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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, January 3, 2002

Waiau students learning how to live in harmony

By Scott Ishikawa
Advertiser Central O'ahu Writer

The philosophy at Waiau Elementary is simple: Create a peaceful, nurturing environment to prepare children for today, and not just five, 10 years down the road.

Actor Michael Cowell directs Waiau sixth-graders in a presentation before the school's fourth-graders. In addition to drama, the school offers other performing arts opportunities, such as chorus, violin and 'ukulele.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

"There is more to education than just doing well on SATs," said school counselor Dennis Nishihara.

The school has been known for encouraging students to build relationships with their peers through peaceful solutions rather then fighting. The overall direction was set in 1997 with a year-long study on the effects of war and peace. Students learned the value of freedom and interviewed war veterans in the process, Elliott said.

The next year the school received a $33,600 grant from the state's Violence Prevention Consortium to boost programs and training focused on peaceful solutions to problems at school and home.

"We really don't believe our job is to get kids ready for IBM or HPD," said school principal Judith Elliott. "Our job is to help them be successful today — making healthy choices, respecting the rights and opinions of self and others, and working independently and collaboratively. If we can instill those values, the children will be OK for tomorrow."

• What are you most proud of: The school's violence prevention philosophy.

"You can't just have one class period each day to say to everybody, 'This is how you treat other people and be nice to them,' and the rest of the day just forget about it," Nishihara said.

 •  Waiau Elementary School

Where: 98-450 Hookanike St., Pearl City

Phone: 453-6530

Web address: www.waiau.k12.hi.us

Principal: Judith Elliott (12th year at school, eighth as principal)

School nickname: Dolphins

School colors: Red and white

Enrollment: 650 students, with a campus capacity of about the same number

SATs: Here's how Waiau Elementary 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: 91 percent; math: 89 percent. Fifth grade, reading: 76 percent; math: 86 percent.

History: Opened in 1974

Computers: 138, with 102 in the classrooms

• Our biggest challenge: Not succumbing to the "quick fixes" of educational trends, Elliott said.

"One decade, the experts are saying education should be taught one way, and the next decade we should head in the opposite direction," Elliott said. "I'm not saying there aren't nuggets of wisdom in all those programs, but it's our job as education professionals to find those nuggets that work for our school."

• What we need: More money for support positions, such as an additional morning cafeteria cashier or traffic monitor.

"We have one traffic monitor directing a busy traffic situation," Elliott said. "Everyone pitches in to help, but we could use funding for an extra position."

• Projects and programs: The school provides a number of opportunities for students to express themselves through the performing arts, including chorus, drama, violin and 'ukulele classes.

Waiau is also one of several public schools participating in the Hawaiian Language Immersion Program. English instruction for immersion students begins in fifth grade.

The school will also be one of two Leeward public schools in August to operate as a "pre-plus" program site for toddlers from low-income families. The program would resemble the state's "A-Plus" after-school program.

• Special events: At the end of the school year, students traditionally take a field trip someplace based on a theme taught during the year. One excursion took the students to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl to hear speakers and war veterans.

Reach Scott Ishikawa at sishikawa@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2429.