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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, September 9, 2006

Students want principal back

Kalani High photo gallery

By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser Staff Writer

Kalani High School students give principal Randiann Porras-Tang a big hug after a school assembly where Porras-Tang gave her farewell speech after 18 years as the school's top official. She is wrapped in a sign students made to protest her reassignment.

GREGORY YAMAMOTO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Kalani High School students yesterday waved homemade banners on Kalaniana'ole Highway, signed petitions and loudly called for the return of their principal, Randiann Porras-Tang.

Porras-Tang, who has held the school's top post for 18 years, was this week reassigned to a district-level staff position.

More than 100 students, many toting signs, spent part of the morning protesting the reassignment and waiting outside the main office, hoping Porras-Tang would come out and talk to them. Loaded down with paper and flower lei, Porras-Tang greeted students with high-fives and hugs.

Standing on the steps outside Kalani's cafeteria, Porras-Tang told the students, "We have the greatest student body. I have truly been blessed to work with you all. Everybody's so awesome. That's what makes our school so terrific."

The students cheered raucously when she said, "No matter what anyone says about Kalani High School, we're No. 1. Now get back to class and learn."

Porras-Tang has been at Kalani for two decades two years as vice principal, and the last 18 as principal.

"Ms. Porras-Tang is the personality of Kalani. She has made our school," said Claudeen Fears, a 17-year-old senior. "No one knows the school as well as she."

Jolene Cogbill, a parent of a 10th-grader and a 12th-grader, said while she never had any direct interaction with the principal, she believed Porras-Tang was behind much of what was good at the school.

"I have been very happy at Kalani," Cogbill said. "I look at the Kalani Web site daily. I'm as involved as I can be and I've never heard anything negative. This surprised me, actually."

Among other things, Porras-Tang is credited for guiding Kalani through a schoolwide renovation, encouraging a resurgence of interest in library resources and the establishment of Small Learning Communities, which are tailored for freshmen and sophomores.

Yesterday was Porras-Tang's last day at Kalani after being notified earlier this week that she would be reassigned to work with the statewide Alternative Certification Program. The program is aimed at people with college degrees who want to become certified to teach for the state Department of Education.

Schools superintendent Pat Hamamoto said Thursday night that she could not talk about her decision to reassign Porras-Tang because it was a personnel matter.

At Thursday night's Board of Education meeting, almost a dozen Kalani High teachers, students and staff members asked Hamamoto to reverse the decision to reassign Porras-Tang in the wake of opposition among some parents to the school's implementation of Small Learning Communities.

SLCs at Kalani are made up of teams of ninth- and 10th-graders who work with teachers to adjust to high school life following middle school. It's an interdisciplinary approach to learning in which groups of teachers and students work on a project from various angles.

Porras-Tang said yesterday that she was not reassigned solely because of opposition to the school's Small Learning Communities.

"There have been a few complaints from parents about the SLCs," Porras-Tang said. "Some have been real specific and others more global."

Reach Suzanne Roig at sroig@honoluluadvertiser.com.