Malaea Wetzel named Hawaii's 2015 National Distinguished Principal


The Haleiwa Elementary leader is named the 2015 Hawaii National Distinguished Principal. The annual award honors outstanding elementary and middle-level school leaders who ensure that children acquire a sound foundation for lifelong learning and achievement. She will be honored in the nation's capital with fellow state winners Oct. 15 and 16.

​ ​HONOLULU – After being named a National Blue Ribbon School in 2014, Haleiwa Elementary on Oahu’s North Shore has another title to tout. On April 26, 2015, Principal Malaea Wetzel was named the state’s 2015 National Distinguished Principal (NDP).

Wetzel (Central District) was among seven district nominees honored on Sunday for their excellence and leadership. The other nominees were:

  • Lorelei Aiwohi, Kalakaua Middle (Honolulu District)
  • Erik Burkman, Kalaheo El (Kauai District)
  • Shelley Ferrara, Mauka Lani El (Leeward District)
  • Deborah Nekomoto, Kapunahala El (Windward District)
  • Michael Pollock, Lihikai El (Maui District)

​Also honored was the 2015 Outstanding Vice Prinicipal — Shannon Cabanilla from Lihikai Elementary School on Maui.

Dr. John Brummel, Complex Area Superintendent for Leilehua-Mililani-Waialua, noted Haleiwa’s impressive student achievement gains under Wetzel's leadership. Wetzel, left, became principal in School Year 2009-10 when the proficiency in reading was at 77 percent and 64 in math. The following year the scores shot up to 92 percent in reading and 99 percent in math. Those high scores have been consistent over the years.

“In the four of the five years that she was principal, Haleiwa Elementary had the highest math scores in the state at an elementary school,” stated CAS Brummel. “Malaea takes a team approach in making decisions based upon data. She is very effective in using data and knowing when to give kids extra support. It’s a mark of a great leader when you know how to use the resources that you have effectively.”

In accepting the honor, Wetzel shared a deep appreciation for the work of many. “There’s no way I would be up here without my faculty, staff and family making me look good,” said Wetzel.

Wetzel is a graduate of Leilehua High School; she also taught there from 1995-2003 and served as vice principal until 2009, when she moved to Haleiwa El. She has a bachelor's degree in education with emphasis in Spanish from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and a Master's of Education Counseling from the University of Phoenix.

The National Distinguished Principals program honors outstanding elementary and middle-level administrators who ensure that America's children acquire a sound foundation for lifelong learning and achievement. The program was established in 1984 to recognize and celebrate elementary and middle-level principals who set high standards for instruction, student achievement, character, and climate for the students, families, and staffs in their learning communities.

Each year, National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) congratulates principals from across the nation in both public and private schools and schools from the United States Departments of Defense Office of Educational Activity and the United States Department of State Office of Overseas Schools for their exemplary achievements. The program is administered locally by the Hawaii Elementary and Middle School Administrators Association (HEMSAA).

The 2015 NDP national event will be held on October 15 and 16 in Washington, D.C. The two-day event includes a reception at the U.S. Department of State, opportunities to discuss issues facing education today, and a black-tie awards dinner and dance.


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