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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, October 23, 2003

Learning under transformation in Kalihi

By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Education Writer

William Roberts and Sean Howe were in their Navy dress whites when they walked into the kindergarten classroom at Lanakila Elementary School the other day. Some of the children mistakenly thought, "Cops?''

Julie Nagamine's kindergarten class at Lanakila Elementary School met their new military partners from the USS Columbus last week: From left, Chief of the Boat William Roberts and Chief Sean Howe. Pearl Harbor sailors from the attack submarine have offered to spend time at the school.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

No, Roberts explained, they serve on the USS Columbus, an attack submarine stationed at Pearl Harbor.

"Do you have bombs?" one child wondered.

"No, no bombs," Roberts, the chief of the boat, said. "We do have torpedoes."

The friendly interaction was a first for the sailors and the students.

Sailors from the Columbus have offered to spend time at the Kalihi school, and could soon turn up on campus as tutors, field-trip escorts and volunteers.

The submarine was at sea for much of the past year, and Roberts said helping out at the school will give his sailors a chance to connect with a different part of Hawai'i.

"There are really very few opportunities we have to give back to the community," he said.

Gerianne Lee, Lanakila's principal, is a former member of the Navy Reserve.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

Gerianne Lee, Lanakila's principal, is a former member of the Navy Reserve and has a son in the Navy at Pearl Harbor and a daughter in the Air National Guard in Mississippi. Lanakila's partnership with the Columbus is one aspect of a transformation under way at the school, which has had difficulty meeting state academic standards but is taking steps to improve.

With the help of a federal grant, Lanakila held a three-week summer reading camp for students who did poorly on tests in the past school year and has hired a literacy coordinator and extra teachers to stress reading. This fall, teachers were asked to sign a contract to support a daily 90-minute uninterrupted reading block, while the school has split some students who need special help into smaller groups so they can work more closely with teachers.

"The whole school is on the same page now," Lee said. "The teachers and the parents all know that they want the children to improve their reading."

• What are you most proud of? "The aloha spirit of the community to help our school," Lee said. "So many members and organizations are directly assisting us."

Volunteers from the neighborhood YMCA, known as the "Y's Men," recently repainted lines on the school's parking lot.

• Best-kept secret: "The high professionalism and dedication of the staff," the principal said.

• Everybody at our school knows: Beverly Ono, the librarian, who assists in parent literacy activities.

• Our biggest challenge: "To continue the momentum ... to address our goals of reading, writing and mathematics," Lee said.

• What we need: The school is looking for sources of money to continue programs paid for this year through a federal grant, including after-school tutoring, a summer reading camp and extra staff in the classroom to help students who are having difficulty.

• Special events: The fun run in November when students help raise money for the school.

Reach Derrick DePledge at ddepledge@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8084.

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At a glance

• Where: Lanakila Elementary School, 717 N. Kuakini St.

• Phone: 587-4466

• Principal: Gerianne Lee, first year

• School nickname: Chiefs

• School colors: Green and yellow

• History: The word "lanakila" means victory, and the school was named in honor of Kamehameha's victory at Nu'uanu. The school opened in 1925.

• Testing: Here's how Lanakila students fared on the most recent standardized tests.

• 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, 79.4 percent; math, 71.7 percent. Fifth-grade reading, 62.6 percent; math, 80 percent.

• Hawai'i Content and Performance Standards. Listed is the combined percentage of students meeting or exceeding state standards, compared with the state average: Third-grade reading, 23.1 percent, compared with the state average of 41.9 percent; math, 15.4 percent, compared with 24.1 percent. Fifth-grade reading, 23.6 percent, compared with the state average of 40.8 percent; math, 8.3 percent, compared with 19.6 percent.

• Enrollment: 296 students, with capacity for 450.

• Computers: Available in classrooms, the library and the computer lab.