July 2020 Ho‘oha‘aheo


Our monthly newsletter redesigned from a print product to an online publication that is mobile-friendly and highlights bright spots in an easy-to-consume format. This month's issue features summer enrichment programs, closing the gap and more stories from students, educators and alumni about what makes them #PublicSchoolProud.

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JULY 2020

Editorial Mission: Hawai‘i’s public school system plays an integral role in the Islands as the state’s largest education provider. As the Department’s primary publication, we aim to live up to the meaning of ha‘aheo — to cherish with pride — by bolstering and sustaining pride in public education and touting the successes happening across the system as we deliver on the power and promise of public education.

Editor’s Note: In an effort to continually improve our work, we are transitioning our monthly newsletter from a print product to an online publication that is mobile-friendly and highlights bright spots in an easy-to-consume format. As always, we welcome your feedback.

Summer learning engages thousands of students

» Photo credit: Keaau Elementary

At Kea‘au Elementary School on Hawai‘i Island, roughly 20% of the school’s nearly 900 students are participating in the school’s summer enrichment programs, according to Principal Janice Blaber.

Kea‘au Elementary is offering both virtual and face-to-face models for its K-5 students. The virtual model offers literacy, numeracy, project-based learning, and ‘ukulele three times a week, while the face-to-face hub meets daily and focuses on numeracy and literacy.

“Also, our virtual summer school teachers created pre-recorded content and instructional packet enrichment this summer for all of our students, whether they are participating in the summer programs or not,” Principal Blaber said.

In all, more than 15,000 students statewide are participating in summer learning opportunities as schools, educators and Department leaders continue to adapt and innovate new ways of teaching and learning amid the COVID pandemic.

Read more

#PublicSchoolProud  |  Alumni

Hawai'i public schools allow students to meet and interact with people from many different backgrounds. Going to Mililani High helped me establish a sense of pride in not only my school, but also the community I live in. Building relationships with the amazing teachers, friends, and families of my school and community makes me #PublicSchoolProud.

» Jacob Nakasone is a 2020 graduate of Mililani High School and will be interning with the Office of Strategy, Innovation and Performance this summer. He will attend Seattle University in the fall and study kinesiology and communications.

Growing up in the public school system, I’ve become really aware of different perspectives in life. I’ve been exposed to many diverse communities and people who came from different experiences. Those same people have morphed me into who I am today.

» Lauren Bongco is a recent Mililani High School graduate and will be interning with the Office of Strategy, Innovation and Performance this summer. She will be attending NYU and majoring in film and television production.

I am #PublicSchoolProud because I grew up in different schools and learned to adapt to new people with different demographics. We have to learn to get along because we all have to interact and work together as one. I am proud to have had that experience when I was growing up so that I can apply what I've learned to my future jobs and other aspects of my life.

» Emiko Tajima is a 2020 graduate of Roosevelt High School and will be interning with the Office of Strategy, Innovation and Performance this summer. She will be attending Siena College to play collegiate women's water polo.

Teacher Voice  |  Amplifying student voice the Farrington way

By Nanea Kalani

» Sean Witwer, Farrington High School

The inclusion of three students' names on Farrington High School's list of honors graduates this summer marked a significant accomplishment, not only for the students, but for teacher Sean Witwer, who spent years trying to tackle a monumental challenge.

Witwer — a 20-year HIDOE educator, with more than half those years spent in special education — set his sights on closing the achievement gap between high-needs students and their non-high-needs peers in a prominent way: Getting special education graduates recognized on the school's honor roll.

The special education math teacher sees the honors distinction as paving the way for graduates to earn scholarships and go on to post-secondary learning and good-paying jobs, referring to high-achieving students who earn a grade point average of 3.0 and higher.

"I wanted to do things differently and wanted my students to start thinking like successful students," he said. "For the first time ever, that I know of, three students who started out in special education graduated on the honor roll this year."

Read more

Student Voice  |  How the pandemic changed my life

By Sarah Lewis

» Sarah Lewis, class of 2020

As a member of the graduating class of 2020, my classmates and I were born right after 9/11 and lived through many global catastrophes like SARS in 2003, swine flu in 2009, Ebola in 2014, and mass shootings in 2017. But we weren’t quite old enough to truly understand the extent of those events.

However, now being 17 or 18 years old, we are able to see what goes on behind the scenes during a pandemic and how surreal it really is.

Because of this pandemic, we seniors are affected not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. Through these battles, I have learned many lessons about life. Although this may sound cliche, with the abrupt, perilous nature of this outbreak, I have learned to never take anything for granted and to be selfless in the wake of mass selfishness.

With COVID-19, in just a few months, the entire world has been turned upside down and we seniors were not able to experience many different milestones the seniors before us were able to be a part of — those same exact milestones we have been looking forward to throughout our high school years.

Read more

News Feed  |  #HI4PublicEd

A roundup of announcements, resources and shoutouts.

» The Department this week plans to make public its Return to Learn: School Reopening Plan. The plan includes seven sections to help guide reopening decision-making: health and safety, school design, equity and access, operations, staff capacity, family and community, and contingency planning. The information will be posted at hawaiipublicschools.org.

» New leaders will be stepping into the complex area superintendent roles to guide schools on Kauai and the Leeward Oahu Coast. Effective July 1, Paul Zina will have oversight of the Kapaa-Kauai-Waimea Complex Area as longtime CAS Bill Arakaki retires, and Sione Thompson will oversee the Nanakuli-Waianae Complex Area with the retirement of longtime CAS Ann Mahi. See announcement here.

» Most secondary students reported “consistently” participating in distance learning through online devices during the emergency COVID school closures, according to preliminary survey results released by HIDOE. See here for full results and link to dashboard.


Dr. Christina M. Kishimoto


Phyllis Unebasami
Deputy Superintendent


Heidi Armstrong
Student Support Services
Alisa Bender
Curriculum and Instructional Design
Brook Conner
Information Technology Services
Cynthia Covell
Talent Management
Brian Hallett
Fiscal Services
Rodney Luke
Strategy, Innovation and Performance
Randall Tanaka
Facilities and Operations



Nanea Kalani

Sara Miyazono
Creative Director


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