Waipahu Elementary principal named 2022 Hawai‘i National Distinguished Principal


The Hawai‘i Elementary and Middle School Administrators Association named Principal Aaron Tominaga of Waipahu Elementary as Hawai‘i’s 2022 National Distinguished Principal.

The Hawai‘i Elementary and Middle School Administrators Association (HEMSAA) named Principal Aaron Tominaga of Waipahu Elementary as the state’s 2022 National Distinguished Principal (NDP). This National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) award annually recognizes elementary and middle school principals from across the nation for their exemplary achievements. 

Colleagues surprised Tominaga with the recognition during a complex area leadership meeting today, along with his wife, Lisa, a vice principal at Kanoelani Elementary. He received a $2,000 award from sponsors at HawaiiUSA Federal Credit Union. As the selected Hawai‘i NDP, Principal Tominaga will be invited to Washington, D.C., in October, where he will be recognized for his excellence in leadership along with other national awardees.

“Principal Tominaga has been an outstanding leader at Waipahu Elementary School,” interim Superintendent Keith Hayashi said. “In all his work, he has always embraced the leadership qualities that we value in our schools — having high integrity and being able to communicate his vision and passion to his students, community, parents and stakeholders. He is a catalyst for change and always brings people together for the sake of helping the students.”

Tominaga has served as a Hawai‘i State Department of Education principal for eight years. He oversees a student body of 950 students, with nearly 50% English Language Learners and 95% eligible for free and reduced-price meals.

One of Tominaga’s greatest accomplishments as principal has been the development of a comprehensive system to track and monitor student English language arts (ELA) and math progress to help accelerate support for students. This system includes regular meetings between teachers and curriculum coaches, differentiated professional development for teachers, and the continual sharing of classroom data to track student academic progress. These strategies persisted and remained effective even through the pandemic-impacted school years with student screener data indicating a substantial reduction of “at-risk” students in both ELA and math from school year 2020-21 to 2021-22.

Tominaga attributes much of his success to the feedback and contributions of his school community. He regularly meets with his staff and teachers, and communicates regularly with families through monthly coffee hours and newsletters. He empowers the voices of all stakeholders and prioritizes their input in order to accelerate positive change. 

“The things that our school has been able to accomplish in such a short period of time is because of the people,” Tominaga said about this recognition. “If not for them, the school doesn’t operate. All of us put in the work, time and heart to do what’s best for the students and with everything going on right now, everyone really deserves to be recognized.” 

Tominaga previously served as principal at Lehua Elementary and Pearl City High. He received his bachelor’s degree in secondary science and his master’s degree in educational administration from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. 

Maunawili Elementary Principal Nathan Maeda was recognized as a NDP finalist for his excellence in leadership and will receive a $500 award from HawaiiUSA Federal Credit Union. He has served as principal at Maunawili Elementary for over four years where he has strengthened the school’s academic, behavioral and social-emotional support for students while fostering a positive school culture based on collaboration and shared leadership. 

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