Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, December 13, 2001

Our Schools • Farrington High School
That old school tie is a bootstrap, governor

By Jennifer Hiller
Advertiser Education Writer

Farrington High School Principal Catherine Payne can't go anywhere without bumping into one of her school's alumni.

From left, 18-year-old Tony Thong, 15-year-old Wilfred Haney, educational assistant Elizabeth Galanto and 16-year-old Maria Oandasan grind their plastic creations in the school's Metals and Jewelry class.

Cory Lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

"People who graduate from Farrington feel something special about this school forever," Payne said. "You can wear a Farrington shirt anywhere in a big city on the Mainland and odds are, someone will come up to you."

The school's alumni group recently donated 70 new computers to the school. They give college scholarships each year. And a few years ago, a group in California held a fund-raising lu'au for Farrington. The campus, with an old but lingering reputation for violence and gangs, surprises many with the aloha of its students and their commitment to community service.

Farrington is home to 2,500 students, many of whom are first- or second-generation immigrants who go on to become the first members of their families to attend college.

"The majority of our students do not speak English at home," Payne said.

That gives Farrington teachers a sometimes uphill road in teaching subjects such as English and history that require plenty of reading. But the school last year started an intensive reading program for students who have fallen behind their grade level.

"They're bright and they have the character," Payne said of the students. "They just need the academics."

But the school already excels in art, music, food, science and many vocational areas. Its large Junior ROTC program has received top honors for several years.

The school's Health Academy has been recognized as one of 10 recipients of the U.S. Department of Education Secretary's Award for Outstanding Vocational Technical Programs. Health Academy students develop close ties with area hospitals and nursing homes through volunteer projects.

At the school's Travel Industry and Tourism Academy, students work in hotels on internships, learn computer programs used by the travel industry and learn Japanese.

The art department, which includes jewelry-making classes, regularly wins national awards and recognition. And the school newspaper has been named the top student newspaper in the state three of the past six years.

Farrington was nationally recognized for its campus beautification project in the 1996 Make a Difference Day.

The school motto is "Enter to learn, go forth to serve," and Farrington students have taken the motto seriously. All of the school's student organizations are expected to participate in community service.

And the school has turned out many notable graduates who have spent a lifetime in public service, including Gov. Ben Cayetano, former Honolulu city prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro and former chief of police Michael Nakamura.

"The Seed," a bronze sculpture by artist Satoru Abe, marks the front entrance to the school on King Street. It represents life's simple beginnings and endless possibilities.

• What are you most proud of? The kids are No. 1 in Payne's book. Many have learned English as a second language. Farrington is also a Title I school, meaning that more than 50 percent of its students qualify for the free and reduced lunch program.

"The students are remarkably resilient," Payne said. "They are wonderful. I don't know if I would have been successful given the same circumstances."

• Best-kept secret? "Farrington is not what people think," Payne said. "The impression out in the world is that it's kind of a scary place. When people come here they are so amazed at how pleasant it is and how friendly the kids are."

• Everyone at school knows: Steven Ho, chief of security at Farrington. Ho is a retired police officer who is an ever-present force on campus and at special events such as proms and football games. His position has also allowed the vice principals at the school to focus more on things like curriculum and less on discipline.

"He has such aloha for the kids. They trust him," Payne said. "They trust him to follow up and they know that no harm will come to the people who share information with him."

• What we need: Repair and maintenance are the No. 1 needs. More than $12.5 million in work is needed on the campus.

• Calling all alumni: Farrington has an active alumni alumni association. Call 455-5183 if you're a graduate.

At a glance
 •  Where: 1564 N. King St., Honolulu
 •  Phone: 832-3600
 •  Principal: Catherine Payne, in her seventh year at the school
 •  School nickname: The Governors
 •  School mascot: A governor with a top hat and cane
 •  School colors: Maroon and white
 •  School motto: Enter to learn, go forth to serve
 •  History: The school first opened in September 1936 in temporary buildings across King Street from the current location. The main building, completed in 1940, was a project of the New Deal's Public Works Administration under President Roosevelt. But in 1943, the U.S. Army took over the school and turned it into a military hospital for the rest of the war. The Army left the high school with some unusual structures, including a lead wall in the health room, which used to be an X-ray room, and concrete-lined file cabinets, which were built to withstand bomb blasts and are almost impossible to move around. Also, the third floor was used as a morgue, and students swear that ghosts linger there today. "They're friendly ghosts," Payne said. "They've never bothered anybody."
 •  Named after: The late Wallace Rider Farrington, the sixth governor of the Territory of Hawai'i, who served from 1921 to 1929
 •  Enrollment: 2,500 students
 •  SATs: Here's how Farrington students fared on the most recent Stanford Achievement Test. Listed are the combined percentage of students scoring average and above average, compared with the national combined average of 77 percent. Tenth-grade reading, 60 percent; math, 64 percent.

Reach Jennifer Hiller at jhiller@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8084.