Award to recognize
‘CEOs’ of Hawaii's schools

Nine isle principals are nominated
for $25,000 in awards

The idea for an award honoring public school principals was born a year-and-a-half ago when Colbert Matsumoto spent a day guest-teaching physical science at Farrington High School.

Matsumoto, chairman of the board of Island Insurance Co., said that being inside a school he was struck by the challenges faced by educators.

His company decided to recognize outstanding performance by principals, since there are a number of teaching awards.

"A principal is in a position to make a big difference," Matsumoto said. "Leadership at that level can have a significant impact on an institution."

The insurance company's Excellence in School Leadership Award will give one public school principal a $10,000 personal award and $15,000 for his or her school. The award is being administered by the Public Schools Foundation of Hawaii.

The recipient of the inaugural award, named in honor of Island Insurance founder Masayuki Tokioka, will be announced at the annual Public Schools Foundation Dinner May 25. Nine nominees for the award were introduced yesterday at a ceremony attended by state Schools Superintendent Patricia Hamamoto and Gov. Linda Lingle. The nominees, seven from Oahu and two from Maui, "all brought different leadership qualities to the table," Matsumoto said.

It's appropriate that a business offer recognition for principals, who are the "CEOs" of their schools, Hamamoto said. "This is the kind of private-public partnership we have talked about," she said.

"It's an honor. You get to feel a little special," said Roger Kim, principal of Mililani Middle School, where he presides over 1,900 students in grades six, seven and eight.

Michael Nakano, principal of the 1,000-student Lahainaluna High School on Maui, said he was surprised to learn of his nomination for the award, but appreciative.

"It's good for principals to feel like you're having some support," Nakano said.

Nominee Joan Aluag, principal of Gus Webling Elementary in Aiea, said that if she's selected for the award that she will spend the money on fine arts and drama enrichment programs.

Principals were nominated for consideration by state Department of Education district superintendents. The final selection will be made by a panel of businessmen outside Island Insurance, Matsumoto said.

All nominees received $500 and a certificate of recognition.


Hawaii principals
make a difference

Darrel Galera

Darrel M. Galera has been principal at Moanalua High School in Honolulu since 2000, where he has continued his focus on student achievement. Moanalua has won numerous awards, including "Top Ranked Public High School" from Honolulu Magazine in May 2003. Galera pushes students to succeed in technology. The school was one of six in the nation selected to participate in "Imagine the Future," an advanced technology program for student inquiry into technology and learning.

Eileen Hirota

Eileen Y. Hirota has been principal at Ewa Beach Elementary School for 12 years.

Hirota has taken a non-traditional approach to learning and her innovative methods have resulted in steady improvement in student academic achievement. She restructured the school organization at Ewa Beach Elementary School so that students are instructed by the same teacher for two years, which allows teachers to move at a faster pace. She also requires upper grade teachers to specialize in English Language Arts or Mathematics/Science.

Gail Awakuni

Gail H. Awakuni has been principal at James Campbell High School in Ewa Beach since July 2000.

At Campbell, Awakuni created a Credit Club, which allows students to make up missed classes on Saturdays, and Twilight School, an afternoon program that provides students who have fallen off track to earn school credits. Students in the latter program also receive Boys and Girls Club job placement or internships and guidance from a Workforce Investment counselor.

Joan Aluag

Joan J. Aluag has been principal at Gustave Webling Elementary School in Aiea for 13 years.

She's known for a firm leadership role that encourages and empowers teachers to make decisions and pursue professional development. Aluag believes that as teachers expand their skills and expertise they improve their students' opportunities to achieve academically, socially and emotionally.

Kenneth Nomura

Kenneth K. Nomura has been the principal at Lihikai Elementary School in Kahului, Maui, since 2001, where his vision is "Every Day, Every Moment, Every Child."

One of Nomura's commitments to higher levels of student achievement is his Positive Action program, which focuses on building the self-esteem of every child. Students are encouraged and reinforced with the belief that they have inherent worth and the potential to reach goals and succeed in school and in life.

Michael Nakano

Michael M. Nakano has been the principal of Lahainaluna High School since 1995.

A firm believer that "it takes a village to educate a child," Nakano has initiated and maintained links with the community to allow students to develop expertise in elected areas of interest. The business partnership makes the school an integral part of the community.

The school has "Smaller Learning Communities" on campus, which allow students and teachers to spend a period together that create familiarity, trust, respect, and a common set of experiences.

Patricia Pederson

Patricia A. Pederson, principal at Waipahu High School since 1997, believes that her role as an educator is to empower her faculty and staff with the tools necessary to create students who gain an understanding of self, place and the educational skills to make wise choices and succeed in their future endeavors.

Waipahu High's Focus-on-Freshmen curriculum allows students to identify their interests and develop skills that will assist them in their lives and chosen career paths. Waipahu students also can partner with the Pacific Center for Advanced Technology Training, Honolulu Community College and technology company Cisco Systems to earn advanced standing and college credit in computing, electronic and networking technology.

Roger Kim

Roger Y.M. Kim has been principal at Mililani Middle School since 1998.

Kim's programs at the multi-track school include offerings such as the Advisory Program and the High Interest Program. The Advisory Program is a weekly curriculum developed by teachers, counselors and administrators to ensure all students are allowed personalized instruction and the opportunity to interact with an adult in a non-academic setting.

The High Interest Program allows students to participate in special programs such as Robotics, Polynesian Dance, Intramural Sports, Drama and Math Team.

Vivian Hee

Vivian S.M. Hee has been principal at Jefferson Elementary School in Honolulu for 13 years and is responsible for unifying instruction for students in the regular education, Orthopedic Unit and Shriners Hospital schools.

Hee erased the "invisible line" separating regular education and orthopedic unit buildings in order to have students work together and accept one another by mainstreaming students.


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