Kanoelani Elementary School principal Stacie Kunihisa was named the 2019 Hawai‘i National Distinguished Principal by the Hawai‘i Elementary School and Middle School Administrators Association at the Hale Koa Hotel on April 28. She will join the National Association of Elementary School Principals and awardees from the other 49 states in Washington, D.C., in October.
Just days earlier, Kunihisa was selected to receive the 15th Masayuki Tokioka Excellence in School Leadership Award from the Island Insurance Foundation. She was presented the award at the Public Schools of Hawai‘i Foundation banquet at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel on April 18.
The award is named in honor of Island Insurance Company founder Masayuki Tokioka and is presented annually to a local public school principal who is visionary, community-minded and has an entrepreneurial spirit. Kunihisa received $15,000 for a school project of her choice and an additional $10,000 cash award.
Kunihisa said she plans to use the monies for Kanoelani School’s “Lokahi Lounge,” a transition center for second-language learners, new students and their families. The goal of the Lokahi Lounge is to focus on the struggles all new families face as they find their place in Hawai‘i’s culture, processes and systems, while offering a safe place for people to connect and receive support, advice, translation services and other services.
“Principal Kunihisa is a leader who is transforming Kanoelani Elementary into a model learning institution,” said Island Insurance Foundation president Tyler Tokioka. After being appointed principal of Kanoelani, she worked with the school community to introduce a new brand and vision for the school called “Learn More. Care More. Be More.”
The Island Insurance Foundation also presented $2,000 cash awards to the two semi-finalists: Mililani High School principal Fred Murphy and Elna Gomes, principal of Kea‘au Middle School on Hawai‘i Island.
Kunihisa has led Kanoelani Elementary School in Waipahu for seven of her 10 years as a Hawai‘i DOE principal. A press release issued by the DOE said Kunihisa “has established a positive school culture of learning more, caring more and being more. Her most significant accomplishments as a school principal include nearly doubling teacher satisfaction, developing a Teachers Leading and Learning program to convert faculty meetings into teacher-led professional development sessions and building a community partnership program that has brought in a significant amount of financial and human resources to increase the school’s extracurricular offerings.”
“Under principal Kunihisa’s leadership, achievement in math, language arts and science has consistently improved year after year and surpasses goals for the complex and the state,” said Keith Hui, complex area superintendent. “Her work speaks to her effectiveness as a leader.”