Monday, April 2, 2001

Nelson Shigeta, right, principal of Makaha Elementary School,
worked Thursday with staff members Jean Hayashi,

left, and Lynn Okamura.

It takes a
village at Makaha

The new principal hopes staff,
parents and the community
will get more involved

By Pat Gee

Nelson Shigeta said all the frustrations that come with being an educator are worth it "when you see a child's face and that light bulb goes on, and you know you've made a difference."

"That's what makes education special," said Shigeta, the new principal at Makaha Elementary School.

On March 12 he took over the reigns of the school, which was in the spotlight last fall over then-Principal Clarence De Lude's controversial handling of a school problem.

Some teachers and parents claimed De Lude had taken a heavy-handed approach to not allowing students to participate in a farm project for science, preferring to use the funds to strengthen students' reading skills. De Lude was replaced in October by temporary Principal Karen Ueyama.

The hard work of getting the school back on track was accomplished by Ueyama, Shigeta said, and "I'm here to move the school forward."

Shigeta, former vice principal of Waianae High School, said the focus on improving literacy will continue, but he wants to be "more open with the community about where the school wants to head."

He believes in the adage, "it takes a whole village to raise a child," and that includes teachers, staff, parents and the community. Keeping communication lines open will be the key to getting everyone involved, Shigeta said.

A graduate of McKinley High School and the University of Hawaii-Manoa, Shigeta taught English at Waipahu High School for 12 years and "loved working" with the students there.

He found that kids from the Waianae Coast "have a lot of heart and the potential for a lot of growth" and really want to learn.

"Kids here really appreciate it (an education) and are more than willing to put out the extra effort" if a teacher makes time for them, he said.

"They really know if you care about them. They'll read right through you."

When he first trained for a year as a teacher at Nanaikapono Elementary School in Nanakuli, he worked with kids who were considered "at risk" because they were economically disadvantaged.

That job was a challenge because the students did not have "the same resources we take for granted," he said. But he was inspired to give them all the support they needed when he saw how much they wanted to learn.

"Part of what we're trying to do is make them believe they can, planting the seed that anything is possible," Shigeta said.

Right now, the more immediate challenge is to deal with the looming teachers strike.

"I feel for the teachers. A strike is something nobody wanted, and I'm concerned about their welfare," he said.

A strike also means a further delay in getting to know the students, since he only got to meet with them for a week before the two-week spring break began.

He has used the time during the break to talk with teachers about their curriculum plans. He also met with strike captains to discuss the need to allow employees who need to come to work to walk peacefully through the picket line.

"I don't anticipate any trouble. Everybody respects everybody's rights," he said.

"The school is a wonderful place. I'm lucky."

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2001 Honolulu Star-Bulletin