KOLOA — The screams and squeals heard yesterday from Koloa School students were the sounds of joy and happiness.
Miss Hawai‘i 2006 Pilialoha Gaison made her way through the throngs of students who flocked around her, many wanting hugs, and others who just wanted to be close to the reigning beauty queen who showed up during the lunch recess.
Debbie Lindsey, the Koloa School principal, said Gaison’s appearance coincided with lunch and six of the school’s students enjoyed the meal with her as part of the school’s incentive program for the recent Hawai‘i State Assessment testing that took place in April.
Last year, the school missed its required level by just 2 percent, said Leila Kobayashi, the testing coordinator for the school.
“That comes down to just one student answering half of a question correctly,” Kobayashi said. “We were so close. We were so sad.”
That prompted Lindsey and Kobayashi to work on this year’s HSA testing, a project that has been ongoing since school started.
Lindsey said she felt that with some additional motivation, Koloa School students would bring a positive “I can do this” attitude to their efforts.
“Last year, as we walked through the students, we could see students who left blank spaces to questions,” Kobaya-shi said.
This year, the response from the students pleased the school leaders as Kobayashi noted there were only four students absent from the 79 students involved in the testing.
Those students hail from the third, fourth and fifth grades in the school that touts a total
student population of 188 students.
“The students demonstrated more thought in answering the questions, and the effort they put out was good,” Lindsey said. “We wanted them to know that testing was ‘a piece of cake.’”
A post-testing assembly was where Kobayashi utilized experience gained while teaching on O‘ahu.
“At the schools there, we would have mini-assemblies. We thought we would do a big assembly here,” Kobayashi said.
During that program, the six students who were to lunch with Gaison were announced along with other students who earned prizes.
“Basically, every student was presented something ranging from school supplies, small backpacks and toys,” Kobaya-shi said. “But there were other students who were awarded ‘big’ prizes.”
Those prizes included items such as bicycles, boogie boards, electronic games, a skateboard, a backpack containing gift cards for school supplies, surf lessons, a kayak adventure, a gift certificate from Honolua, and the Miss Hawai‘i lunch date.
Lindsey said the prizes came from various community sponsors and in some cases, the teachers and staff combined resources to get prizes.
Jheffrae Balboa, Hiilei Dela Cruz, Aleigha Scovel, Clint Matias and Barry Furtado were the envy of the lunching Koloa students as they dined with Miss Hawai‘i.
“I was at the assembly,” said Michelle Swartman, assistant project manager for Maryl, the company that coordinated the visit of Miss Hawai‘i. “The students were feeling really good about everything, and you could tell the lesson they walked away with was beyond just testing.”
One campus monitor threw her hands up in frustration by the students’ reactions to the celebrity on campus.
“Miss Hawai‘i comes to visit and they forget where they gotta be,” she said, resigned to letting the students have some time with Gaison, who at times, appeared to be overwhelmed by the students’ reactions.
Kobayashi said the preliminary results from the HSA testing will be available in July which leaves some time for the school to appeal the results before the final results are released.
“Last year, so many students left blank answers to questions. This year, a lot more students answered a lot more questions,” Kobayashi said.
For Lindsey and the Koloa School staff, hopefully, that is the 2 percent difference.
• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or firstname.lastname@example.org.