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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 8, 2007

In Nanakuli, scores are beginning to rival the view

By Will Hoover
Advertiser Leeward O'ahu Writer

Nohelani Martin, a 17-year-old senior, studies chemistry at Nanakuli High and Intermediate School.

GREGORY YAMAMOTO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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AT A GLANCE

Where: 89-980 Nanakuli Ave.

Phone: 668-5823

History: Established in 1967

Principal: Levi Chang, eight years at the school

Enrollment: 1,170

Low-income enrollment: 56 percent last school year

Nickname: Golden Hawks

Colors: Black and gold

Testing: Here's how Nanakuli High and Intermediate School 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: Seventh-grade reading, 53 percent; math, 68 percent. Eighth-grade reading, 44 percent; math, 50 percent. Tenth-grade reading, 39 percent; math, 51 percent.

  • Hawai'i State Assessment. Listed is the combined percentage of pupils meeting or exceeding state standards, with the state average in parentheses: Seventh-grade reading, 30 percent (44.2 percent); math, 12 percent (22.5 percent). Eighth-grade reading, 15 percent (38.6 percent); math, 10 percent (20.5 percent). Tenth-grade reading, 24 percent (42.8 percent); math, 3 percent (18.4 percent).

    Computers: NovaNET Lab, 45 computers; more than 150 computers schoolwide, including classrooms, library and teacher stations.

    Special feature: The school's "Tree of Knowledge" sculpture by artist Satoru Abe. The bronze, copper and brass artwork was dedicated a year before the school moved to its current location, where it remains in the courtyard of the administration building. The sculpture is featured in the school's annual graduation ceremonies.

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    On the edge of the Wai'anae Mountain Range and overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Nanakuli High and Intermediate School offers its students a scenic view that's second to none.

    "Second to none" also sums up the school's vision statement. And while that pinnacle has yet to be reached, the school has slowly ascended in that direction.

    According to the school's latest progress report the percentage of seniors receiving diplomas jumped from 81.2 percent in the 2004-05 school year to 94.1 percent in the 2005-06 school year. Meanwhile, the percentage of seniors earning scholarship and grant awards increased from 15 percent to 17 percent.

    The institution began in 1967 as an experiment to create the first school of its kind on the Leeward District.

    To do it, Nanaikapono Elementary & Intermediate School next to the sea, near the intersection of Nanakuli Avenue and Farrington Highway was split in half, with the elementary school remaining on the west end of the campus. On the east end, meanwhile, the seventh, eighth and ninth grades comprised the makings of Nanakuli High and Intermediate School.

    By 1972, with the graduation of its first senior class, the district's only high and intermediate school facility moved up the mountain to its present address at 89-980 Nanakuli Ave.

  • What we're most proud of: "The fact that our students are really taking academics seriously," said Levi Chang, principal. "The students almost made the adequate yearly progress 'safe harbor' (level of improvement) in math, and we did make it in language arts. It shows that we're coming along, and that we're moving in a positive direction.

    "At the same time our teaching staff has stabilized. We did hire about 12 new teachers last year, but that's way under our usual count of 20."

    Finally, Chang said, the school is especially proud that its girls soccer team made the Division II state tourney this year.

  • Best-kept secret: "It's that this is a safe environment for students to learn," said Chang. He said the school has been tarred by news reports that focus on isolated incidents of violence that happened at the facility two years ago.

    "Many times the reputation precedes the truth of the matter," Chang said. "And the truth is that this is both a safe and beautiful environment in which kids can learn."

  • Everybody at our school knows: "Margaret Bailey, our career college counselor, has been here for 42 years. Everyone knows her. Another person everybody knows is our safety manager, Ned Campbell a real hands-on guy who goes around the school talking with the kids. He's like one of the boys."

  • Our biggest challenge: "Getting our students up to proficiency," said Chang. "And we're moving that way. But the challenge is getting them there and keeping them there and going forward."

    As he has pointed out in the past, the objective is to motivate the students, staff and community to work together to achieve the school's "second to none" vision statement.

  • What we need: The biggest need, according to Chang, is to alter the local mindset to reflect the importance of academics as a means to personal progress and freedom not an easy task in a locality where an increasing number of families are facing economic hardship and even homelessness.

    "They've got survival on their mind," he said. "But we're implementing more programs to be student friendly, and improving our graduation rate as well as getting more kids into college. We're trying to prepare them for real life."

  • Projects: In July the school began its campus Construction Academy in partnership with Honolulu Community College. The purpose is to prepare students for such career opportunities as carpentry, construction or electrical work.

  • Special events: Tomorrow, NFL Pro Bowl players will speak at a special assembly at the school. Next month, the school will host its Nanakuli Annual Songfest, a Hawaiian language song contest in which students in grades 9 through 12 can compete.

    Reach Will Hoover at whoover@honoluluadvertiser.com.