Tuesday, January 23, 2001
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Posted on: Tuesday, January 23, 2001

Kapa'a principal remembered

By Alice Keesing
Advertiser Education Writer

A banner hanging outside Kauai’s Kapaa Elementary this week bears tribute to its principal, Robert Clifton "Cliff" Bailey, who died Friday at age 50.

Robert Clifton "Cliff" Bailey was a principal who had good rapport with students.
"Aloha Mr. Bailey, we miss you and we love you," the sign reads. Inside the school office a box is filling with pieces of paper: remembrances of Bailey from students, parents and staff.

"He’s going to be sorely missed by the whole school community," said Barbara Baker, principal of Hanalei School who previously worked with Bailey.

Students are remembering a principal they loved, staff are remembering a compassionate leader and educators are remembering a man who carried a vision for Hawaii’s schools.

"He was a real pioneer in education here, a real hero," said the University of Hawaii’s Mary Anne Raywid, who specializes in school reform.

Raywid met Bailey when he became principal of Kapaa Elementary in 1989 and set about reforming the school, which was then the second-largest elementary in the state.

Under Bailey’s direction, the large, impersonal school was split into eight smaller units to foster a better social and learning environment.

"His whole focus was what was in the best interests of the students, academically, socially and emotionally," said Jill Yoshimatsu, a former vice principal at Kapaa Elementary.

Bailey began his career with the Department of Education in 1982 as a counselor and that set the tone for his often soft-hearted relationship with students, Yoshimatsu said.

At school on Friday, when staff and students learned that Bailey would not be coming back, they sang "Light a Candle," which he had told them was one of his favorites. And his students remembered him as someone they could talk to.

"I spent some time at the school on Friday and the kids were telling stories about how he helped them when they had problems with other children. He helped them to sort it out and become friends," Baker said.

She also remembered Bailey’s "rascal" side and how he motivated students for a campus clean-up by promising to dance the hula if they did a good job. The campus was cleaned — and Bailey donned a grass skirt, lei and coconut bra and danced barefoot for the whole school.

"That was Mr. Bailey," Baker said. "Anything to make the kids’ day."

When he was not serving on education committees and boards or campaigning for change in Hawaii’s schools, Bailey found time for one of his early passions — sports.

A Punahou graduate, Bailey competed in football, basketball and baseball. He was twice the batting champion for the Interscholastic League of Honolulu and attended Willamette University on a basketball scholarship.

"If there was any kind of basketball game the faculty was involved in, he was there," Yoshimatsu said. Bailey also coached sports at Kapaa.

Services will be held at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at All Saints Episcopal Church in Kapaa. A service also will be held on Oahu at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Punahou School Chapel. No flowers. Aloha attire.

Bailey is survived by his wife Fahy; son Kaulana; mother, Amelia; sister, Beryl Blaich; brothers, James, Speed and John; and two generations of Kapaa students.

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