Molokai High Hires Principal and Vice Principal

By Melissa Kelsey

After last school year closing in leadership limbo, Molokai High School has hired a new principal and vice principal, after the June 31 retirement of both former Principal Linda Puleloa and former Vice Principal Earl Nakamura.

Meet the Principal
New Acting Principal Denise Kelly has a long history of working with Molokai schools. Previously, she worked as Acting Principal of Kilohana Elementary and as a District Educational Specialist, overseeing special education at Molokai and Lanai schools. Kelly said two of her goals for Molokai High are to ensure that that the school meets standards for No Child Left Behind and to prepare students for college. Her title will change from Acting Principal to Principal after she completes the state-required Administrator Certification for Excellence (ACE) program.

Meet the Vice Principal
Born and raised on Molokai, new Vice Principal Daniel Espaniola graduated from Molokai High in 1982 and has worked there since the 1990s. He has held a variety of positions at Molokai High over the years, including social studies teacher and most recently, Student Activities Coordinator. Espaniola said he hopes to increase student literacy and help students gain the skills they need to be competitive in their career field of choice.

“From the start, I felt my commitment to the high school and the community of Molokai because I was born and raised on the island,” said Espaniola.

Puleloa and Nakamura did an excellent job handling the staff transition, according to Espaniola.

“After their contracts were over, they came to answer questions,” said Espaniola. “I would like to say thanks to them, for making it a smooth transition.”

Looking to the Future
As teachers prepare to begin classes, some shared their hopes for the coming school year. Health and physical education instructor John Van Ornum said he hopes to involve the school more in career industries, including police, firefighting, journalism and finance. Math teacher Rodney Nelson said he wants to help students gain the ability to reflect on their own work through problem solving, discussions and discovery-based learning.

“I just want all my students to learn how to think on their own,” said Nelson.

Special education math teacher Dohna Puaa reminded parents that they are their child’s number one teacher, especially because most students stay with a teacher for only one year.

“It is not just about teaching your child subject content, but manners and life skills,” said Puaa.

Kelly said schools on Molokai are more community and family driven, when compared to other places she has worked.

“There is so much the community and the parents bring to the students’ success,” said Kelly.  


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.