Kapa‘a High Principal Tommy Cox recognized with $25,000 leadership award


Tommy Cox of Kapa‘a High School was praised for expanding access to college-level courses, career academy pathways and Career and Technical Education programs.

​Kapa‘a High School Principal Tommy Cox was named the winner of the 2024 Masayuki Tokioka Excellence in School Leadership Award at the Public Schools of Hawai‘i Foundation annual dinner Thursday evening. 

Island Insurance Foundation Chairman Tyler Tokioka said judges were impressed with Cox's commitment to ensuring Kapa‘a High students have an articulated plan after graduation, whether it's community college or trade school, post-secondary education or entering the workforce. He also noted the school's expanded dual-credit offerings under Cox's leadership to provide opportunities for students to earn college credit while satisfying high school diploma requirements. 

"Tommy is a leader not only at Kapa‘a High School but throughout the community. He's an advocate for career academies and (Career and Technical Education) work, really building connections and making learning relevant for his students," Superintendent Keith Hayashi said.

Pictured, from left: Keith Hayashi, Tommy Cox, Tyler Tokioka.

Hayashi also praised Cox's innovative solution to challenges recruiting world language teachers at his school.

"He reached out directly to Japan and brought in Japanese speakers for his students to learn not only the language, but really building in that cultural understanding. So when we're looking at 'globally competitive, locally committed' public school graduates, what better way to do that than to reach out internationally and globally?"

Cox was awarded a $25,000 prize – a $10,000 personal cash award and $15,000 toward a school project of his choice. Cox said he plans to use the school award for Kapa‘a's building and construction CTE class to turn a 20-foot container into a fully furnished, sustainable tiny home.

"This really validates the work that my teachers and my whole staff and our kids and our community have done since I've been there — this is a tribute to all of them," Cox said. "I'm not big into recognition but this does mean a lot. I'm proud of the positive culture and the strong relationships and just the true meaning of family at Kapa‘a High School, how we all work for each other and with each other and support each other."

Two semi-finalists were also recognized — Waianae Intermediate Principal John Wataoka and Waikele Elementary Principal Sheldon Oshio. Semi-finalists each received a $2,000 cash award.

Fifteen HIDOE principals total— one from each complex area — were honored as nominees for the recognition in March, and each received a $1,000 prize. 

The annual Tokioka Excellence in School Leadership Award honors the late Masayuki Tokioka, founder of Island Insurance Company, Ltd. and a proud graduate of Hawai‘i public schools. It was established in 2004 and is underwritten by the Island Insurance Foundation.

"We want to thank the Island Insurance Foundation for recognizing 15 exemplary principals with one of the premier awards in Hawai‘i that recognize excellence among our school leaders," Hayashi said.

Pictured, from left: Tyler Tokioka, John Wataoka, Tommy Cox, Sheldon Oshio, Keith Hayashi.


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