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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, September 21, 2006

Holualoa big part of Big Isle community

By Loren Moreno
Advertiser Staff Writer

Holualoa Elementary School has achieved goals, or made "adequate yearly progress," every year since state began testing in math and reading.

Photo courtesy Holualoa Elementary School

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Where: 76-5957 Mamalahoa Highway, Holualoa, Hawai'i

Phone: (808) 322-4800

Principal: Lauren O'Leary

School nickname: Hawaiian Hawk, 'Io

School colors: Red and white

Testing: Here's how Holualoa Elementary students 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, 87 percent; math, 86 percent. Fourth-grade reading, 93 percent; math, 92 percent. Fifth-grade reading, 90 percent; math, 84 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, 67 percent, compared with state average of 50.2 percent; math, 44 percent, compared with 30 percent. Fourth-grade reading, 78 percent, compared with state average of 58.1 percent; math, 55 percent, compared with 32.5 percent. Fifth-grade reading, 64 percent, compared with state average of 43.5 percent; math, 24 percent, compared with 24 percent.

Enrollment: 450

Low-income enrollment: 35 percent

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Holualoa Elementary School and the small, close-knit Big Island community it serves have a long-shared history.

The school was built more than a century ago to serve the children of plantation workers. The community surrounded today by coffee fields with only a general store, a post office and several art galleries has rallied behind the school and helped it succeed.

"The school is a big part of the community. Parents and the art community are very involved in making sure the school is its best," said Sybil Watson, the parent community networking coordinator at the school.

The school will celebrate its 110th anniversary next year.

More than 50 parent volunteers help out in Holualoa's classrooms, with everything from reading aloud with students to math tutoring to even teaching lessons.

And because Holualoa, located on the Kona side of the Big Island, has a vibrant art community, artists frequently teach classes in painting, water colors and art appreciation, said Principal Lauren O'Leary.

The Donkey Mill Art Center, which entered into a five-year partnership with the school, conducts hour-a-week courses for children in grades one, four and five. The art center uses grants it receives to finance the program, O'Leary said.

"Because we're trying to increase the academic rigor in math and reading, sometimes it is at the expense of art and music," O'Leary said. "This partnership provides high-quality lessons," giving the school the extra art emphasis it needs, she said.

And the school continues to succeed in other academic areas. Holualoa has achieved its state goals, or made "adequate yearly progress," every year since the state began testing in math and reading more than five years ago, said O'Leary.

"We've always been in good standing. Even when we succeed, we don't let up. We really try to be honest with ourselves, become more focused and continue to be better," O'Leary said.

Holualoa has attempted to create a reading culture on campus, with every person from teachers to cafeteria workers encouraging students to "read, read, read."

"We celebrate reading here. We reward students when they've reached their goals," O'Leary said.

Classes get pizza parties for reaching collective reading goals, and students earn points that can be redeemed for prizes at the Accelerated Reader Store on campus, she said.

Each day starts off with 15 to 20 minutes of reading in the classroom. Students also are encouraged to read at home, parents are asked to help their child read, and it's not unusual to see students sitting around campus reading during recess.

"We even have kids in the cafeteria ... reading during lunch. They enjoy it. Sometimes the problem becomes, how do we get them to put their books away and focus on the other subjects," O'Leary said with a laugh.

  • What are you most proud of? "We do this as a school community. It takes every single one of us giving our best," said O'Leary.

  • Everybody at our school knows: "They know everyone. That's the strength here. We've got a school where you know everyone's name."

  • Our biggest challenge: "The size. There is only so much we can grow."

  • What we need: "It'd be nice to have the kinds of financial resources to meet our infrastructure needs electrical infrastructure, expand our library and computer lab. The weighted student formula provides only so much. ... Our Parent Teacher Organization raises money for textbooks and basic needs."

    Reach Loren Moreno at lmoreno@honoluluadvertiser.com.