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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, February 24, 2005

Childhood days remembered on campus

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Kaua'i Bureau

'ELE'ELE, Kaua'i — Glenda Miyazaki remembers climbing the rough cliff trail from Hanapepe Valley to her elementary school atop the bluff when she was a kid.

Community support is strong at 'Ele'ele Elementary School on Kaua'i, which has fostered a positive atmosphere on campus and created "that feeling of 'ohana." Student pride is stressed at the school.

Jan TenBruggencate • The Honolulu Advertiser

Now she's the school's principal, and the trail is paved and has a handrail.

"The kids who live in town still come up that trail. When I was going to school, I lived in Hanapepe Heights on the other side of the valley. We normally took a bus, but if we stayed late, we'd go down that trail and wait at the library for our parents to pick us up, or, if we felt energetic, we'd walk all the way home," she said.

Former 'Ele'ele School Principal Danny Hamada said the trail is well-maintained by the community, which has a long history of supporting the school.

"Whenever you had an activity, the parents and the community came out to help," Hamada said.

One of the things Miyazaki likes about 'Ele'ele School is that, despite the modern age, computers, new buildings and the rest, it still has a warm, family feeling about it.

"There are only three buildings that were here when I went to school, but they are well-maintained. It's nice to see the history is still there," she said.

The cliffside campus overlooks the valley. You can see the Hanapepe River and the Port Allen harbor, and out to the old airport and the Hawaiian salt-making ponds beyond. The salt ponds form a key part of the school's teaching. They are used to teach science, technology and Hawaiian language and culture. The school library's exterior wall carries an artistic representation of the old earth-lined ponds, rendered in copper.

What are you most proud of? "The way our students and faculty and maybe the whole community, the way they work together. We've had comments that our atmosphere generates a positive, comfortable, really nice feeling about the campus," Miyazaki said.

Best-kept secret: "That feeling of 'ohana. We stress student pride. We tell students there's a certain expectation of behavior."

Everybody at our school knows: Kupuna Janet Kahalekomo, who tells stories, explains the environment and discusses Hawaiian cultural issues with students.

Our biggest challenge: "Our biggest challenge is to continue to make gains so we can meet yearly progress for No Child Left Behind. We have been able to meet benchmarks and expectations, but the goals are higher now."

What we need: Better playground equipment.

Special events: Dr. Seuss' birthday is celebrated with the National Education Association's "Read Across America" event March 2. On May Day, students share with parents the music and other skills they've learned.

Reach Jan TenBruggencate at jant@honoluluadvertiser.com or (808) 245-3074.

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Where: 4750 Uliuli St., 'Ele'ele, Kaua'i

Phone: (808) 335-2111

Web site: www.eleele.k12.hi.us

Principal: Glenda Miyazaki, since 1999

School colors: Gold and black

School mascot: Mustangs

History: 'Ele'ele School is heir to educational centers that have existed in the community since the late 1830s. It was established at the present site, on a cliff overlooking Hanapepe, as Hanapepe School in 1912, and was renamed 'Ele'ele School in 1915. It was a K-8 school until 1977, when the seventh and eighth grades were moved to Waimea Canyon School.

Testing: Here's how 'Ele'ele School 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, 80 percent; math, 93 percent. Fifth-grade reading, 64 percent; math, 83 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. Third-grade reading, 34 percent, compared with the state average of 46.7 percent; math, 29 percent, compared with state average of 26.7 percent. Fifth-grade reading: 42 percent, compared with state average of 49.9 percent; math, 15 percent, compared with state average of 22.5 percent.

Enrollment: 490. The school has had as many as 560 students. "As far as space, we're comfortable, not overcrowded," Miyazaki said.

Computers: Two computer labs, one with Macs and one with PCs, and a traveling lab that uses Macs. Classrooms each have at least three computers.