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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, April 9, 2002

State must celebrate, reward school success

Hawai'i's public school system has its share of naysayers.

While some of the criticism is justified, some of it is simply because we do not find out about all the good things happening in education day in and day out.

Waialua High School's robotics contest team is a case in point. Three years ago, Waialua came in second at a regional Mainland robotics contest. Last year and this year, teams from the small, rural school placed first. And this year, for the second year in a row, Waialua did not have the money to send these deserving students to the national competition.

The school did raise money from foundations and businesses to go to the regional competition. But it would cost them another $30,000 to go the national competition, and you can't raise that through car washes.

What do these projects teach students? Skills, academic knowledge, teamwork and leadership. But an experience like this also teaches them that too many of our students are relegated to the world of the have-nots.

Why is it so hard to gather the necessary support — both from within the school system and in the community — for school projects such as these? Would a successful sports team face the same difficulties?

Whether they take part in debate, science, the arts, mathematics or any other area, our public school students should be able to know that if they excel locally, they will also be able to compete on a bigger stage.

In the vast bureaucracy of the Department of Education, why is there not someone who can be a problem solver and find ways — both innovative or tried and true — to gather up community funding for student efforts like this?

Many private schools in Hawai'i have benefitted from generous donations from the community. Those donations are richly deserved and put to good use. But why can't public schools benefit, too?

We need to make sure that all of our students have the opportunity to excel. They need to know that doors can be opened for all.

Even if Waialua were to find an angel, it's now too late for the robotics team to go to nationals. Let's not ever again let it be too late again for Waialua or any other school.