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Nimitz's Kenneth Lee Named 2012 National Distinguished Principal | Schools

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Nimitz's Kenneth Lee Named 2012 National Distinguished Principal
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Nimitz's Kenneth Lee Named 2012 National Distinguished Principal

Information courtesy: Department of Education

Nimitz Elementary's Kenneth Lee is Hawaii’s 2012 National Distinguished Principal

Kenneth Lee, principal of Nimitz Elementary School, was announced today as Hawaii’s 2012 National Distinguished Principal at an awards luncheon held at the Hale Koa Hotel.  He was selected by a committee through a process conducted by the Hawaii Elementary and Middle School Administrators Association (HEMSAA).

Despite a high student transiency rate, Nimitz Elementary has consistently exceeded state benchmarks in both reading and math under Lee’s leadership. His focus is on developing a collaborative and positive school climate to foster a learning community that celebrates student learning. “Even with his wealth of experience, Mr. Lee continues to look carefully at school data and needs to determine necessary next steps for improvement,” says Complex Area Superintendent Teri Ushijima. “The students are always at the forefront of his decisions.”

Lee has served as Nimitz Elementary’s principal for two decades.  He holds a bachelor’s degree in secondary education with a focus in mathematics, and a master’s degree in education in curriculum and instruction from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Lee, representing the Central Oahu District, was one of seven nominees for the award. The other nominees were: Timothy Lino, Ke Kula O Ehunuikaimalino (Hawaii); Evelyn Hao, Kuhio Elementary (Honolulu); Disa Hauge, Maili Elementary (Leeward Oahu); Glenda Miyazaki, Waimea Canyon Middle (Kauai); Chad Okamoto, Pukalani Elementary (Maui); and Lanelle Hibbs, Kailua Elementary (Windward Oahu).

The National Distinguished Principals Program recognizes the critical importance of the first years of schooling. Children’s attitudes toward learning and their readiness to learn new facts and explore new ideas are essentially set in the beginning school years. By high school or college, the patterns have already been formed. The principal plays a critical role in shaping the children’s first educational experiences and establishing the character of a particular school’s program.

Every principal’s story is different, yet certain characteristics show up again and again – a commitment to teachers, a deep love of children, and an ability to find the necessary resources. As the leaders of their learning communities, they are motivated by a single credo: “I insist on the best for these children.” In their unwavering commitment to academic excellence and to the personal growth of each child, they serve as models everywhere.

This October, Lee will travel to Washington, D.C., to be honored along with other principals from across the nation.

Established in 1984, the National Distinguished Principals Program honors exemplary elementary and middle school principals who set the pace, character, and quality of the education children receive in their early school years. The National Distinguished Principals program is sponsored by the National Association of Elementary School Principals in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Education and in corporate sponsorship with VALIC.

Hawaii’s 2012 National Distinguished Principal of the Year is selected from among seven District NDP nominees.  Lee was the Central Oahu District nominee.  The following information describes the district nominees for the National Distinguished Principals’ Recognition Program:

Timothy Lino, Ke Kula O Ehunuikaimalino (Hawaii District). Under the mantra, “Success is the ONLY option,” Timothy has led the development of a school culture where students arrive at the campus prepared and eager to learn. The dual-language Hawaiian language immersion school has seen significant gains and improvement in reading and math proficiency. “Dr. Lino has skillfully crafted a learning environment which honors the cultural and linguistic heritage of his students and staff, while concurrently engaging them in creating a successful standards-based environment,” says Complex Area Superintendent Arthur Souza. Timothy, Ke Kula O Ehunuikaimalino’s principal for 10 years, has a bachelor’s degree in education from Brigham Young University-Provo in Utah, a master’s degree in education administration from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and a Doctor of Education degree in urban school leadership from the University of Southern California.

Evelyn Hao, Kuhio Elementary (Honolulu District). At Kuhio Elementary, all grade levels collaborate meaningfully for six 45-minute blocks each week. The professional learning community practices have changed the culture of the school for the betterment of teachers and the advancement of student achievement and nurture. “Evelyn has been a principal who sees the positive potential in each child to succeed, the strength in each faculty and staff member to contribute to student achievement and the power of parental community participation in the journey towards educational excellence,” says Complex Area Superintendent Ann Mahi. Evelyn, Kuhio Elementary’s principal for the past 17 years, holds a bachelor’s degree in education with a focus in English, and a master’s degree in secondary education from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Glenda Miyazaki, Waimea Canyon Middle (Kauai District). In an effort to give students ownership over their learning, Glenda instituted “Student Voices,” a group of student representatives who have a voice in school improvement. She also spearheaded the transition from Waimea Canyon Elementary and Intermediate to Waimea Canyon Middle. “Principal Miyazaki has unified the communities from Eleele to Kekaha by gaining the confidence and trust of the businesses, community, students, parents and staff with successful school service projects, community events to reward and recognize student and staff success, and parent/family nights,” says Complex Area Superintendent William Arakaki. Glenda, Waimea Canyon Middle’s principal for six years, holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wyoming, Laramie.

Disa Hauge, Maili Elementary (Leeward Oahu). Disa’s ability to stabilize school staff provides a solid foundation for teachers to collaborate on student achievement goals. Under her leadership, Maili Elementary has met Adequate Yearly Progress for two straight years. Ms. Hauge credits the school's accomplishments to a culture of high expectation, a robust data-based system and supports for teachers to continue to push students. "This exceptional leader has developed a highly scientific data collection and management system to monitor student progress and she has shared this system with schools in the area, at district meetings and also at state leadership training sessions," noted former Complex Area Superintendent Lisa DeLong. Disa, Maili Elementary’s principal since 2004, holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology, and a master’s degree in education administration from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Chad Okamoto, Pukalani Elementary (Maui District). Pukalani Elementary has experienced significant improvements from 2004 to 2011, with student test scores climbing from 59 percent to 78 percent in reading, and 37 percent to 74 percent in math during the period. Chad credits the school’s success to a focus on supporting an environment of life-long learning for all. “Data-based decisions create a powerful response to intervention support structure to give academic and behavioral supports to all students,” notes Complex Area Superintendent Bruce Anderson. “Schools that perform well over an extended period of time are products of good leadership.” Chad Okamoto provides this leadership at Pukalani Elementary.” Chad, Pukalani Elementary’s principal since 2005, holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and masters’ degrees in school guidance and counseling, and education administration, from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Lanelle Hibbs, Kailua Elementary (Windward Oahu). At Kailua Elementary, students are recognized and rewarded through a schoolwide character education program that focuses on positive attitude, respect and responsibility, integrity, discipline, and excellence. Lanelle also finds creative ways to fund arts education such as drama and music, and she sets up academic activities in the evenings to involve parents in their children’s learning. “Mrs. Hibbs has created a school community that is warm, inviting, friendly, and student-focused with high expectations for rigorous instruction and student achievement,” says Complex Area Superintendent Suzanne Mulcahy. Lanelle, Kailua Elementary’s principal for 11 years, earned a master’s degree in education administration from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

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