Leadership award goes to principal on Molokai


POSTED: Sunday, May 24, 2009

Janice Espiritu, principal of Molokai's Kaunakakai Elementary School, earned an A-plus in leadership by building partnerships with community organizations, businesses and families.

“;Many hands, many heads, many hearts pulling together. If you don't have the heart, you can't build relationships, and relationships are the foundation of learning,”; she said.

Espiritu said she still gets teary-eyed after the initial shock of receiving last week the sixth annual Masayuki Tokioka Excellence in School Leadership Award from the Island Insurance Foundation, which comes with a $25,000 prize. She has been at Kaunakakai for 32 years, eight as principal.

“;Even if you come from a small place, with everyone working together to broaden the experiences of students, it's wonderful!”; said Espiritu, who also credited her relationships with mentors and colleagues.

Many of her projects, funded by grants, have benefited all the schools in her complex, and address post high-school opportunities, like college and entrepreneurial skills. For the past three years her sixth-graders have traveled to New York and Washington, D.C., “;to give them a global perspective, to let them know what opportunities are out there than just in Molokai.”;

She also believes that a key factor is building relationships with her students' families, to get the parents more supportive of school and community activities that affect their children.

About $15,000 of her award will go to a school project. The money is going toward air-conditioning for the school's 12 classrooms and an alternative-energy project to provide solar power for part of the school's electricity.

With the $10,000 personal portion of the award, Espiritu will pay for college tuition and take extended learning courses that in turn will benefit her teachers and her 243 students, she said.