Safe and nurturing education

Jimmy Johnson, the school board president of Kauai Christian

 Academy, believes firmly in a faith-based education. He himself is a product of learning at Riverdale Baptist School in Maryland.

Johnson moved to Kauai from Coco Beach, Fla., 25 years ago and took to working for KCA when he began mowing the grass at the school. He has been married to Terrie for the past 21 years. They are parents to two children, one who attends KCA and the other who graduated from the Kilauea school and is studying at Columbia International University in South Carolina. Johnson said the school has been an immense blessing to his family.

The Garden Island: How do you believe a faith-based education differs from a public education?

Jimmy Johnson: There are numerous differences, but we like to focus on the common ground most people have: regardless of where you come from, where you live in the world, if you are rich or poor, what your religious beliefs are or aren’t, most everyone wants a safe, nurturing, decent education for their children. We farm that common ground to provide a superior, life-changing educational experience.

TGI: What impact did your schooling have on your life?

JJ: Although I did not appreciate it at the time, the biblical worldview that I was introduced to has helped me keep God, family, relationships, career, service, surfing in perspective. It is comforting to know that God is in control, and I just have to do my part. A purpose-driven life, if you will.

TGI: How has KCA made an impact on the North Shore and the children being raised there?

JJ: KCA has always been a lighthouse in the community by providing a safe, clear path to navigate the troubled waters of life in the 21st century. Kauai Christian Academy students have been positively impacted and gone on to impact others.

TGI: How are you involved in community activities?

JJ: I started out as the Youth Guy at Anahola Baptist Church, help build the Kapaa skate park, and now just focus on Kauai Christian Academy and www.CampGoodNewsKauai.org.

TGI: How has living on the North Shore enriched you and your family’s life?

JJ: Actually, we live in the Wailua Homesteads and have since we moved here. Kauai is an amazing place. I just returned from a surf trip and while coming home to the Garden Island is always special, what struck me this time is how vibrant Kauai is: the people, the lush land, the shimmering waters. Just vibrant!

TGI: How long have you been involved with the Kauai Christian Academy and why did you get involved?

JJ: God has a great sense of humor: although I tortured my private school teachers as a student, years later God surrounded me with private school teachers, principals, and administrators as my friends, to this day. 

TGI: What are some of the differences you see between public and private schools?

JJ: While there are a number of fabulous teachers in the public school system, our principal Daniel Plunkett, our teachers and our staff are the single most important aspect of Kauai Christian Academy. We have hired two new teachers for the 2014-15 school year, and are in the process of hiring several part-time elective teachers as we work toward our goal of being the best school on Kauai by 2020. Our teachers really want to be at KCA, as they do not get a taxpayer funded competitive salary, generous benefit package, or a retirement plan. Our teacher to student ratio is one teacher to 10-15 students allowing individualized learning, pacing, and nurturing.

TGI: What kind of results do you have with student testing?

JJ: On average our students rank in the very top percentiles of standardized testing. Unfortunately in Hawaii, taxpayers spend some of the most money per student and have some of the lowest scores in the nation.

TGI: How does KCA fare as far as graduation rates?

JJ:  As the only pre-K through graduating 12th grade school on Kauai’s North Shore, parents have the choice to experience a seamless education for their children all the way thru graduating 12th grade. Most every KCA graduate goes on to college and most every KCA graduate has been able to attend the college of their choosing. Sadly, in 2013 in Hawaii, 29 students dropped out of high school every school day. The 2013 Hawaii public school system dropout rate is 32.8 percent.

TGI: What do the statistics look like for KCA students after graduation?

JJ:  KCA students go on to be productive citizens improving the communities in which they live. Almost every KCA graduate goes on to college and a surprising percentage return to the Garden Island to live and serve.

TGI: Is the cost of a private education justifiable?

JJ: The unfortunate truth is that as taxpayers we are all already paying for an education for our children. We understand that, work hard to keep our costs as low as possible, and are in the median range for private school tuition in Hawaii. We feel your child is worth every penny you invest in him or her. Our open enrollment policy is such that we accept all students regardless of race, creed, color, religion or non-religion. By providing a biblical worldview we instill in our students a sense of purpose for today and a hope for the future. We don’t force-feed it, but instead we provide the alternative in a loving, respectful way that allows each student to decide what works for them. We realize that this is not for everyone and appreciate the freedom that this country allows.

TGI: What are your hopes for the future of the school?

JJ: We are on track to be the best school on Kauai by 2020. While we remain focused on a superior, life-changing education, we are also expanding in other areas to provide a wider scope of opportunities for our students. For this year we are implementing dual enrollment (where students can receive high school and college credits for the same courses) and web-based learning options. We just opened our expansive KCA Community Center with commercial kitchen to bless the community — we invite interested parties to contact us for use as an event venue. In addition the building is used as the North Shore Christian Church sanctuary, as well as school sports and events. We are hosting Rush North Shore soccer club on our campus and would like to do more of that type of blessing for the neighborhood.

 

Lisa Ann Capozzi, a features and education reporter can be reached at lcapozzi@thegardenisland.com.

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