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Lifestyle // Island Matters
Mufi Hannemann

Happy Anniversary, Prince Kuhio School

(from left) Deanna Au-Wong, student activities coordinator, Tyla Ann Placencia, student council president; Leona Souza, PTA treasurer; Lovelyline Kwock, PTA secretary; Laurie Faure, STEM+Arts coordinator; Antoinette Pinera, student council secretary; and Evelyn Aczon Hao, principal at Kuhio School | Photo courtesy Evelyn Hao

(from left) Deanna Au-Wong, student activities coordinator, Tyla Ann Placencia, student council president; Leona Souza, PTA treasurer; Lovelyline Kwock, PTA secretary; Laurie Faure, STEM+Arts coordinator; Antoinette Pinera, student council secretary; and Evelyn Aczon Hao, principal at Kuhio School | Photo courtesy Evelyn Hao

Prince Kuhio Day is marked annually with a colorful festival parade along Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki, but a Honolulu elementary school bearing the prince’s name in Moiliili also is celebrating a milestone – 130 years of educational bliss. Mark your calendars for Saturday, April 5, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., when Prince Jonah Kuhio Elementary School will mark more than a century of memories as it looks to its future.

Principal Evelyn Aczon Hao is elated about the upcoming celebration.

“We are 130 years young since Kuhio School’s existence. Our 2014 anniversary is a significant honor in Hawaii history,” she says.

Thirteen decades of achievements would not be complete without fanfare that includes entertainment and royal beginnings.

“The Royal Hawaiian Band will serenade the public with tunes fit for royalty, which makes it special because as we commemorate our birthday, the band that was founded by King Kamehameha III also will pay tribute to Prince Kuhio’s legacy,” says Hao.

In addition to being of royal lineage and a descendant of the Hawaiian monarchy, Prince Kuhio served as a delegate to the United States Congress. Among his contributions: He founded the first Hawaiian Civic Club, and he led the passage of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act. He is memorialized today by a federal building in Honolulu, a shopping center in Lihue, various streets statewide and two public schools – one in Papaikou on Hawaii Island and the other on Oahu.

If the prince were alive today, I’m sure he would be pleased with the way Kuhio School has evolved in the arts. Take a tour around campus, and you will see that the institution is imbued with art – from its lush and artistic landscape, to outdoor sculptures and murals. The most innovative pieces of work are plastered over its living wall of plants. A trip to the principal’s office will show you priceless museum-loaned paintings greeting those who enter the administration building, and the cafeteria is peppered with pleasant aesthetics.

Kuhio’s STEM Through the Arts coordinator Laurie Faure credits campus enhancement to Hao’s keen eye for detail. Faure is tasked by Hao to help ensure that fine arts, music, drama, dance and movement are fully integrated into Kuhio’s STEM system.

“I work closely with our teachers to help them develop a meaningful inquiry-based curriculum that supports all learners and allows them to convey and demonstrate their understanding of science through the arts,” Faure says.

It is evident that Hao, who has led the school for 19 years, stands by her philosophy that fine arts and academics do indeed go hand-in-hand.

“Kuhio School always has recognized the significance of arts education. It serves as a common ground for self-expression and allows students to share their knowledge and understanding through a variety of artistic forms,” says Hao, who adds, “A world-class education is not possible without that program. To be truly educated is to know, appreciate and be involved in fine/literary arts, music and drama. We want our students to feel and know that the joy that comes from the arts is essential to a well-rounded, fully realized education, which in turn produces a well-rounded person.”

It is also a fact that students who have an aptitude and appreciation for the arts, more often than not, are experiencing an improvement in their grades and test scores.

Hao takes pride in the quality of works created by the student body, comprised of about 300 children date, more than 100,000 K-6 graders have been educated in the system since its establishment as an independent school, when it was known as Kamoiliili School. Fast forward to the 21st century, and its latest accolades accumulated include the “Hawaii Distinguished School Award” (2003-04) and State Hawaii Arts Alliance’s “Arts Excellence Awards” (1996, 2006, 2012). Kuhio also has been recognized for its trailblazing high scores for school years 2006 to 2012 in the subjects of reading and math, and its continuous growth by Hawaii State Assessment (HSA) standards. During those six years, Kuhio students have exceeded state benchmarks: Reading: 77 percent (72 percent state target) Math: 74 percent (64 percent state target). It’s no wonder that Hao garnered the Honolulu District’s 2011-12 Distinguished Principal of the Year Award.

Hao actively seeks out partnerships on Oahu aimed at strengthening opportunities for students. A few years back, the principal orchestrated a full day of activities focused on musical experiences presented by experts in the industry. Hao also has formed several alliances through the state Department of Education’s Artists in the Schools Program, one of which resulted in a large outdoor sculpture of a mo’o (lizard), which is connected to a Hawaiian legend about the Moiliili area where the school is located.

Kuhio’s 130th anniversary co-chair Leona Souza says Hao’s inspirational commitment to the arts will be integrated at the April 5 fair, which will feature cultural dances and the angelic voices of the Kuhio Choir. Admission is free.

mufi@mufihannemann.com

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