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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, October 13, 2005

Students make mauka move to modern campus

By Will Hoover
Advertiser Leeward O'ahu Writer

Students are served lunch by other students at Nanaikapono Elementary School, which was established in 1933. The school has an unofficial but active alumni group, Principal Myron Brumaghim says.

DEBORAH BOOKER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Where: 89-153 Mano Ave.

Phone: 668-5800

Web address: www.nanaikapono.k12.hi.us /NESwebstie/

Principal: Myron K. Brumaghim has been with the school for 16 years.

School colors: White and hunter green

Testing: Here's how Nanaikapono Elementary pupils fared on the most recent standardized tests:

  • Stanford Achievement Test: Listed is the combined percentage of pupils scoring average and above average, compared with the national combined average of 77 percent. Third-grade reading, 65 percent; math, 77 percent. Fifth-grade reading, 58 percent; math, 74 percent.

  • Hawai'i State Assessment: Listed is the combined percentage of pupils meeting or exceeding state standards, and a comparison with the state average. Third-grade reading, 37 percent, compared with state average of 51.8 percent; math, 29 percent, compared with 28.5 percent. Fifth-grade reading, 30 percent, compared with state average of 55.6 percent; math, 7 percent, compared with 25.5 percent.

    Enrollment: 985. The capacity of the school is 1,020.

    Low-income enrollment: 85 percent

    History: The school was established in 1933.

    Special features: Nanaikapono Museum founded in the 1960s, operates on campus in affiliation with the Bishop Museum under a federal Department of Labor grant. The museum offers students hands-on experience in aspects of the Hawaiian culture such as kapa making, dance and language, in addition to its cultural value to researchers, historians and archaeologists.

    Special programs: Even Start, a family literacy program, is offered to students and their parents on a daily basis. The school is implementing an after-school enrichment program that will focus on physical and health education and 'ukulele instruction. And the school recently received a Native Hawaiian Education Act grant to assist the professional development of teachers working with students of Hawaiian ethnicity.

    Computers: Each of the school's 53 classrooms has two to three computers, and a wireless connection system allows the school computer lab to be piped into classrooms.

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    For much of its six-plus decades, Nanaikapono Elementary School rested between the mountains in Nanakuli Valley and directly beside the sea, at 89-195 Farrington Highway.

    It was originally known as Nanakuli School, but the first principal changed the name to Nanaikapono, which means "look to the way of righteousness."

    Last July, the school packed up and moved to the mountain side of the road, and a fraction of a mile toward Wai'anae, into one of the newest, most modern campuses in the state.

    The switch was necessary because the old school sat on land belonging to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, which cost the Department of Education practically $500,000 a year to lease. Now, the campus sits on state land.

    For almost two decades the school principal has been Myron Brumaghim, known as "Mr. B." by most, whose affection for the school is shared by the staff, faculty and a sizable portion of the community many of whom attended Nanaikapono Elementary in its previous incarnation by the ocean.

  • What are you most proud of? "I'm proud of the kids, first of all," said Brumaghim, who added that even though the majority of his students come from families with incomes that fall in the poverty level, they still raised, in only five days, almost $3,000 in nickels, dimes and quarters for Hurricane Katrina victims.

    "Such caring, it's just unreal," he said. "These kids continually amaze me in the way they always try to do their best. I'm also proud of the staff, which is also caring and always willing to give whatever it takes. That includes everyone who works here from the educational assistants, to the part-time teachers, the faculty and the office employees."

  • Best-kept secret: "You know what's our best-kept secret?" exclaimed Brumaghim with a laugh. "I think we're the only elementary school in the state that's got an alumni (group). It's like an unofficial alumni association for an elementary school! They have functions. It goes on all the time. It's like they do it by the class. I was just recently invited to attend the reunion of the class of 1953."

    It's a close-knit bunch that Brumaghim said stems from the fact that once Nanaikapono was one of only two schools in the whole area. Alumnus Pearl Chai agrees. She attended Nanai-kapono from 1951 through 1958 and joined the staff in the 1960s. Today, after 37 years, Chai is the school secretary.

    State Rep. Michael Kahikina, D-44th (Honokai Hale, Nanakuli, Ma'ili), another alumnus, still knows all the words of the school song, which include, "On the island's western border ... proudly stands our alma mater."

  • Everybody at our school knows: "Mrs. Ester Keiki," Brumaghim said. "She has been at Nanaikapono for, oh gosh forever. She had kids who went to this school, and she just stuck around and never left. She's 80-something. She started out as our crossing guard at the other site. She handled the Farrington Highway crosswalk, and she dressed in these real colorful clothes. And then she was the JPO (Junior Police Officer) adviser."

    Even though Keiki is no longer JPO adviser, twice a day each weekday she walks from her nearby home to the school and polices one of the school's crosswalks as a volunteer.

  • Our biggest challenge: "To meet the adequate yearly progress that's put in place by (the federal) No Child Left Behind (Act)," said Brumaghim, whose school is one of two dozen struggling facilities that operate under special state oversight. "You have to deal with it, and you have the same resources that everybody else has got."

    That's no simple task in one of the Island's most impoverished communities; you take what you have and do the best you can, he said.

  • What we need: Additional playground equipment. "You don't want to integrate upper-age elementary kids with the lower-age kids, because the older kids are bigger. So, we've got a kindergarten, first, second, and third-grade playground site, and then we've got an upper-level site. But we've only got equipment at the kindergarten site. There's nothing at first, second and third. At the upper elementary site we've got a tetherball/basketball court."

    Brumaghim said money has been allocated for the needed equipment, but so far the funds have not been released.

  • Special events: Annual ho'olaule'a. Brumaghim said moving into and getting settled at the new facility stalled plans of renewing the festival this year, but he said there's talk of establishing it again as soon as possible.

    Reach Will Hoover at whoover@honoluluadvertiser.com.