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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, June 3, 2004

School's focus on quality pays off in student achievement

By James Gonser
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer

SALT LAKE — Moanalua High faculty and staff pride themselves on giving students lots of choices and personal attention, which have resulted in many success stories coming out of the school.

Seniors eat lunch in the seniors' lounge, a feature of the Moanalua High School cafeteria. A reputation for success results in a lottery for about 300 students who will be allowed to attend the school from outside the district each year.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

There were 13 valedictorians at graduation this year; 80 percent of the students go on to college; and nearly 800 students are involved in more than 50 different sports offered on campus.

The school has the largest Air Force JROTC program in the state, an award-winning music program that has performed nationally and internationally, and a championship cheerleading squad.

There is also a nail-bitting lottery each year to select nearly 300 students who will be allowed to attend the school from outside the district.

"When you hear we excel in something — music, math, science, whatever area of the school — it is almost a double bonus, because we don't have the trappings of a school with bucks behind it," said Geri Mehrtens, Parent Community Networking Coordinator, a part-time position that facilitates communication between parents and the school.

"We use a lot of Band-Aids, tape and heart from the staff," said Mehrtens, who is also the boys' bowling coach. "Everybody is looking toward the higher goal of the children being treated with respect, and educated to the best of what is available."

Jomel Sumira, who will be a senior and student association president next year, said she couldn't believe how quickly her high school years had flown by.

"I like the environment at our school — the teachers especially," Sumira said. "They are very dedicated. They stay late after school hours. I've become friends with my teachers and been able to talk to them about anything, even outside of school. It makes me feel really comfortable."

In renewing the school's accreditation for six years in 2000, members of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges accreditation team recognized Moanalua's professional development plan as "a model for all schools in the state," and said "the school continues to provide a high-quality educational program enabling its students to be well-prepared for life after high school."

Moanalua has more than 2,000 students on its 30-acre campus, about a quarter of them military dependents.

Tami Brock is a Navy wife whose son, Randy, just finished his freshman year.

"I think his (woodshop) teacher has really looked out for him this year," Brock said. "He is doing really well. His grades have come up, and there are a lot of different clubs, things that make the school really interesting outside of just (core classes). I think everybody made him feel welcome."

But not everyone fits in so easily, even at Moanalua. The school has an alternative education program for students who are potential dropouts.

Outreach counselor Larry Park, who heads the Comprehensive School Alienation Program, said every senior in the program last year graduated.

"They need extra help to be successful," Park said. "A lot of them have excess baggage. The programs we run help the individual students — after school, summer classes, tutoring. At times you've got to get on them, scream and yell, keep them on track to be successful."

• What are you most proud of? Efforts to provide a quality academic program, an award-winning student activities program and an outstanding and comprehensive athletics program, said principal Darrel Galera.

• Best-kept secret: For the past three years, all 130 teachers have participated in demanding professional development and teacher training activities to be at the forefront of standards-based education.

• Everybody knows: Outreach counselor Park and college-career counselor Gwen Mau. Park provides support and guidance for hundreds of students and coordinates an effective and innovative program of alternative education for high school students.

Mau is tireless in her efforts to support students for their postihigh school endeavors. Last year, Moanalua graduates received scholarship offers worth nearly $5 million.

• Our biggest challenge: Finding the resources needed to meet a multitude of needs and federal compliance requirements. The Adequate Yearly Progress requirements based on the No Child Left Behind Law are extremely challenging, as schools do not receive enough resources, Galera said.

• What we need: A new music and performing arts auditorium with classrooms, and money to repair other aging school facilities.

• Special projects: Moanalua is collaborating with Moloka'i High and Intermediate and Moanalua Middle School in a consolidated grant program. The three schools will jointly develop technology projects, professional development activities and innovative school reform activities.

• Special events: Students from the Media Communications and Technology Learning Center and the World Languages Learning Center participated in the worldwide technology conference MegaConference 2004 on May 6 with students from schools in China, Australia, Spain, Singapore and Michigan.

• • •

At a glance

• Where: 2825 Ala Ilima St., Honolulu, HI 96818

• Phone: 837-8455

• Web address: www.mohs.k12.hi.us

• Principal: Darrel Galera, four years

• School nickname: Menehunes

• School colors: Royal blue and silver

• Enrollment: With 2,000 students, the school is at capacity, but could expand if it maximizes use of every classroom, Galera said.

• Testing: Stanford Achievement Test: Listed is the combined percentage of students scoring average and above average, compared with the national combined average of 77 percent. 10th-grade reading, 76.2 percent; math, 73.7 percent.

Hawai'i Content and Performance Standards Tests: Listed is the combined percentage of students meeting or exceeding state standards, and a comparison with the state average. 10th-grade reading, 39.4 percent, compared with the state average of 34.7 percent; math, 21.2 percent, compared with the state average of 15.1 percent.

• History: The school opened in 1972 under principal James Kim.

• Special features: The comprehensive guidance program called Career and Academic Planning, where students learn college and career planning. Moanalua was recognized by the George Lucas Foundation in Fall 2003 for integrating technology into the curriculum, and its students swept regional awards in the 2004 E-Cybermission Contest for science, math and technology.

• Special programs or classes: Moanalua has the state's largest high school orchestra program (more than 160 strings), the largest Air Force JROTC program (170 cadets), the top public high school math team in 2004, a Media Communications & Technology Learning Center and a World Languages Learning Center, Galera said.

• Computers: All classrooms are connected to the Internet, and the school has about 600 networked computers.