Koloa School principal wins $25K state award

HONOLULU —  Koloa Elementary School Principal Debra Lindsey bested 10 top public school principals state-wide to win the eighth annual Masayuki Tokioka Excellence in School Leadership Award of $25,000, presented by Island Insurance Foundation Friday evening on O‘ahu.

“I’m just in shock,” Lindsey said in phone interview minutes after receiving the award. “I’m so thrilled to have such a recognition.”

Lindsey said she received her nomination for the award from William Arakaki, Kaua‘i Complex Area superintendent for the state Department of Education.

The award, named in honor of the late Masayuki Tokioka, founder of Island Insurance Company, is presented annually to a public school principal who is visionary, community-minded and has an entrepreneurial spirit, states a news release.

“Principal Lindsey exemplifies the type of leadership that can transform our public schools into model learning institutions,” foundation president Tyler Tokioka said in the release. “By recognizing outstanding principals such as Debbie, it is our hope that her accomplishments will inspire others in public education.”

Eleven candidates were nominated for the award. Each received $1,000 and a commemorative plaque,  presented to them at the recognition ceremony.

Lindsey received $15,000 for a school project of her choice and an additional $10,000 cash award for personal use.

She said he has been working on a project to provide support for Koloa School teachers. The $15,000 will be used to continue and improve a system of sustainability, which would help build collaboration among teachers and ultimately carry forward to the students.

The cash award will “definitely help support our family dreams,” Lindsey said.

Still jubilant from receiving the award, Lindsey said she was staring at a group of outstanding education professionals, and thanked Island Insurance and Tokioka for his commitment to honor education.

An educator for 31 years, Lindsey has been principal for 15 years, six of which have been at Koloa Elementary School.

“With hard work and a clear vision of what needed to be done, she was able to transform not only Koloa School, but the entire Koloa community as well,” Koloa Elementary teacher Leila Maeda-Kobayashi said in a news release. “There is no doubt that under Debbie’s leadership, not only students, but teachers, staff and the Koloa community have been positively changed and that change will impact generations to come.”

Koloa Elementary is identified as a model school by the DOE, according to the release. The school uses the sports term “coaching” as a reference to those who come off the bench to help the team. It views “coaching” students as a critical component of its instructional program and ultimately its success.

Criteria for the award were based on research done by the Center for the Study of Teaching and Policy at the University of Washington.

The Public Schools Foundation of Hawai‘i administers the awards program.

The two top runner ups, Justin Mew of Niu Valley Middle School on O‘ahu, and Janette Snelling of Kohala High School on the Big Island, each received a $2,000 cash award.

The other eight nominees are: Disa Hauge, Maili Elementary School (Waianae, O‘ahu); Lanelle Hibbs, Kailua Elementary School (Kailua, O‘ahu); Meredith Maeda, Castle High School (Kaneohe, O‘ahu); Fern Markgraf, Kahului Elementary School (Kahului, Maui); Robin Martin, Shafter Elementary School (Honolulu, O‘ahu); Marsha Nakamura, Lahaina Intermediate School (Lahaina, Maui); Ruth Silberstein, Palolo Elementary School (Honolulu, O‘ahu); Brenda Vierra-Chun, Wheeler Middle School (Wahiawa, O‘ahu).

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