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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, September 26, 2002

Hawai'i Kai campus shifts its teaching standards

By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser East Honolulu Writer

HAWAI'I KAI — From its aging two-story classroom buildings to its entire teaching focus, Kamiloiki Elementary School is changing.

Principal Loretta Yee chats with one of her 471 students at Kamiloiki Elementary School.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

The school is tweaking its style away from a purely fine arts focus to more well-rounded youngsters studying to be good learners, speakers and writers, said Loretta Yee, school principal.

Mission statements are being refined. Programs are being reassessed. Teaching standards are being refocused. The focus of the school had always been fine arts, but now it is moving toward positive behavior, writing, technology and then fine arts.

"These are things the teachers want to accomplish," Yee said. "Fine arts was a specialty brought into the school from the outside. We're reshaping what we look like as a school."

Established in 1971, the school is the youngest of the elementary schools in Hawai'i Kai. It was built at a time when team-teaching was the rage and the philosophy of schools without walls was in vogue. Today the challenge is to adapt these classrooms to a smaller, more intimate approach to learning.

Yee and her predecessor, Dorothy Pertz, have spent more than a decade working with legislators and the state Department of Education to get walls built to separate the double-sized classrooms, Yee said. So far only one building has been completed. Financing has been approved for the second building, but a contract hasn't been awarded yet, said Yee, who came from Mililani Waena, where she was a vice principal

"We have a lot of expertise on campus, and we will build on that," Yee said. "We want to keep reassessing our mission so it remains alive and meaningful for the students."

• What are you most proud of? The school is tied closely to the community. There are parents and retired teachers on campus all the time, helping out. "All we have to do is ask and the volunteers come," Yee said.

• Best-kept secret? Every teacher has a new iMac in his or her classroom. The computer lab is equipped with new iMacs.

• Everybody at our school knows: Mr. Larry, the custodian. "Larry Orta spends his free time in the special-education classroom helping the students. He husks coconuts for the students and fixes slippers when they break. He's been known to help parents start their cars and open locked car doors when the keys are left inside," Yee said.

• Our biggest challenge: Keeping communication open between the established teachers and the new teachers and preserving the culture of the school, the community and Hawai'i.

• What we need: Volunteers to help install new playground equipment for second- and third-graders on Oct. 5. The school also needs light fixtures, light switches, doors and whiteboards after the classroom dividing walls are in place. The school also could use a digital camera and a mixer for the new broadcast program on campus.

• Projects: Finding the money to rewire the school with individual phone lines, data ports and closed-circuit television so that the new broadcast program can be sent to all classrooms.

• Special events: Each year the school has a keiki carnival and fun run. This year the carnival is called a Rainbow of Fun; it's scheduled from 2 to 6 p.m. on Nov. 1. The event is open to the community and features rides, bazaars and games. The money raised is used to support classroom teachers. The fun run/walk, which was started to raise money for the school's playgrounds, is held in May.

• • •

At a glance

• Where: 7788 Hawai'i Kai Drive

• Phone: 397-5800

• Principal: Loretta Yee, at the school for eight months

• School nickname: None. The student council is considering creating a mascot, either a dolphin or a cougar.

• School colors: Blue and white

• Enrollment: 471, with room for 550 students

• SATs: Here's how Kamiloiki 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, 93 percent; math, 93 percent. Fifth-grade reading, 88 percent; math, 93 percent.

• History: Kamiloiki, which means "the little milo tree," opened in 1971 with more than 500 students. The symbol of Kamiloiki Elementary School is three heart-shaped leaves of the milo, which in Hawaiian legend was a sacred tree representing strength and fertility.

• Special features: The symbol of the milo tree is featured on a tiled mural on the wall outside the library that was presented by the class of 1985. A new mural installed this summer is called "Radiant Light of Kamiloiki" and was done by local artist Emiko Mizutani.

• Special programs or classes: Fine arts programs are the school's specialty. Among its special programs are a Fine Arts Festival, where the band and orchestra plays for invited guests and parents, and an Authors Tea for third-graders, in which students get the opportunity to read their works aloud. The school also uses its discretionary funds to pay for an art teacher and a speech coach who works with students after school to prepare for the annual Chevron Speech Festival.

• Computers: About 50, including 30 in the computer lab and one in each classroom.