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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 5, 2004

Academic standards linked with faith

By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Education Writer

Clarence DeLude likes to say that Jesus brought him here as principal of Our Redeemer Lutheran School, a small private school overlooking H-1 Freeway in Manoa.

Clarence DeLude, principal of Our Redeemer Lutheran School, says the school could use a gym. With only small playgrounds and a rooftop basketball court, many school activities are held off campus.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

"It sounds kind of fanatical, but I don't know any other way to describe it," he said.

The mission-driven curriculum and college-preparatory atmosphere at the school is a change for DeLude, who had a turbulent experience as a public-school administrator. DeLude was forced out as principal at Makaha Elementary School in 2000 after a bitter dispute developed within the community over his leadership style and curriculum, which focused on reading.

DeLude was vice principal at Mililani High School before coming to Our Redeemer three years ago, and he said the decision to leave public education was tough. But he has strong ties to the Lutheran church and said he relishes connecting children to Jesus.

"This is my church. This has been my church since I was a kid," said DeLude, a Hawaiian with roots on the Leeward Coast.

DeLude is still concentrating on reading as the foundation at Our Redeemer, where social, spiritual and academic standards are linked with faith. "We try to steer them toward right and wrong. We don't leave things ambiguous," he said. "It's threaded throughout."

The school also expects its 180 students in kindergarten through eighth grade to master a core-knowledge-based curriculum, an outline that specifies what all students should know about math, language arts, history, geography, science and the fine arts. Music, in the Lutheran tradition, is also a significant component, and students take weekly music classes and are encouraged to participate in the band, choir or string orchestra.

DeLude has added his own personal touches, including a Hawaiian prayer around lunchtime.

About 60 percent of the students are Christian, and 25 percent attend Our Redeemer church. DeLude said potential students are interviewed, along with their parents, and take a test to determine their academic level.

But admission is not based entirely on academics, but rather whether a student is a good fit.

"We're trying to populate heaven," said DeLude, who has brought four of his five children to the school. "There is no sign that says only grade-A students are going to heaven."

• What are you most proud of? "My teachers," he said. "They are high quality, with a great attitude. They look at every child as if they were their own."

• Best-kept secret: "We're like a family," said Joycie Tirbak, the school's secretary. "Every teacher and every staff member knows every one of our students' names. We're really tight."

• Everybody at our school knows: Tirbak.

"She's the one who puts the Band-Aids on all the boo-boos," DeLude said.

• Our biggest challenge: Finding quality teachers.

"There's a teacher shortage everywhere," he said. "We're discussing how we can retain our quality teaching staff."

• What we need: A gym, like many other small private schools.

Our Redeemer has small playgrounds and a rooftop basketball court, but many school activities are held off campus.

• Special events: The Lutheran concert in March.

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

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At a glance

• Where: Our Redeemer Lutheran School, 2428 Wilder Ave.

• Phone: 945-7765

• Principal: Clarence DeLude, three years

• School nickname: Lions

• School colors: Blue and white

• History: The school was founded in 1947 by the Our Redeemer Lutheran Church. It is linked to an adjacent church high school.

• Computers: Available in classrooms and the computer lab

• Enrollment: 180 students