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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 6, 2006

Aliamanu engages kids of military families

By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser Staff Writer

Band teacher Leon Burton leads a music class at Aliamanu Middle School. The school's highly transient student body, mostly consisting of children from military households, presents both special challenges and special opportunities, teachers say.

DEBORAH BOOKER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Where: 3271 Salt Lake Blvd.

Phone: 421-4100

Principal: Robert Eggleston, one year

School nickname: Mighty Panthers

School colors: Royal blue and white

History: School was established in 1958, on 15 acres of land formerly owned by the Navy. In Hawaiian, "Aliamanu" means "the resting place of the birds." It is set in a geographical depression which at one time may have been the crater of an active volcano.

Testing: Here's how Aliamanu Middle 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. Eighth-grade reading, 81 percent; math, 80 percent.

• Hawai'i State Assessment: Listed is the combined percentage of students meeting or exceeding state standards, and a comparison with the state average. Eighth-grade reading, 47 percent, compared with state average of 38.2 percent; math, 25 percent, compared with 20.5 percent.

Computers: Two labs installed by the Joint Ventures Education Forum, a partnership between the military and the state Department of Education; creating a third lab for next year. Students have access to computers in the library and most classrooms, about 200 computers in all.

Enrollment: 900, at capacity

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With more than three-quarters of the students children of military families, Aliamanu Middle School makes an extra effort to try to make the kids feel a part of the community.

Last year, 250 of the 900 enrolled students came and left after the school year started, Principal Robert Eggleston said.

But with a strong, science, media and music program, the school is able to work to keep the kids engaged in learning. With just seventh- and eighth-graders on campus, the school can spread out on its 15 acres, he said.

"We have a transition center, and the (new) kids are given an orientation, testing and the parents can get information on the community and given resources. It's a big help. The student council shows the students around the campus," Eggleston said.

What would make the middle school experience soar, Eggleston said, is if the school had buses that could take students to afterschool activities. That way, fewer students would go home to an empty house.

"Organized activities are a good thing for middle school students," he said. "We want to work with the kids to keep them out of trouble. I'd rather keep them involved in structured activities after school."

  • What are you most proud of? "We strive to meet the needs of the military families," Eggleston said. "We established a transition center to support families as they enter and leave Hawai'i."

  • Best-kept secret: "Our fantastic science program, band and music programs, and our media program."

  • Everybody at our school knows: "Mr. Mike in the library. He's always there when you need him," Eggleston said.

  • Our biggest challenge: "Providing a high-quality level of support for our highly transient population."

  • What we need: "Besides more money, resources for more after-school activities and the transportation support for our students so they can fully participate."

  • Special events: Next week, "Grease," a drama production. The school will sponsor a track meet April 15 at Moanalua High School, where seven middle schools will participate.

    Reach Suzanne Roig at sroig@honoluluadvertiser.com.