DOE awards top employees, team for 2014


Kahaluu Elementary's Monica DeCosta, an administrative services assistant, earns the top Employee of the Year award. The Washington Middle School AVID Team site was named the Team of the Year, while Thomas Rodrigues, food services manager at Aiea High, wins the inaugural Manager of the Year award.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​HONOLULU -- The Hawaii State Department of Education (DOE) today presented its 2014 Employee of the Year award to Kahaluu Elementary's Monica DeCosta, whose multitude of roles as administrative services assistant have helped cut absenteeism and streamline operations schoolwide.

The Washington Middle School AVID Site Team was named the DOE Team of the Year for its innovative efforts to empower students to succeed in school and prepare for college. The DOE also honored Thomas Rodrigues, food services manager at Aiea High, with an inaugural Manager of the Year award at its Incentive and Service Awards held at the state Capitol.

"These employees have made a personal commitment to always strive for their very best, day in and day out," Deputy Superintendent Ronn Nozoe said. "Their hard work and dedication contribute to student achievement gains, while their professionalism also inspires all of us as to keep working hard to make our schools better for Hawaii’s students and their families."

At Kahaluu Elementary, DeCosta (pictured) is praised for her attention to detail, effortless grace under pressure, and timely and accurate reports of various fiscal accounts. She manages, trains and evaluates all clerical employees. But in a small school, DeCosta also is Kahaluu's secretary, health aide, registrar and student record keeper, in addition to excelling in many other critical roles.

She was recently credited with helping save a Hawaiian Studies program, while her strong relationship with parents has contributed to a significant drop in the school's chronic absenteeism, which fell to 8 percent in 2013-14 from 29 percent a year earlier.

Rodrigues’ contributions to Aiea High students extend well beyond the nearly 700 healthy and nutritious meals he serves daily. He fosters a Work Study Program that allows students to do credit recovery and earn key life skills such as responsibility, dedication and work ethic.

In addition to supporting campus functions such as award banquets, athletic events and band activities, Rodrigues (pictured at right) is always improving his service. In the 2014-15 school year, he will be implementing a computer system that will eventually allow parents to access meal account information online.

Finally, the 10-member Washington Middle School AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) Site Team has thrived in teaching some 100 seventh and eighth graders key strategies and skills needed to succeed in school and college. Washington Middle – the first and only middle school in Hawaii recognized as an AVID Demonstration School – has tripled attendance in its annual AVID parent night.

The school’s AVID team (pictured below) makes college a tangible goal for students by taking them on college visits and fairs, and bringing alumni back to campus to share their higher education experiences. The school exemplifies the AVID philosophy and welcomes educators from across the state to share how they can create a college-going culture at their schools.​

DeCosta, Rodrigues, and the Washington Middle AVID Site Team will represent the DOE next month in the annual Governor’s Award for Distinguished State Service.

Today’s event also recognized the outstanding efforts of the following DOE employees and teams:

Sustained Superior Performance Award

• Jaye Arakaki: School Administrative Services Assistant, Baldwin High, Maui District..

• Cynthia Kimoto: School Administrative Services Assistant, Iliahi Elementary, Central District.

Team Excellence Award of Merit 

 • Aiea High School Academic Review Team: Kalama Akamine, Joe Ciccarelli, Desiree Cremer, Mark Gervacio, Tracey Idica, Ken Kang, Cheryl Morita, Neal Nakamitsu, Ben Shimabuku, Denise Villaflor, Faith Washburn. 

• Makawao Elementary School Educational Assistants: Dionne Amoral, Jodi Brown, Antoinette Fernandez, Debra Hipolito, Sara Honma, Jamie Paa, Renee Tavares, Zaida Urban, Karen Vierra, Brandi Yap. 

• Office of School Facilities and Support Services Reprographics Staff: Keith Copeland, Sue Fujie, Edwin Ho, Kemamo Ho, Leslie Kawada, Myles Komatsu, Wilson Lam, Aaron Meyer, Richard Mishina, Todd Okazaki, Jason Seto, Suzanne Shigetani, Annette Shiraishi, Sandra Takami, Mari Trainor, Kathy Wen.

• Pearl City Highlands Elementary School Front Office Team: Naomi Bien, Debra Miyasato, Trisha Murakawa.

• Office of Human Resources State Induction Team: Lauren Kato, Danielle Mizuta, Kacy Sumikawa, Robyn Tanaka, Kay Zane.

• West Hawaii Teacher Induction and Mentoring Program: Sandy Cameli, Renee Caton, Patricia Robinson.

The Hawaii State Department of Education is the ninth largest U.S. school district and the only statewide educational system in the country. It is comprised of 288 schools and serves more than 185,000 students. Hawaii’s public school system was established in 1840 by King Kamehameha III. To learn more, visit

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Congratulations to all the nominees and to our top employees for 2014. Click to view our Facebook photo gallery.

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