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Raising the Bar

Principals evaluate their schools

Public schools around the state are sometimes the first ones to feel budget cuts. Schools on Molokai are doing the best they can with what they have.

The island’s school principals met for a talk story last week and all of them agreed that they need to focus on preparing kids for the real world and foster parental support.

Get Ready For College

Kaunakakai Elementary School Principal Janice Espiritu announced that the school would not have any combined classes next year. Espiritu is confident that the school is preparing their students for the not only for middle school, but beyond.

She wants students to utilize their General Learner Outcomes (GLOs) to achieve this, such as being effective communicators, quality producers, and effective and ethical users of technology.

“Employers can teach work skills, but you have to have positive work ethics,” Espiritu said.

Richard Stevens, Principal at Kilohana Elementary School is also hopeful that his school is preparing its students properly for the real world.

“McDonald’s can’t teach you how to keep your fingers out of the till, but they can teach you how to use the register,” he said.

Principals and parents also want to educate students on how to utilize the earth. Some students may not be looking at college for the future, said Molokai High School (MHS) Principal Stan Hao, and could take advantage of the land availability on Molokai.

“I’d like to reestablish agriculture,” he said. “If the students aren’t looking at college, they might have an opportunity here. We gain real life experiences doing that.”

Melony Parker, a parent of two in the Molokai school system, strongly believes that schools should be educating more about agriculture. She said not everybody will have a chance to go to college.

“We need to give them tools they can use to live,” Parker added.

She also thinks it is imperative that schools focus on fundamental subjects to compete with the rest of the world.
“The U.S. is falling behind in science and math. We need to raise the bar,” Parker said.

Less Money
The proper amount of funds lead to quality education, and quality education equals success. But in recent years, money flow to Molokai schools has been declining, and next year schools will see even less. However, administrators like Principal Stevens are staying hopeful.

Kilohana’s budget was around $1 million five years ago, and has decreased by about half since then.  But Stevens said they will have enough to pay teachers.

“Our small enrollment allows us to provide a teacher at each grade level, instead of creating combo classes. We are lucky enough to do that,” Stevens said.

Maunaloa Elementary School was on the verge of closing last year. Now they are doing what they can with what they have.

Maunaloa Principal Joe Yamamoto is proud that his students like going to school.
“Every year we get perfect attendance,” Yamamoto said.

Communicating Better

All principals agreed that communication with parents is an important aspect of education.
“The lack of parental support is among factors that negatively impact the success of a student,” Espiritu said.

“We know that not all parents have the skills and knowledge to help our students. A lot of parents say it’s hard to help their children.”

Espiritu said Kaunakakai Elementary provides workshops for parents to improve their abilities to help their children at home.

Parents are invited to be actively involved in the child’s life through the school’s Parent-Community Network Center (PCNC). Parents can visit the school and participate in education activities so they can be able to help students at home more effectively.

The school also sends out weekly bulletins to make sure their parents are always up-to-date on the latest information.

“We can’t do it alone. It takes a village to raise a child. We are all part of that village,” Espiritu said.
Parent Kimberly Svetin said she was satisfied with the turnout at last week’s annual gathering. Her son, Eric, is a sixth grader at Kaunakakai Elementary and will be attending Molokai Middle School (MMS) next year.

“I would encourage everybody to send their children public schools. They are a vital part of our community,” said Kim Svetin, who is also the chair for the middle school’s School Community Council (SCC).

Accreditation

MMS has also been working to earn accreditation. Parents, community members, students and principals got together in groups to discuss what they like and what they don’t like about MMS.

Parker, who has a daughter at MMS, said she is satisfied with how the school is being run and that bullying has decreased at MMS, but she would like to see her children staying busy.

“I think they should have more after-school activities at the school,” Parker said.

As all tax payers in Hawaii are a stakeholder in the education system, everyone was given an opportunity to voice their opinion for a successful education system.

“Communication with students and parents is important. Preparation for high school is also vital,” said Mark Crumpton, a member of Kaunakakai Elementary SCC.

MMS Principal Denise Kelly will present the testimony taken at the talk story to the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, which come to Molokai on April 12.

If parents of Kaunakakai Elementary School students would like to get involved in the PCNC program, contact the school at 553-1737.

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