Wednesday, May 26, 1999

School boosts
pride in Kalihi

'Kalihi has been stereotyped for so
many years as an area of high crime,
violence, drugs and lazy people.
This negates that.'

Charlotte White


By Rod Ohira


Being named one of the nation's top schools is a victory not only for 100-year-old Ka'iulani Elementary but also for the Kalihi-Palama community it services, says Principal Charlotte White.

"What it means for the area is that something very positive is going on," White said after yesterday's blue-ribbon award ceremony at the school. "Kalihi has been stereotyped for so many years as an area of high crime, violence, drugs and lazy people. This negates that," she said.

Ka'iulani, on North King Street across from Kaumakapili Church, and Aikahi Elementary in Kailua were named 1998-99 blue-ribbon schools by the U.S. Department of Education's national elementary school recognition program.

Ka'iulani opened in April 1899, a month after Princess Victoria Ka'iulani died at age 23. The majority of the 512 students in preschool to grade 5 live at Mayor Wright Homes or in one of three homeless shelters in the area.

According to school statistics, 56.8 percent of the students are Asian and 39.1 percent Pacific Islanders; 76 percent are from low-income families and 21.4 percent speak limited English.

"The children here are caring and respectful and we feel all of them are learners," said White, who's in her sixth year as principal.

Su Shin, a KHNL television news reporter, couldn't speak English when she started school at Ka'iulani in 1977.

"I vividly remember my teachers, some of whom are still here," Shin said. "They partnered me with a Korean girl who spoke English and the teachers were very patient with me."

The school also places a heavy emphasis on literacy.

Only 34 percent of Ka'iulani third-graders were at the average Stanford Achievement Test reading level in 1994. But four years later, the number of third-graders at the school who tested at the average reading level jumped to 70 percent.

White's teamwork philosophy is a perfect complement for the pilot Comprehensive Student Support System being implemented at Ka'iulani, Central Middle School and McKinley High.

"The goal of the program is not to let any child get lost," White said. "What's typical is a student registers and is placed in school.

"At Ka'iulani, either a counselor, resource teacher or myself will just talk story with new students to determine what their needs might be. It provides the classroom teacher with good background on new students in order to link them with their needs.

"So if a cafeteria worker sees Johnny eating alone every day, she'll report it, and we'll try to determine how we can help."

Community involvement is a big part of Ka'iulani's success.

The school has developed partnerships within the school and also with community groups such as the Rotary Club of Metropolitan Honolulu, which installed a new sprinkler system and subsidized renovation of the library.

The crew of the Pearl Harbor-based nuclear submarine USS Louisville painted five classrooms.

Bernard Louis, the school's custodian, received a 1999 Ola Pono award for organizing after-school athletic programs for Ka'iulani students.

"The kids here are friendly and the teachers make you feel special," says 10-year-old Melissa Sales, a fifth-grader who has been attending Ka'iulani for three years.

E-mail to City Desk

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