Confidence building in Waipahu
By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Rod Ohira
WAIPAHU — A no-quit attitude keeps faculty, students and parents at 107-year-old Waipahu Elementary striving for improvement to overcome language and school experience barriers.
With English as Second Language students accounting for nearly 48 percent of its 1,062-student population, and an 88 percent low-income enrollment, Waipahu Elementary is one of 24 public schools in Hawai'i undergoing "restructuring" geared to improve test scores to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Although it's still under the benchmark, Waipahu Elementary deserves an "A" for effort.
"Our Hawai'i State Assessment scores have improved three consecutive years in overall and sub-categories, which shows you our faculty and students don't give up," principal Keith Hayashi said. "Our teachers have put their heart and soul into this."
It's not unusual to have students entering fifth grade at Waipahu Elementary attending school for the first time, so language is not the only hurdle for many.
Hayashi and his faculty have introduced several programs this year that are working well.
The "Tech Trekkers" partnership with 'Olelo community television has introduced dozens of students to film production work. Sparky Rodrigues of 'Olelo and two teachers — Michelle Okinaka-Kwong and Daryl Jean Kamaka — are supervising the program, which involves more than 24 students.
"It's helped build confidence," Hayashi said. "One of the students in the program struggles in school but his forte is art and he's doing story boarding with Tech Trekkers, which demands quick drawings and sketches. We have students who were shy, insecure and wouldn't talk at the beginning who now can't stop talking."
A second program, which Hayashi hopes to continue, involves parents who cannot read coming after school to learn.
"They want to learn to help their kids, and it helps the whole family unit," Hayashi said. "We're trying to get (the adults) to a 5-6 grade level to help them get a GED (general equivalency diploma) or CBASE (competency-based) high school diploma."
Further, Waipahu Elementary also started a three-week pilot program this year in which preschool-age children and their parents were taught literacy activities to prepare the kids for kindergarten in the 2006-07 school year.
"Next year, we'll start a bit earlier and try to run it longer," Hayashi said.
What are you most proud of? The school's new Tech Trekkers 'Olelo partnership, said sixth-grader Kimberly Narruhn, one of the on-camera reporters in the program, which videotapes television shows produced by students that are later aired on 'Olelo community television. "I've been to places (like Ko Olina Resort) and met famous people (Gov. Linda Lingle, former Miss Hawai'i Traci Toguchi and entertainer Jordan Segundo) because of Tech Trekkers," said 11-year-old Kimberly.
Best-kept secret: The annual walkathon featuring sixth-graders and "League of Extraordinary Freshmen," ninth-graders at Waipahu High. The walkathon raises money to purchase books for Waipahu Elementary's library. "We're able to make friends so when we're ninth-graders at Waipahu High, they'll be the seniors," said sixth-grader Geoffrey Espero. The walkathon in March was the third straight year for the fundraiser.
Everybody at our school knows: "Well, it's more like Carolyn Petelo knows everyone," Hayashi said. It's amazing but Petelo, who supervises the cafeteria, Junior Police Officer program and playground, can identify by name more than 1,000 students when she sees them, Hayashi said. "She's our go-to and do-everything person," Hayashi added.
Our biggest challenge: With English as a second language students accounting for nearly half of the school's enrollment, meeting the No Child Left Behind mandate "is a challenge for us," Hayashi said.
What we need: More classroom space. "We're built for 800 students and are at least two classrooms short," Hayashi said. "We have enough teachers but not classrooms." An electrical upgrade is also a need on Hayashi's short list.
What you didn't know about our principal: Hayashi is an accredited continental International Judo Federation referee who has officiated tournaments in Venezuela and Puerto Rico. He has been involved with judo for 36 years as a member of Hodokan Judo Club and officiates at high school, senior national and U.S. Open competitions.
Reach Rod Ohira at email@example.com.