2014 Year in Review


There is much work to be done, but there is much to celebrate now! Here’s a rundown of impressive achievements in 2014 by our schools, educators and keiki.

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"He wa‘a he moku, he moku he wa‘a."
The canoe is our island, the island is our canoe.

"If can, can. If no can, how can?"
— Retiring Complex Area Supt. Mary Correa, Kau-Keaau-Pahoa


What a year it has been! Hawaii finished Race to the Top as the sole winner of the federal grant to complete its work on time. In the four years since the $75 million grant was awarded, the DOE and Board of Education published its first Strategic Plan; launched a Hawaii-centric performance system that released public schools from many aspects of No Child Left Behind; advanced data collection for real-time use by teachers and educational leaders; set college and career ready standards for all students; collaborated with staff to identify and deploy aligned instructional materials; joined and contributed to a consortium to design an aligned assessment (Smarter Balanced) launching in the spring; created a robust evaluation system for teachers and principals, along with induction and mentoring programs to train and support new teachers; and directed resources to struggling schools and students through the Zones of School Innovation. (See: Milestones of Transformation.)

The grant was a catalyst for reform, and our schools and offices are meeting the challenge head-on. It has not been without headaches and heartaches, but at the core of this effort we're driven by a common goal: ALL students deserve an education that prepares them for college, career and community. Mahalo nui loa to our teachers, leaders and staff for their support of Hawaii’s students and their families.

Moving forward, we're working with the state Legislature and our partners to fortify supports to sustain these important initiatives. Our budget request for the next fiscal biennium calls for strategic investments, including scaling our 1:1 technology strategy for schools, alongside basic operations requests for per-pupil funding, transportation, food service and more.

When parents and the community join the effort to advance public education, we move forward faster. Thank you to our school communities and partners for your continued commitment and support.

There is much work to be done, but there is much to celebrate now! Here’s a rundown of impressive achievements in 2014 by our schools, educators and keiki. My best wishes to all for healthy, happy new year!

Kathryn Matayoshi


Aiea High School teacher Christian (Ian) Simoy is one of 13 educators nationally selected for the prestigious 2014 Class of National Teacher Fellows by the Hope Street Group. The competitive fellowship program equips ambitious educators with the tools they need to positively influence the teaching profession on local, state and national levels.

Maui High School captured its fourth consecutive Hawaii Regional Science Bowl championship. It marks the sixth championship for science teacher Ed Ginoza’s Sabers since 2002. The 2014 team members include seniors Bryson Galapon (captain) and Riley Camp; juniors Joyce Cebricos, Christopher Kim and Thomas Sturm. The team represented Hawaii in the National Science Bowl competition in Bethesda, Md.


In February, Kalaheo High School became the fifth high school in Hawaii to launch the National Math & Science Initiative (NMSI). The program aims to boost college- and career-readiness by encouraging more students to enroll in Advanced Placement (AP) classes or take AP exams. The program supports exceptional math and science education in high schools on or near U.S. military bases throughout the country. Campbell, Leilehua, Mililani and Radford have been participating with NMSI and in the 2012-13 school year, these schools showed a 65 percent combined increase in the number of students taking math, science and English AP exams.

The 9th Annual AP Report to the Nation​ showed Hawaii’s public school students made across-the-board gains in the number of students taking AP exams, total exams taken, and scores (of 3 or higher) that qualify students for college credit – in line with a national trend.

  • Over the last five years, DOE schools have seen a 48 percent increase in Advanced Placement (AP) exams taken and a 35 percent increase in the number of students scoring 3 or above. Mililani High School led the state with students scoring 3 or above on 389 exams last year.
  • Other high schools enrolling large numbers of students in AP courses and posting high scores include Campbell, Moanalua, Roosevelt and McKinley high schools.
  • Another encouraging sign: AP participation and success growth for Hawaii’s low-income students. In 2012, 756 low-income students graduated having taken an AP exam, up from 553 the year before, while the number of students scoring 3 or higher jumped to 249 from 195 during the same period.


Kalakaua Middle science teacher Michelle Kay is surprised by the Milken Family Foundation and the Department of Education as Hawaii’s recipient of the prestigious Milken Educator Award. The national award recognizes outstanding excellence in education and includes a $25,000 cash prize. As Hawaii’s winner, Kay joins only 40 other outstanding secondary educators across the country who received this award in 2014.

Kailua Intermediate teacher science teacher Ryan Kagami is named National Milken Educators of Hawaii’s “Teacher of Promise.”​ The award annually recognizes a teacher who demonstrates excellence in the field and the highest qualities of a professional educator during the first four semesters in the classroom. Established in 2007, the award alternates annually between elementary and secondary teachers and comes with a $1,000 monetary prize.

Washington Middle School continues to dominate this competition locally, taking its fourth consecutive state Hawaii MATHCOUNTS title this past March. Under the guidance of math teacher Sung Park, Washington Middle placed three (out of four) students on the Hawaii State Team that represented Hawaii nationally in May. The 2014 Hawaii MATHCOUNTS championship team results:

  1. Washington Middle School
  2. Seabury
  3. Punahou School
  4. Iolani School
  5. Kawananakoa Middle School
  6. Waiakea Middle School
  7. Wahiawa Middle School
  8. Mililani Middle School

In what was the first visit by a U.S. Secretary of Education to Hawaii in nearly 20 years, Secretary Arne Duncan toured two schools and touted the Hawaii’s progress with the Race to the Top (RTTT) federal education reform grant. Secretary Duncan stated, “The only way you get better is to challenge the status quo. The only way to accelerate the rate of change is to do something different. The progress has been extraordinary. Hawaii by any objective measure – is one of the fastest improving states in the nation – top five states, that’s top 10 percent in the nation.”

The DOE announces a partnership with OpTerra Energy Services to install sustainable energy generation equipment in all Hawaii public schools. The program, called Ka Hei, positions the DOE among the state’s foremost environmental stewards while expanding real-world educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math.


For the first time ever, three public school students were among six Hawaii semifinalists for the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program. They represent 565 of the nation’s most outstanding seniors. Our semifinalists all served as valedictorians for their respective schools this year:

  • Nicole Fernandez, Radford High – University of California-Davis
  • Trent Hori, Maui High – United States Naval Academy
  • Viola Mocz, Mililani High – Princeton University

In late April, the U.S. Department of Education released its report on high school graduation rates across the country for 2012. For the first time ever, the national rate hit 80 percent; and Hawaii beat the national average with 81 percent.

Mililani High, the top civics education team in the state, heads to Washington, D.C. for the “We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution” 2014 national finals. The program was developed by the Center for Civic Education to teach young people about the history and principles of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Each member of the Mililani Advanced Placement Government and Politics class became an expert witness in one area of American constitutionalism, and testified as part of a unit before a panel of judges acting as U.S. Congressional representatives.

Duwayne Abe, a 20-year veteran administrator with the Hawaii State Department of Education, was named Hawaii’s National Distinguished Principal by the Hawaii Elementary and Middle School Administrators Association (HEMSAA). Abe has been principal at Salt Lake Elementary School since 2002.

Kalani High School is named the top school in Hawaii by U.S. News & World Report​. Other Hawaii schools making the list included President William McKinley High, King Kekaulike on Maui and Waialua High & Intermediate.


Waipahu High’s Keith Hayashi and Mililani Middle’s Elynne Chung are named Hawaii’s 2015 Principals of the Year​ by the Hawaii Association of Secondary School Administrators (HASSA). The national program recognizes outstanding secondary school leaders who have succeeded in providing high-quality learning opportunities for students and exemplary contributions to their profession. Winners are selected based on excellence in the areas of professional growth, collaborative leadership, advancements in curriculum, instruction and assessment, and personalization of learning. Also honored by the organization was Kaneohe Elementary’s Jacque Shaner who was named Hawaii’s Elementary School Assistant Principal of the Year.

A report by Hawaii P-20 Partnerships for Education indicates improvements by public school students at every step of the college-readiness pipeline. Among the highlights:

  • The percentage of students enrolled in dual credit courses (earning college credit while in high school) increased by 7.7 points to 723 students from 671 students.
  • The percentage of students enrolled in a University of Hawaii campus in college-level math rose to 26.7 percent from 24 percent, while the percentage of students requiring remedial math classes dropped to 32 percent from 36 percent.
  • The college enrollment rate remained steady at 54 percent. Enrollment in four-year post-secondary institutions increased by two percentage points over two-year institutions. The report now also accounts for college enrollment numbers at Hawaii Pacific University, in addition to the University of Hawaii.
  • The top five college enrollment rates by high schools were Kalani (78 percent), Mililani (71 percent), Roosevelt (70 percent), Moanalua (68 percent) and Kalaheo (65 percent).
  • Hawaii’s class of 2013 graduates attended college in every state in the nation and the District of Columbia, with the exception of South Dakota and Vermont.


Seventeen DOE educators are chosen for the inaugural cohort of the Hope Street Group’s Hawaii State Fellows Teacher program. Established through a partnership with the HSTA, the group is designed to bring teacher voices to implementation of the Hawaii Common Core.

The first ever Deputy Superintendent’s Principal Roundtable is formed and comprised of twenty-six individuals, including the Hawaii Government Employees Association Unit 6 Board of Directors, and 14 additional sitting principals.

In keeping with its commitment to reduce burden on teachers and administrators, the Department announces several major changes to the Educator Effectiveness System​ (EES), to take effect in the 2015-16 school year. The changes are designed to simplify the EES, streamline its components and differentiate the approach for teachers based on need.


The Department receives an extension for its ESEA flexibility waiver. The waiver includes the Strive HI Performance System, which replaces the No Child Left Behind Adequate Yearly Progress system, and its other obligations around college and career readiness and teacher and principal evaluations.


The DOE announces that chronic absenteeism plummets in the 2013-14 academic year. Chronic absenteeism, a strong predictor of academic success, is defined as being absent 15 days or more in a given school year, and is a component of the DOE's school performance system, Strive HI.


The Department hands out its annual awards recognizing exemplary employees. Monica DeCosta of Kahaluu Elementary School is named the 2014 DOE Employee of the Year. DeCosta is 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. Additional employee recognitions go to Thomas Rodrigues, food services manager at Aiea High, who wins the inaugural Manager of the Year award; and Washington Middle School’s AVID Team is named Team of the Year for its innovative efforts in preparing students for success.

Doreen Higa celebrates 25 years as principal of Momilani Elementary School. She is the longest serving elementary principal at a single school in the state.

Three elementary schools are named National Blue Ribbon Schools: Ernest Bowen deSilva, Haleiwa and Red Hill. The schools are among the 337 schools recognized by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in Washington, D.C.

A record 492 public high school students from across Hawaii earn Advanced Placement Scholar Awards for exceptional achievement in rigorous college-level courses, according to the College Board. Students who succeed on AP exams may earn college credit, advanced placement, or both. About 20 percent of the 2.1 million students worldwide who took AP exams performed at a sufficiently high level to also earn an AP Scholar Award, which ranges from several levels of achievement.


Fifteen schools earn $230,000 for high achievement. The 15 elementary schools demonstrated significant success or improvements in the 2013-14 school year, and reached “Recognition” status in the Department’s Strive HI Performance System, meaning their performance placed them among the top five percent of schools in the state.

DOE Employee of the Year Monica DeCosta is named the State of Hawaii’s top employee at a recognition ceremony at the State Capitol. She becomes the second DOE employee named as the State’s best in consecutive years.

Kaimuki Middle School Principal Frank Fernandes​​ is one of five educators appointed to the National Assessment Governing Board by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. He becomes the first principal from Hawaii to serve on the board, which will help set policy for the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), also known as The Nation’s Report Card.

Keonepoko Elementary closes indefinitely and about 1,700 students are relocated to different schools within the Kau-Keaau-Pahoa Complex as the June 27 Kilauea lava flow makes its way toward Pahoa. The DOE successfully builds a new school, Keoenepoko North, in record time on the campus of Keaau High School, to accommodate some of the relocated students.


Catherine Caine becomes the second consecutive teacher from Waikiki Elementary School chosen as the State Teacher of the Year​. Caine is a national board certified educator who challenges students to address real-life issues through hands-on lessons. In 2013, science teacher Matthew Lawrence won the honor. The honor is presented annually to a classroom teacher selected from more than 17,000 DOE educators.


Forty-six Department teachers are among 59 Hawaii teachers to receive National Board Certification this year from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). Board certification is considered the highest mark of accomplishment in the profession. It includes a rigorous, performance-based, peer-review process similar to Board certification in fields such as medicine.

Following an invitation from Hawaii County Civil Defense, public school students in the Kau-Keaau-Pahoa Complex Area become the first to view a stalled part of the Kilauea lava flow​ at the closed Pahoa Transfer Station and Apa‘a Street. The June 27 flow forced many of the students within the complex to change schools.

Contact Information

Communications and Community Affairs Office

Phone: 808-586-3232

Email: doe_info@hawaiidoe.org

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