Serving military kids — and more
By Diane S.W. Lee
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Diane S.W. Lee
Pearl Harbor Elementary School is near the Navy Exchange, Moanalua Terrace military housing and Navy-Marine Golf Course — an area serving military families.
"Most people think we have all military children, but we actually have about 50 percent military and 50 percent local residents," said the school's principal Ellamarie Savidge.
And Pearl Harbor Elementary's student body is ethnically diverse — 34 percent Filipino; 20 percent Caucasian; 8 percent African-American; 5 percent Samoan and Hispanic; and less than 2 percent Chinese, Hawaiian, Japanese and Korean, according to the school's 2005-2006 report for the state Department of Education.
"I think that regardless of your ethnic background, whether you're military or nonmilitary, I think the children all feel real comfortable and very at home at the school," Savidge said.
Many students also have parents or grandparents who are school alumni, which further bolsters the sense of a family atmosphere, she added.
What are you most proud of?: The student body's diverse population and balance between military and nonmilitary families, Savidge said.
Best-kept secret: Pearl Harbor Elementary has a strong music program, Savidge said. The school's chorus-and-'ukulele ensemble, which performs at school functions, is getting larger each year. The school band — made up of 30 students from the fifth and sixth grades — was formed two years ago and is growing too, she said.
Last April, VH1 Save the Music foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to restoring instrumental music education in public schools, awarded Pearl Harbor Elementary and three other Hawai'i public schools a total of $100,000 to buy music instruments.
"We were certainly very excited about it," Savidge said. "I think the students and parents liked the idea of having music; I think something like that is what a child is going to remember about his or her education. They're going to learn a lot in the classroom, but they remember being part of a band or a chorus."
Everybody at our school knows: Vice Principal John Erickson. Erickson said he tries to be a visible presence on campus by spending time with students during recess and getting involved in sports, board and card games. He also supervises the hallways and cafeterias.
"Mr. Erickson has done a lot with activities. During recess he has organized activities we didn't have before," Savidge said, adding that Erickson's efforts help keep students active and engaged.
Our biggest challenge: "I think one of the challenges is that we do have a transient population; we have our children leaving and coming in," Savidge said. "We'd hate to see them leave, they're here for a few years, and they get very comfortable at the school."
The school sometimes loses dozens of students during a single month due, in part, to military families relocating.
And Pearl Harbor Elementary's newcomers sometimes struggle to keep pace with their peers, especially when enrolling later in the school year.
"It's not that they haven't learned as much, but maybe they haven't learned exactly the same curriculum," Savidge said. "What they learned at their former school may not have been the same as what they were learning here."
Tutoring services offered at the school's Transition Center sometimes help incoming students adjust, Savidge said.
Complying with the No Child Left Behind law is another challenge. The school met the curriculum requirements for the 2006-2007 school year, Savidge said.
Still, she added, "There is so much emphasis on the academic part."
Savidge continued: "We believe the music and art is also very important. ... To fit it in the school curriculum too, is a challenge."
What we need: A new library to replace the school's 51-year-old library, which limits space capacity to about 30 people. The library is used for faculty meetings and "it's really difficult to even get the whole faculty in there," Savidge said.