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Kamali‘i Elementary Principal on Maui Honored for Leadership

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Cynthia Rothdeutsch, Kamaliʻi Elementary (Maui).

Kamaliʻi Elementary School principal, Cynthia Rothdeutsch of Maui was among 14 public school principals across the state honored by Island Insurance Foundation for leadership excellence.

The principals were nominated for the 15th Annual Masayuki Tokioka Excellence in School Leadership Award, and each received a $1,000 personal cash award.

Members of the community joined Island Insurance Foundation to honor the principals on Saturday, March 30, 2019. The recipient of the Masayuki Tokioka Excellence in School Leadership Award will be announced at the Public Schools of Hawaiʻi Foundation Dinner on Thursday, April 18.


The selected principal will receive a total of $25,000: $15,000 designated for a school project of his or her choice and an additional $10,000 as a personal cash award. Two semifinalists will each receive a $2,000 personal cash award.

Pictured left to right: (Front row) Phyllis Unebasami, Deputy Superintendent, Department of Education; Stacey Oshio, Olomana School (Oʻahu); Rachelle Matsumura, Honokaʻa High and Intermediate (Big Island); Elna Gomes, Keaʻau Middle (Big Island); Stacie Kunihisa, Kanoelani Elementary (Oʻahu); Alisa Ann Estrella Bender, Hickam Elementary School (Oʻahu); Cynthia Rothdeutsch, Kamaliʻi Elementary (Maui); Deborah Nekomoto, Kapunahala Elementary (Oʻahu); Dana Tokioka, Executive Director, Island Insurance Foundation. (Back row) Colbert Matsumoto, Chairman, Island Holdings; Shannon “Cappy” Goo, Hahaʻione Elementary (Oʻahu); Heather Dansdill, Hilo Intermediate (Big Island); Michelle DeBusca, Ala Wai Elementary (Oʻahu); Sherry Gonsalves, Kilauea Elementary (Kauaʻi); Jon Henry Lee, Campbell High (Oʻahu); Fred Murphy, Mililani High (Oahu); John Wataoka, Waiʻanae Intermediate (Oʻahu); Tyler Tokioka, President, Island Insurance Foundation.

The 14 nominated public-school principals include the following:

  • Alisa Ann Estrella Bender, Hickam Elementary (Oʻahu)
  • Heather Dansdill, Hilo Intermediate (Hawaiʻi Island)
  • Michelle DeBusca, Ala Wai Elementary (Oʻahu)
  • Elna Gomes, Keaau Middle (Hawaiʻi Island)
  • Sherry Gonsalves, Kilauea Elementary (Kauaʻi)
  • Shannon “Cappy” Goo, Hahaʻione Elementary (Oʻahu)
  • Stacie Kunihisa, Kanoelani Elementary (Oʻahu)
  • Jon Henry Lee, Campbell High (Oʻahu)
  • Rachelle Matsumura, Honokaʻa High and Intermediate (Hawaiʻi Island)
  • Fred Murphy, Mililani High (Oʻahu)
  • Deborah Nekomoto, Kapunahala Elementary (Oʻahu)
  • Stacey Oshio, Olomana School (Oʻahu)
  • Cynthia Rothdeutsch, Kamaliʻi Elementary (Maui)
  • John Wataoka, Waiʻanae Intermediate (Oʻahu)

The award is named after Island Insurance founder Masayuki Tokioka, an immigrant from Japan, who moved to Hawaiʻi at age 12 and graduated from McKinley High School in 1921. He earned a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and a Master of Business Administration in international commerce from Harvard University in 1927.


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

“My grandfather, Masayuki Tokioka, believed that education, integrity and hard work were the keys to success,” said Tyler Tokioka, Island Insurance Foundation President. “Everything that he achieved was only possible because the Hawaiʻi public school system provided him with the foundation to pursue unlimited opportunities. This is why we are so honored to be able to recognize these principals who give so much to their students and our community.”

“In order to be a strong leader in today’s educational environment, public school principals must be dedicated, creative, community-minded and have an entrepreneurial spirit – all qualities my grandfather possessed. We hope that this award will showcase their leadership and inspire others to service in public education,” Tokioka added.


The award criteria are based on research done by the Center for the Study of Teaching and Policy at the University of Washington regarding the impact of school leadership on learning environments. The study concluded that school and district leaders can advance powerful and equitable learning by establishing a focus on learning, building professional communities that value learning, engaging external environments that contribute to learning, acting strategically and sharing leadership, and managing improvement activities based on student performance data.

The 2018 award recipient was Corinne Yogi of Kīpapa Elementary in Mililani. Kīpapa Elementary serves a diverse population of students, where some 52% of students receive free or reduced-priced lunches. Through the years, Yogi has fostered an “ʻohana culture” where students, families and community members feel welcomed. It is this strong relationship with the community that has provided the most support to the school. Prior to the start of each school year, the school’s community partners donate school supplies and clothing for the approximately one-third of students who are unable to afford new supplies. It was this community support that also helped to achieve the school’s goal of providing technological devices to each student.

Yogi used her award funds to redesign the school library for the use of the extended Kīpapa ʻohana. This gave the entire Kīpapa community access to adult education classes, after-school and evening access to technology, and supplies for projects for students from kindergarten through seniors in high school and even college. This also helps to alleviate the many barriers Kīpapa area students and families encounter and offer support and options to further their education, become college- and career-ready and prepare them for a positive future.

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