Holomua Elementary students put family at forefront
By Alice Keesing
Advertiser Education Writer
Giggles and squeals filled the air at Holomua Elementary yesterday as a group of students rolled a ball around a brightly colored parachute they held suspended between them.
"It's about cooperation," said counselor Lisa Tominaga, who heads up the Families program. If one student does not hold up his or her end of the parachute, their activities don't work.
Families is a school guidance program that brings together students across the grade levels. They form family groups that meet throughout the school year to work on activities that foster a sense of family while teaching responsibility and leadership. Students remain with the same Families teacher throughout their years at the school.
"I knew it was working when, two years ago on May Day, I saw the kindergarten kids coming off the field waving to the sixth-graders in their families," said principal Norman Pang.
Holomua is the first Hawai'i elementary school designed and built for a multi-track schedule. Multi-tracking allows schools to educate more students without building more facilities. The system divides students into four groups red, yellow, blue and green with each beginning classes at a different time of year. One group is on vacation at any given time.
Holomua recently won a national award for the way in which it worked with the community to implement the multi-track schedule.
"I am just grateful to the community and parents for their help in moving us forward toward multi-track," Pang said. "Of course there were disagreements, but we worked through them."
What are you most proud of? "Our faculty, staff and parents. The students are a given. But we have really found a way to work together for the benefit of the kids," even with the extra work that multi-track requires.
Best-kept secret: The "home lesson." Every quarter, parents are required to work with their child on a lesson, which is graded. The school uses the lesson as a way to increase parent involvement and for students to see that learning continues beyond their classroom walls.
Everybody at our school knows: The Families school-guidance program.
Our biggest challenge: "I think the biggest challenge is to implement multi-track and make it successful while still working with the faculty in achieving the (new education) standards."
What we need: "I can truthfully tell you that we don't need anything glaring right now." Holomua is one of the few Hawai'i elementary schools to have playground equipment that meets all safety standards, thanks to $87,000 raised by the PTA in the school's first year.
Projects: Construction is under way for five new "permanent" portable classrooms to deal with the school's growing enrollment. Every year, Holomua has as many as 80 students on a waiting list for geographic exceptions.
Special events: The school is planning its senior graduation for June 14. While the multi-track school has one graduation a year, staff are in the unusual situation of having to organize two of everything else including May Day and awards ceremonies so all students can attend.
At a glance
Where: 91-1561 Keaunui Drive, 'Ewa Beach.
Web address: www.holomua.k12.hi.us.
Principal: Norman Pang has been with the school since its beginning. A former social studies teacher who has been with the Department of Education since 1971, Pang had one year to plan the school before it opened in 1996.
School nickname: Voyagers.
School colors: Blue and gold.
Enrollment: 1,127 students in four tracks. Situated in the fast-growing 'Ewa area, the school is expected to have 1,300 students by 2004.
SATs: Here's how Holomua students fared on the most recent Stanford Achievement Test. Listed is the combined percentage of students scoring average and above average, compared with the national combined average of 77 percent. Third grade, reading: 90 percent; math: 93 percent. Fifth grade, reading: 85 percent; math: 91 percent.
History: Holomua was Hawai'i's first multi-track elementary school. It opened in August 1996.
Special features: This high-tech school fosters communication among parents, community and staff with telephones in each classroom. Teachers leave homework assignments on voice mail and parents can call and leave messages. The telephone also serves as a remote control for a central videocassette recorder system, which means the school only needs four VCR machines.
Special programs or classes: Among Holomua's unique programs is the student-centered conference. Instead of the traditional parent-teacher conference, students are encouraged to take responsibility for their learning by running the conference and setting goals with their parents and teachers.
Computers: The school has more than 450 computers: six in each classroom and more in the technology learning center and library. The school is wired for the Internet. Students use PCs until grade three, after which they switch to a Macintosh.