Lessons in leadership

LIHUE — The individual recognition caught the headman off guard.

As Elsie H. Wilcox Elementary School Principal, Corey Nakamura oversees 85 teachers and administrators, who oversee 850 students, and each is just as important as the other when it comes to making the school go, so the personal accolade surprised him a bit.

“For me, it’s not what I’m doing, it’s about the people I work with,” said Nakamura, who was nominated for The Masayuki Tokioka Excellence in School Leadership Award, Kauai’s lone representative in the 13-person field. “My success comes from the people I work with, I can’t do this myself.”

The award was established in 2004 and is underwritten by the Island Insurance Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Island Insurance Companies. It recognizes outstanding public school principals and their efforts to provide high-quality learning opportunities for their students.

Nakamura was nominated for the award in 2013 when he was principal of Hanalei Elementary School. He just finished his first year at the helm of Wilcox, and said he wants to continue improving student progress inside classrooms.

He wants to make success systematic, as he puts it.

“Those pockets of excellence we have inside classes, we want to make those schoolwide,” said Nakamura, who was nominated for the award by Kauai Complex Area Superintendent Bill Arakaki.

Nakamura is heading to Oahu today for a ceremony to announce the award nominations, which includes two each from Maui and the island of Hawaii, and eight from Oahu.

Each finalist receives $1,000. But the winner of the state award will receive $25,000 — $10,000 personal cash award and $15,000 toward a school project designated by the principal. Two semifinalists will each receive an additional $2,000 personal cash award. The winner and semifinalists will be selected and announced at the Public Schools of Hawaii Foundation Dinner on Thursday, April 30.

Nakamura has been in the education field for 20 years. He taught, worked in administration and has been a principal for the last nine, eight of which were in Hanalei.

He said a goal for his Lihue school is to more community and parent involvement. Another goal is to continue the positive atmosphere inside the school — a perfect recipe to help foster learning.

“Teachers who feel supported in what they do, that equates to good reading scores good math scores,” he said. “This award has nothing to do my leading, this is about our whole community … I’m just a part of it.”

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