Once Class Opens, Stay There!

When Windward public schoolchildren return to classes next Monday (Aug. 5), a new anti-hooky campaign will greet them from all sides.

Developed over six months by five dedicated DOE social workers, “Be Pono – Stay in School” will fill the students’ classrooms and hallways with positive messages about good attendance carried on posters, signage, fliers and stickers to take home. Even school supplies are not immune. All will offer the message that on-time arrival and daily presence are the key to the future.

“Every day a student is in school is one day closer to a college degree and a fulfilling career,” said Castle-Kahuku complex-area superintendent Lea Albert.

“Our excellent teachers provide a rigorous curriculum,” noted Kailua-Kalaheo complex head Suzanne Mulcahy, “so that our students graduate college- and career-ready – (but) they must be present every day.”

Admittedly a saturation model, Be Pono is one more weapon in the battle to reverse the nationwide school drop-out epidemic. The Windward district social workers – Patt Sornsin, Keala McKenzie, Mary Robins, Carmen Neilson and Brian Au – were inspired enough to win a $5,000 behavioral health grant earlier this year to support their brainchild.

“We’ve seen that attendance is high in the beginning of the school year and declines by the end of the year,” said the campaign’s manager Paula Wong, explaining why the Be Pono effort will continue through June 2014 with an additional push in the spring semester. The campaign also includes tracking and assessment.

Involved are the district’s four school complexes, spanning the entire Windward side from Waimanalo to Sunset Beach, and including all feeder schools to Kahuku, Castle, Kalaheo and Kailua high schools.