Leading A West Side Elementary

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - March 08, 2006
| Del.icio.us

Kaimiloa Elementary School is nestled in a residential section of Ewa Beach. It’s part of the Campbell School complex, meaning that after the sixth grade Kaimiloa’s students will go on to Ewa Beach’s Ilima Intermediate School and from there to Campbell High.

The school enrolls just under 700 students, more than 50 percent of whom are of Filipino ancestry. At 21 percent, Hawaiian and part-Hawaiians make up the next largest group. Children of Samoan ancestry make up 4.5 percent of the student body. No other ethnic group breaks 3 percent.

The parents of Kamiloa’s students are not wealthy; 58 percent of the children receive free or reduced-cost lunch. Neither do all of the parents speak English at home. According to Kaimiloa’s “School Status and Improvement Report,” more than 17 percent of the school’s students enter their classrooms with “limited English proficiency.”


Last week I wrote about Noelle Hasegawa and Jennifer Silva, two of Kaimiloa’s 43-member faculty. Hasegawa, Silva and their colleagues take their leadership from principal Deb Hatada and viice principal Glen Iwamoto.

Hatada and Iwamoto wrestle with sometimes peevish teachers, complaining parents and unruly children. They feel pressure from the federal No Child Left Behind legislation, the new state performance standards, and the mainstreaming of special education students. Add to that the recurrent criticism by various Island politicians of the DOE and its administrators, i.e., folks like Hatada and Iwamoto.

So why do they do it? “Take away all the crap that’s coming down,” says Hatada, “and there’s no other job we’d rather be doing. I love my job. For the most part, the other administrators I know love it as well.

“You’ve got to see the larger picture. We take our joy from the children. We see the things that happen in the classrooms. We see the kids developing. The joy’s there. The negative things are at the top.”

Hatada has always been a public school girl. She graduated from Waipahu High, received a degree in English from the University of Hawaii, and taught for 10 years in the Central District. She was teaching sixth grade in Moanalua when she was rccruited for the DOE’s administration program.

Hatada started as a vice principal at Kaimiloa, then moved out to Kapolei as a VP to help the community’s new high school. Then it was back to Kaimiloa as a principal.

At Kapolei, Hatada found Iwamoto. A graduate of Mililani High and UH, Iwamoto taught English at his alma mater before going to Kapolei as a student activities coordinator. Hatada talked him into becoming an administrator.

“I’m the front of the house,” says Iwamoto, “the assistant manager. If a teacher calls in sick, I have to find a substitute. I stop fights, deal with kids who’ve thrown up in class. I’ve chased kids across campus, buried dead rats, chased roosters across the yard. It’s always interesting. I don’t think I’d be happy doing anything else.”

When asked if he wouldn’t like a school of his own, Iwamoto hesitates. “He wants a “personal life,” says Hatada. “He knows I don’t have one.” Iwamoto admits “I want things to settle down some. All the things principals have to do now. A lot of VPs are not jumping into principal positions. They spend their whole careers as VPs.”


The duo recognize the new burdens on the schools. Says Hatada: “Educational reform has caused a lot of problems - chaos in some instances. The concept of performance objectives is good, but it’s hard to carry out.

“And there are the demands that the schools do everything - not just educate, but raise the child. That’s how it is now, and there’s no turning back. Concern for the whole child, the whole family, is something I hope we don’t lose in our emphasis on test scores.”

Several years ago Kaimiloa adopted a curriculum called America’s Choice. It emphasizes staff development and coaching. “Every teacher remembers their first year of teaching - alone in four walls with a classroom full of students,” says Iwamoto. “It can be terrifying. In our curriculum, coaches go into that classroom and model for new teachers.”

Despite the new burdens of budgeting and standards, Hatada still sees her most important role in “taking care of the culture of the school and socializing teachers to that culture.”

If the students and teachers I observed at Kaimiloa are any evidence, Hatada and Iwamoto are succeeding admirably.

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