Former Koloa principal Hong now Kapa’a Elementary School’s principal

Dora Hong, the principal at Koloa School for 14 years, is the new principal at Kapa’a Elementary School.

Hong is helping to continue a tradition of stable leadership at the largest elementary school on Kaua’i. Kapa’a Elementary also has one of the largest student populations of any school in the state.

“There (are) so many positive things about Kapa’a Elementary,” she said, citing parent-teacher involvement and dedicated teachers as some of the reasons the school is so special.

Kapa’a Elementary School uses a modified calendar, and the school year began July 25. Hong said her first week of school went well. “It feels really good to be back,” she said.

Hong taught at Kapa’a Elementary in the late 70s and early 80s before becoming principal of Koloa School. She taught the first self-contained 4th-grade class at Kapa’a, in which students are taught by a single teacher all year. She also taught second and third grades.

Hong takes over the job of principal at Kapa’a about six months after the unexpected death of Cliff Bailey, who served as school principal at Kapa’a Elementary beginning in the 1989-90 school year.

“This is my way of giving back to the school,” she said in her office Wednesday.

Hong has two sons, whose successes she credits to the their education at Kapa’a Elementary. Davin, 28, owns a consulting business in Washington, D.C., and Travis, 24, is enrolled in his second year of medical school at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

Hong said she’s very excited about her new position and the school’s goals. She will oversee a much larger school at Kapa’a Elementary, which has an enrollment of about 1,000 students compared to Koloa School, which is attended by about 220 students.

Despite the fact that she will now oversee five times as many students as she did at Koloa School, Hong said that the “Schools within Kapa’a Elementary School” concept has turned the school into smaller learning communities that are very child-centered.

SWS encompasses seven different “schools,” – each with a unique name – which are programs of study tailored to the needs and different learning styles of students.

For example, the “Cosmic School” for fourth- and fifth-graders, teaches initiative, communication and problem-solving. Cosmic School teachers Katherine Kitamura, Anne Milnes, Noreen Muramaru and Mary Silva, all had good things to say about their new principal: She’s a seasoned principal, who was once a teacher. She’s open and approachable, very visible. She checked with teachers to see how they do things, and set an agenda for them.

One of Hong’s main goals is to encourage parent involvement. Kapa’a’s Parent Teacher Student Association is already installing new sets of playground equipment near the cafeteria; the “room parents” program works with the Parent-Community Networking Center; parents are invited to volunteer in the classroom to see how things work and help out teachers.

“To implement school standards, we need to focus on literacy,” Hong said.

A competency test of Hawai’i Content and Performance Standards is mandated for all students in grades 3, 5, 8 and 10. The test assesses the quality of the school system and can suggest areas for improvement. All Hawai’i students must show competence by passing the test, which is a reflection of the state’s educational system and teachers.

Hong said she and her teachers will brainstorm new ideas to stress the importance of literacy with students and parents.

Hong remembered one special activity from Koloa School that was very popular with kids and parents. A poem of sorts is created by listing descriptive words that begin with each letter of the family’s last name.

Longtime school nurse Carol Gibson said she’s looking forward to a new school year and supports her new principal.

“It looks like she knows what she’s doing. That’s the most important thing. I’m glad that she’s experienced and she wants to be here,” said special education teacher Mr. Meek.

Staff Writer Kendyce L.M. Manguchei can be reached at kmanguchei@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 252).

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