Honouliuli Middle School, the Department's newest campus, opened its doors this school year, welcoming sixth graders from the East Kapolei region. Leading the new school are Principal Todd Fujimori and Vice Principal Cherise Akimoto.
Fujimori has been with the Department for 29 years, most recently as principal of Makakilo Elementary. Fujimori, who holds a master’s in educational administration from the University of Hawai‘i, was appointed in July 2019 to be Honouliuli Middle’s principal.
Akimoto, who has been with the Department for more than 14 years, began her career as a science teacher at ‘Ilima Intermediate. She holds a bachelor's degree in biology from the UH Mānoa and a master's in secondary education and teaching certification from Chaminade University.
Principal Fujimori (left) and Vice Principal Akimoto (right).
During her summer internship with HIDOE's Communications Branch, Roosevelt High School graduate Emiko Tajima interviewed the leadership team to get to know them a little better.
Q: Tell us about what it takes to open up a brand new campus. What were the top highlights and one or two challenges?
TF: The highlight is that you’re starting with a blank slate. … If you [are] the principal of a brand new school you can create it how you want to. The challenge was the timing of everything. In getting things done, sometimes some things took longer than others. … I had to learn the system better… and how to make it work so we can get things done for our school.
CA: The biggest challenge for me was ... trying to establish the initial relationships. But on the other hand it was really good because no one knew who I was. There are so few people that have the opportunity to start up a new school and it was so exciting for me.
Q: How did you know you wanted to be a DOE administrator?
TF: I didn’t know. That wasn't my goal. When I entered the DOE I wanted to coach like my coach at ‘Iolani, working and developing students as a PE teacher. When I was asked to serve as a VP at Waipahu to help… I eventually thought “Oh, this is pretty cool.” ... I [learned that I] just like helping people. When I moved to Makakilo … I realized “Wow, I can help even more people.”
CA: For me when I was in the curriculum coordinator position ... I thought about going back into the classroom ... I wanted to help the students more. I wanted to expand my horizons. I wanted to know more about how I could reach everybody.
Q: What advice do you have for your fellow administrators?
TF: We [have] to stick together. If there is a need, ask and just jump in together. We don’t know all the answers but together we can get through this.
CA: It's important for us to keep light on our feet. Just be ready for anything and be adaptable.
Q: How would your middle school and high school teachers describe you when you were a student?
TF: I was a terrible student. I would hope they would say that Todd had a good heart. They would also say that I didn't perform to potential. But I also think they would say that I was a caring guy – rascal but caring.
CA: I was the opposite. I was good. I think mostly because we were sheltered, my brother and I. Book smart.
Q: What do you like to do outside of work? What are your hobbies?
TF: I like to surf. I like to just hang out with the family, eat [on] the patio.
CA: I don’t have any free time right now [but] when I do have free time, I love reading. I try to read at least three books a month.
Q: What is your family’s favorite movie to watch together?
TF: They like to watch romantic comedies and I find myself enjoying it too. I think I’m coming soft. I gotta yawn, blame the tears on my yawn.
CA: My husband likes to watch the motor trend station. Either that or it’s UFC.