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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, August 15, 2006

It's no middle of the pack for her

By Beverly Creamer
Advertiser Education Writer


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Sandy Young is unpredictable. Today, for instance, she's going to don her cowgirl hat and her cowgirl outfit and line-dance across the gym at Kamehameha Middle School with the rest of the staff.

The fact that she's the principal doesn't deter her one bit.

Nor does the fact that she has just been named Hawai'i's 2006 Middle School Principal of the Year by MetLife Resources and the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

It's the honor won two years ago by Campbell High School principal Gale Awakuni, who went on to be named National High School Principal of the Year. Young will also attend the National Principals' Institute for 2006 Principals of the Year in Washington, D.C., in October, where the new national honorees will be named.

Awakuni nominated Young. They've been informal mentors for each other and have cried on each other's shoulders, says Young, and tried each other's methods at their own schools. They became principals the same year, 2000. "We think very much alike as far as what we want for our schools," says Young.

The choice of Young comes as a result of her collaborative methods, which include bringing parents, students, teachers, administrators and staff into decision-making on her campus.

"I have collaborative councils with my teachers, my administrative team, with parents and students, and also interactive councils where they all work together," says Young. "I feel the principal's job is too big for one person alone ... the fact that we're collaborating is the key thing that makes us successful.

"It gives all those who are involved and those who contribute a sense of participating ... and they buy into how we can improve and solve issues. Our school is governed by a philosophy called tribes, that every single person is important."

That philosophy will be abundantly clear today as Young joins with staff, teachers, custodians, and administrators in a "kumu parade" that will entertain students on their first day back in class for the new school year.

"We want our students to know we're regular people," says Young. "And the principal isn't a high mucky-muck person, just a regular person, and we all count.

"We devote the day to making the students realize they're important to us, so much so we're willing to look a little silly before them."

Reach Beverly Creamer at bcreamer@honoluluadvertiser.com.