LIHUE — Graduation rates on Kauai are too low for Jean Odo’s liking.
The newly elected member of Hale Kipa’s board of directors is passionate about improving the lives of students in Kauai’s public schools and hopes she can make a difference.
“The reason I accepted the position is because I’ve been concerned with what has been happening with students who cannot get their diploma,” Odo told The Garden Island. “I’m going to sit down with (Complex- Area Superintendent) Bill Arakaki so that we can find out what what is happening, because these kids really need to have their diplomas.”
In 2015, Kauai High School had an on-time graduation rate of 82 percent. Waimea High’s rate was 84 percent, while Kapaa High’s rate was 93 percent.
Odo retired from the Department of Education on Kauai, where she worked as a teacher, counselor, vice principal and program director, among other positions.
Punky Pletan-Cross, the chief executive officer at Hale Kipa, said Odo checked off all the boxes during the board’s search for a new member.
“We were thinking and looking for a board member who really had a sense for the community and Jean knows the DOE really well, and knows what the educational needs of adolescents are,” Pletan-Cross said. “She brings a really nice understanding of the community, which will help us a lot.”
Pletan-Cross cited Odo’s enthusiasm as a key factor. When she was approached about the open board position, Odo was eager to help children.
“We need to get our kids back on track. I really want success for them, so I came on board,” Odo said. “This is a fabulous organization and I can’t wait to have more time to have our meetings to find out more to find out what our goal is for Kauai.”
Hale Kipa is an organization that has served the Hawaii community for 45 years, sheltering and providing services to over 30,000 youth.
“We have programs on Kauai, and one of them is a school for success program. And that program is something that we believe is having a positive impact on the population that might not otherwise continue education,” Pletan-Cross said.
Pletan-Cross said while he and the rest of the board is behind Odo on the issue of more students receiving a diploma, he also hopes struggling students can still find a way to receive a high school equivalency diploma.
“If a kid happens to be so far behind that they can’t get caught up in the DOE, then I think GEDs or vocational options all have to be on the table; otherwise, we’re not doing our job,” Platen-Cross said.
Just like Odo, Pletan- Cross is passionate about education and sees education as a key part of a child’s development. It can even be escape from a bad reality.
“My father, mother, step-mother, sister and sister’s husband all worked in public education,” Pletan-Cross said.
“The commitment to public school education is imperative in my life.”
Pletan-Cross’ father was the oldest of 11 children on a farm in western North Dakota, and was the first one to go to college.