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Kanehailua selected as new elementary school principal for KS Hawai‘i


Esther Kanehailua (photo courtesy of Kamehameha Schools)

Esther Kanehailua (photo courtesy of Kamehameha Schools)

Esther Kanehailua has been named po‘o kumu o ke kula ha‘aha‘a (elementary school principal) for Kamehameha Schools Hawai‘i.

“Kamehameha Schools Hawai’i is honored to welcome Esther Kanehailua, who will be the next po’o kumu (principal) of our kula ha’aha’a (elementary school),” Dr. Holoua Stender, KS Hawai‘i po‘o kula (head of school), said.

“Mrs. Kanehailua comes to Kamehameha from the Hawai’i State Department of Education where she has been an educator for over 20 years. I know our faculty and haumāna (students) will be very happy and excited to welcome and work with Mrs. Kanehailua beginning this new school year.”

Kanehailua joins the Kamehameha Schools Hawai‘i campus having recently served as the principal at Hilo Intermediate School and before that, as principal at Ha’aheo Elementary School.

Under her leadership, her schools have been recognized for being among nine schools to meet Adequate Yearly Progress under No Child Left Behind.

This year, Hilo Intermediate School won a $100,000 Strive HI Award for exiting restructuring and gains in math and language arts. Kanehailua has served as keynote speaker for the annual Native Hawaiian Early Education Summit and sees tremendous value in culturally grounded education.

“The opportunity to work in a culturally based curriculum is what excites me,” Kanehailua said. “We want students to be life-long learners. By having a cultural focus and allowing them to first understand place-based education and the culture in which they operate, they can develop that appreciation and disposition.

Cultural understanding grounds students so they can extend their learning and have a place to connect it all back to. That’s what excites me about being a part of the KS ‘ohana.

“I want to be a part of Pauahi’s vision and her mission for Native Hawaiian children, to make sure they are given educational opportunities.”

Born and raised in Hilo, Esther grew up most of her life in Pi‘ihonua. A graduate of Hilo High School, Kanehailua earned her B.A. in Psychology from the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo and M.Ed. from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.

Along with her husband Marshall, she is the parent of four children (Cheyenne, Whitney, Micah and Makana). Her family is her passion and her free time is spent supporting her two younger boys’ athletic endeavors. When she does have a moment, she enjoys running and the escape and “time to think” that exercising provides.

Through her 20+ years in the DOE, her experience has run the entire K through 12 gamut, and while she enjoys working with students at all levels, elementary has always had a special place for her as it sets the foundation for our haumāna.

“I have so much admiration for elementary school teachers,” Kanehailua said. “They really look how they work with educating the whole child, not to say that stops at any point along the way, but kids come with a range of abilities and how the elementary teacher puts in the solid foundation so everything can be built upon that.”

Mrs. Kanehailua’s official first day on campus will be Monday, July 22, 2013.

Kamehameha Schools is a private, educational, charitable trust founded and endowed by the legacy of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop. Kamehameha Schools operates a statewide educational system enrolling over 6,900 students of Native Hawaiian ancestry at K-12 campuses on O`ahu, Maui and Hawai`i and 30 preschools statewide. 

Over 40,400 additional learners and caregivers are served each year through a range of other Kamehameha Schools outreach programs, community collaborations and financial aid opportunities in Hawai`i and across the continental United States. Income generated from its endowment portfolio of Hawai`i real estate and other investments funds the Schools’ educational mission. 

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