The Laie-resident understands the communities’ parents, students, values and lifestyle. She attended Laie Elementary, and graduated from Kahuku High and Intermediate (KHIS) and Brigham Young University-Hawaii; taught at KHIS; and was the vice principal at KHIS and Kailua High. For the past 10 years, she led Kahuku Elementary as its principal. Her husband and father attended KHIS. Her eldest child attends KHIS and her two younger children attend the communities’ schools.
What does a new principal at KHIS mean for parents and students? "My plan is to support the good things that are already happening and add my voice to the solutions for things needing improvement," Masaniai said. Because of her roles ranging from teacher to administrator to parent at KHIS, "I feel I have insight to the different groups at our school and ... my experience will be an asset as I bring ideas to the table." Her first priority is academics – seeing how KHIS is doing with Hawaii Common Core and other DOE priorities. "I'll pay particular attention to what we've done to prepare students for the state assessment," she said.
She'll also focus on the senior class and its graduation rate, help with interventions for struggling students, and track how well the school is connecting students with scholarships and universities.
Students and faculty can expect to see Masaniai visiting classes, meeting with teachers, planning next steps, and assessing and monitoring programs and initiatives. She also plans to review school policies including the dress code, student IDs and lockout.
Besides having the professional experience needed to expertly lead a school, Masaniai's relationship with KHIS' kids is an asset. Her leadership style reflects her eagerness to connect. She describes her style as open, positive and enthusiastic with a willingness to try new ideas. She is collaborative and will do what it takes. Her door will be open.
As testament to her longtime familiarity with students, Masaniai will start her first day at KHIS – Mon., Dec. 23 – knowing around 500 of its students. "They came through Kahuku Elementary," she said, "and I know many more because I live in the community and have a large extended family. I am also excited about working with students and parents from all the communities in Koolauloa.” Masaniai stated that she especially looks forward to working with Kaaawa and Sunset Beach Elementary as “they are on the outskirts and may feel less connected with the center, and the center is Kahuku.”
Family is important to Masaniai and hers has shared some of the challenges that others have experienced. Her father arrived from American Samoa as a teen. He struggled to learn English. Eventually he joined the Marines, making it his career. Her mother came to Laie from Utah. A high school training program got her interested in dental-assistant work. After graduating, she attended two years of college, then began working as a dental assistant. She turned her high school interest into a 30-year career.
Having faced generations of obstacles, Masaniai believes there's "no reason for today’s teens to fall short of setting high goals and achieving them," she said. "Some children need more support and guidance but in the end, the opportunities are there."
“Mrs. Masaniai brings leadership, experience, vision and passion to the principalship at Kahuku,” said Lea Albert, Castle-Kahuku Complex Area Superintendent. “She is absolutely committed to meeting the needs of students, raising the bar and working in partnership with families and community members.”
Albert also thanked Annette Ostrem for graciously and ably serving as KHIS interim principal since last September. Ostrem returns to her KHIS vice principal position on Dec. 23.
A new principal means new leadership and a brand-new commitment to KHIS. "Education is a team effort," Masaniai said. “I've always felt fortunate to have grown up on this side of the island and I will do all I can to provide the support and quality learning opportunities that all our children need and deserve." Then she added, “Go Big Red! RR4L!”