Milken foundation, hands it to her mom.
Four on isle
By Debra Barayuga
Iliahi Elementary Principal Jane Serikaku thought she was in touch with everything happening at her school.
So it came as a surprise when she was awarded a Milken Family Foundation educator award at a school assembly yesterday that she and most others thought was being held to welcome the new schools superintendent.
Two more educators -- one in the Windward District and another in East Oahu -- are expected to receive awards today.
Superintendent Paul LeMahieu and Julius Lesner, executive vice president of the Milken foundation, presented Serikaku with the award and then went on to make a similar announcement at Pearl Ridge Elementary School.
At that school, Curriculum Coordinator Kathleen Nagaji was so busy getting her video production students prepared to record LeMahieu's welcome speech that she was momentarily stunned when her name was announced.
"It's still a blur," Nagaji said later.
The prestigious Milken awards program recognizes outstanding K-12 principals, teachers and education professionals.
Recipients get $25,000 in cash, are honored at a November luncheon and will attend next summer's National Educator Awards ceremony and conference in Los Angeles.
Both Serikaku and Nagaji were quick to attribute their awards to their school communities -- teachers, staff, parents and students.
"It was their working together that made all this possible," said Serikaku, who has been with the Department of Education for 27 years.
"You can't ever pick one individual -- it's really representative of the whole school," Nagaji added.
Her principal, Raymond Sugai, a 1996 recipient of the Milken Award, agrees.
"We're only as good as the people you work with," he said. "When everybody works together and believes in what we're doing, success just comes."
Nagaji, who has been a teacher for nearly 15 years, constantly looks for ways to use innovation and technology to keep her students excited about learning.
"In all she does, in every dream for the school that she has, it is with the belief that every child is special and all children can learn," said a fellow teacher.
Among the programs Nagaji coordinates are tutoring to improve reading skills of at-risk students, using performing arts to increase student literacy, partnering with the University of Hawaii to take advantage of instructional resources and planning the school's annual curriculum fair.
Serikaku is a highly visible principal. She welcomes students and parents as they arrive, mingles with students during recess, participates in school activities and even teaches classes to allow teachers time for professional training. She also established a mentoring program that pairs new and tenured teachers.
In 1996, the Central District designated Iliahi as a Teacher Learning Center to share successful literacy strategies with other schools.
Since Hawaii's public schools became part of the Milken program in 1990, 46 Hawaii educators have received awards totaling $1.1 million.
Change in payBy Debra Barayuga
schedule upsets many
public school teachers
Public school teachers on traditional school schedules will see fatter paychecks Sept. 18, their first for the 1998-99 school year.
But although pay raises went into effect Aug. 18, they won't be seeing the full retroactive payment portion they're entitled to for the Aug. 18-31 pay period in this week's paycheck.
Although teachers are 10-month employees, the Department of Education pays them over a 12-month period by prorating their salary over 24 equal pay periods, said Meredith Maeda, personnel specialist.
The teachers are eligible for a 2 percent raise across the board for the Aug. 18-31 pay period, but the amount will be divided over the next six months and distributed accordingly, rather than in one lump sum Sept. 18.
In February, teachers get an additional 2.25 percent raise across the board above what they received at the beginning of the school year. That, too, will be prorated over the remaining six months of the school year, Maeda said.
Paychecks teachers received Sept. 4 were the last for the 1997-98 school year, and therefore did not reflect the negotiated raises for 1998-99, he said.
Teachers who started the new school year earlier because of modified year-round schedules already have begun seeing the prorated pay increases.
The Hawaii State Teachers Association feels its teachers should receive the payment they're entitled to for the Aug. 18-31 pay period in their Sept. 18 check.
"We don't believe it's fair to spread it out through the year," said Joan Husted, HSTA deputy executive director. "It's money owed to the teachers; they have worked that time. It's a matter of fairness."
The department as a general rule has always paid teachers for the August partial pay period in mid-September, Husted said. But this is the first time the department has broken the lump sum into 24 equal pay periods, she said. "Probably because the sum is so large this year, someone made a decision to do it this way."
The HSTA filed unsuccessfully for an injunction against the Department of Education in Circuit Court in July. But a judge ruled that the department was correct in the way it administered its paychecks. A trial date has yet to be scheduled.
Hundreds of teachers flooded the HSTA office with calls last payday asking about their pay raise, Husted said.
New hires are hit especially hard because they don't receive a paycheck on Sept. 4, but on Sept. 18 at the earliest, she said. "New hires are very distressed. They were counting on money to pay telephone deposits and what it takes to start a career."
The department understands the predicament new teachers face, and its priority is to get paychecks into teachers' hands as soon as possible, Maeda said.
There are close to 500 new teachers hired this year, with the bulk in special-education positions. Between 200 and 300 new employees are from the mainland.