Maui News


May 22, 2009, 11:38 AM HST
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A neighbor island principal from Molokai was given top honors for excellence in leadership for public education.  Kaunakakai Elementary School Principal Janice Espiritu earned the Island Insurance Foundation’s 6th Annual Masayuki Tokioka Award at a ceremony on Oahu this week.

Espiritu has been with Kaunakakai Elementary School for 30 years, 8 of which have been as Principal of the school.

Espiritu has been with Kaunakakai Elementary School for 30 years, 8 of which have been as Principal of the school.

Espiritu’s winnings total $25,000, including $10,000 in cash and $15,000 for a school project of her choice.

Espiritu plans to use the award to implement a Green Initiative by partnering the school with community members and organizations such as Maui Electric Company.  The final product would power part of the school with electricity created with solar power and create an eco-friendly alternative energy project designed to foster self and community awareness of energy conservation methods.

Espiritu has been with Kaunakakai Elementary School for 30 years, 8 of which have been as Principal of the school.


“Principal Espiritu exemplifies the type of leadership that can transform our public schools into model learning institutions,” said Colbert Matsumoto, Island Insurance Foundation President.  “By recognizing outstanding principals such as Janice, it is our hope that her accomplishments will inspire others in public education,” Matsumoto added.


The Island Insurance Foundation also presented a $2,000 cash award to the top two semi-finalists, Principal Nelson Shigeta of Makaha Elementary School and Principal Elynne Chung of Pearl Harbor Kai School.


Twelve candidates were nominated for the award.  They each received $1,000 and a commemorative plaque, which were presented to them at a recognition ceremony in April.

The other nine nominees were:  Patricia Dang, Kapalama Elementary School (Honolulu, Oahu); Lanelle Hibbs, Kailua Elementary School (Kailua, Oahu); Gwendolyn Lee, Kauluwela Elementary School (Honolulu, Oahu); Karen Liu, King Kaumualii Elementary School (Lihue, Kauai); Carmielita Minami, Waikele Elementary School (Waipahu, Oahu); Mitchell Otani, Kaneohe Elementary School (Kaneohe, Oahu); Carol Petersen, Mililani Mauka Elementary School (Mililani, Oahu); Stanley Tamashiro, Ewa Elementary School (Ewa Beach, Oahu); and Rene Yamafuji, Pomaikai Elementary School (Kahului, Maui).

“Janice has consistently brought together teachers, staff, parents, and community members for the sole purpose of creating the best possible learning environment for the children at our school,” said Robert Underwood, teacher at Kaunakakai Elementary School. “Under her leadership, our school has developed a professional learning community model that has improved instruction and created a team of teacher leaders,” said Underwood.

“Principal Espiritu is still excited about her job after all these years,” said Beverly Karen Holt, Executive Director of the Molokai Community Service Council. “She is always open to new ideas when it comes to improving our children’s educational opportunities and in our small community, she is an excellent leader for her school and a great partner for community based organizations like mine.”

The award, named in honor of the late Masayuki Tokioka, founder of Island Insurance Company, Ltd., is presented to a public school principal who is visionary, community-minded, and has an entrepreneurial spirit.

An immigrant from Japan, his business career spanned 70 years, during which he founded several successful enterprises such as the Island Insurance Companies, International Savings & Loan Association, Ltd. and National Mortgage & Finance Company, Ltd. He was also a driving force in establishing many community-focused entities such as the Hawaii Immigrant Preservation Center, Crown Prince Akihito Scholarship Foundation and the Japanese Cultural Centers in Hawaii and San Francisco.

(Posted by Wendy OSHER ©2009; Photo courtesy: Kaunakakai Elementary School)

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