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Kapa‘a High School wants to salvage image

KAPA‘A — How does a school change its public image?

That is one of three essential questions challenging key members of Kapa‘a High School and its community.

The Kapa‘a Way is a program being developed by Kapa‘a High School, which uses identified strengths to address areas of need. With an outside consultant funded jointly by the school, East Complex and Kaua‘i District, the program will serve as a model for all other schools on the island.

At a two-day retreat, key members of the school and community identified desired changes at Kapa‘a High School. These included better teacher-student interaction; Warrior pride and positive public exposure; differentiated teaching strategies; an atmosphere symbolized by “The Way of the Warriors,” which includes prompt and timely attendance for all classes.

Members who were committed to bringing about the desired changes were invited to attend a second meeting. This group, now known as the “High Council,” created three committees: public relations, hall of fame, and attendance and tardiness.

At a recent meeting, the committees developed action plans.

The public relations committee came up with a strategy to address the lack of media coverage and/or “bad press.” Members also brainstormed the names of Kapa‘a High School alumni who would be invited to come on campus to see students involved in learning activities and be seen by students who would be able to identify them as role models.

Kapa‘a High School principal Gilmore Youn used the term laxity to describe his school’s public image. “Laxity means a lack of control,” Youn explained.

He believes that the image is due to the absence of interaction with the community. “The community doesn’t know what is going on here, so although the perception (that) there is a lack of control in the school is more of a myth than reality,” he said.

Youn feels that myth is being perpetuated.

The Hall of Fame is another way to “reach out to the community to get them to be partners with us,” Youn continued.

He said the idea is not new; a number of Honolulu schools have Halls of Fame. He is especially interested in using ideas from McKinley and Moanalua High Schools’ programs. The committee is considering recognizing alumni in the areas of Arts and Communication, Sports, and Education and Public Service.

The outside consultant assisting the endeavor is Bruce Matsui, from the Claremont Graduate University’s (CGU) School of Educational Studies. He “walked the group through” a process he developed known as action mapping during the two-day retreat. Matsui also brought a team of teacher trainers from CGU to observe classrooms.

Feedback from the teacher trainers indicated that tardiness, iPods and cell phones were compromising the rigor in classroom instruction. The school is now enforcing a policy that does not allow iPods on campus and limits cell phone use to non-class times.

The committee on attendance and tardiness worked on the tardy policy, ways to teach the importance of punctuality and ideas for positive reinforcement. They also refined “The Way of the Warriors” slogan.

Members of the High Council were selected through a student survey. Students were asked to identify people they would go to for conversation, advice or help. Wayne Watanabe, former principal of Kapa‘a High School, is one such person.

Now retired, Watanabe is spending his time taking care of his grandson, coaching the Kapa‘a High School football team and helping the school. He said he is not sure why Kapa‘a High School got stuck with a negative image. He said there is always a segment of the student population that “gets lost” sometimes, a certain percentage that struggles in school. From his six-year experience teaching at-risk students, he knows they can be successful.

Watanabe also noted that Kapa‘a High School has “bright kids” and the school has scored well on the state assessments.

Watanabe said that often athletics is used as a measurement of success. At one time Waimea High School dominated sporting competitions. He thinks that may have contributed to the “troubled” image of Kapa‘a High School. He said things have changed.

Youn said they want to “(puff out) their chests” because last year their Hawai‘i assessment results were the best of the high schools on the island. He feels that it proves that Kapa‘a High School is a “worthy place to be.” “We have the potential, resources and people to become an outstanding school. That’s what this is all about,” Youn said.

At the end of the meeting, Lynn Antonio, School Administrative Services Assistant (SASA) and committee member, added, “Now we have a feeling of moving forward and (we) see what we can do to enhance the culture and climate of the school.”

The committees will continue to meet every two weeks to evaluate the progress of their action plans.

Cynthia Matsuoka, a Lihu‘e-based freelance writer, is the former principal of Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School in Puhi, and writes periodically on education issues exclusively for The Garden Island. Messages for her may be left with Paul C. Curtis, associate editor, at 245-3681, ext. 224, or


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