Saturday, October 22, 2016

A New Beginning . . .

I thought I'd share a post I wrote for my blog about our $33.2 million construction project that just completed. On Monday, October 17, we had an event at our school to celebrate the completion of the project as well as the renaming of our school. Here's the blog post:

Back on June 13, 2013, I published the first post in this blog and titled it "The Beginning." 3 years, 4 months later, this will be the final post on this blog. Our project has officially ended with the dedication of the last two buildings as well as the renaming of our school.

This has been a journey, one that began with high hopes and certainly didn't disappoint. Our final buildings are fabulous! At our celebration on Monday, October 17, Major General Cavoli from the 25th Infantry Division, stated that they might be the nicest buildings on Schofield right now.

Throughout this project, I was a learner with minimal prior knowledge. I had lots to learn. Using the charrette process, we were able to share our ideas to design our buildings, and our ideas came to fruition during the construction process. There were change orders, delays in shipment, and weather delays, and the school had to endure the challenges of noise, dust, and barricades. As each new building reached completion, I marveled at the construction process and all the workers who make a project come to life. Believe me, I will never look at a construction project in quite the same way; I realize how magical it is to take materials and turn them into a building that can transform people's lives. In our case, these new buildings will transform our teaching and learning at DKIES.

Most importantly, though, I learned that in any job, collaboration is key to success. We couldn't have asked for a better team. They were patient with my endless questions and explained things in layman's terms so I could understand; that was helpful as I updated this blog. They knew that this was a big project, the first in our public school system that was funded 80% by DOD-OEA and 20% by the State, and we all wanted it to be a model for 21st century teaching and learning. I want to thank all those at S&M SakamotoDesign Partners, Inc., Bowers & Kubota, the Department of Education, and US Army Garrison, Hawaii for being such great partners with us throughout this project.

When we broke ground on July 1, 2013, we were Hale Kula Elementary School. At the end of the project, we are Daniel K. Inouye Elementary School after the Board of Education approved a new name for our school. Now that the $33.2 million construction project is over and our new name is official, it is truly "a new beginning."

Links: Star Advertiser article
Hawaii News Now
KHON News 
Department of Education News Release
Hawaii Army Weekly
My brother, Roy, my Mom, and my husband Randy were able to join us for the event. This was the first time my Mom had seen the project she'd been hearing about. I was glad she got to see our "new" school. She and my Dad encouraged me to become an educator, a decision I have never regretted. We are with Ken and Jessica Inouye in our beautiful new library.
U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono was at the groundbreaking on July 1, 2013, and she was also present for the completion of our project and the renaming of our school. 
We were honored to have Ken Inouye, the only son of Daniel K. Inouye, speak about his Dad and what he learned from him.
Superintendent Matayoshi, First Lady Ige, U.S. Senator Hirono, Ken Inouye, student MC Caroline Lefaoseu, and MG Cavoli joined me in untying the maile lei. 
We are so honored to have this display case that was donated to our school by the Daniel K. Inouye Institute. The case is filled with memorabilia that shares the legacy of Daniel K. Inouye so students now and in the future will be proud to attend the school that bears his name. 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

All Schools Deserve to Be Upgraded

Tomorrow, we officially celebrate the completion of the final phase of our 3+ year project to upgrade our school as well as the renaming of our school to Daniel K. Inouye Elementary School. As I reflect on our journey as the first school in Hawaii to qualify for the DOD-OEA funding for schools on military bases across the country, I realize that we have a responsibility to share our journey,  to celebrate our success, and to hopefully make it possible to create a system that allows private-public partnerships to upgrade our schools in Hawaii.

After President Obama was first elected, military parents met with Secretary of Defense Gates to share their concerns over the poor condition of schools on base. A facilities assessment was undertaken on all schools located on military bases in the country, and after a rating scale based on "condition" and "capacity," our school was #9 on the list of 157 schools. That started a whirlwind process to apply for a a DOD-OEA grant to receive funding (80% of the project cost) to address areas of need in the assessment. (Slideshow)  Senator Daniel K. Inouye was instrumental in passage of a Congressional allocation of $250 million in what would be one of his last major measures passed as the Senate Appropriations Committee Chairperson. Through a charrette process involving a design team, Department of Education as well as school staff, and the military, we created 21st century buildings where students are able to collaborate and communicate with others not just within their classroom but globally as well and where critical thinking and creating are emphasized

On July 1, 2013, we held a groundbreaking ceremony, and a little more than three years later, our project is completed. Throughout the 3-phase process, I updated our community via a blog. We realized that many of our students and their families would not be at our school to follow our progress to upgrade our facilities. As each phase was completed, I would ask myself how we got so lucky to be able to rebuild and renovate our school.

As a school located on a military base, we were fortunate to be able to access federal funds to address concerns noted in the facilities assessment. 80% of the cost was provided by the DOD-OEA grant, and 20% was funded via a State Legislative appropriation to our Department. For $6.6 million in State funds, we now have an Administrative Building that is much larger than the old one that was built in 1959. Our 10-classroom building with flexible learning spaces are so much more conducive to learning than the portable classrooms we were using. .Our library is spacious and the available resources as well as the Makerspace will empower our students to explore, discover, create and share. Counselors and our School Mental Health Team from Tripler Army Medical Center have their own rooms for privacy (previously, they all shared a room), and now, we can meet as a faculty in a meeting room rather than in the cafeteria. And our covered play court? I pinch myself every time I go there. Our physical education teachers and our students will make great use of this facility, and we now have a place for our whole school to gather for assemblies and events.

But shouldn't all schools - not just schools on military bases - be able to re-invent and upgrade their school facilities? (Right now, Solomon Elementary and Mokapu Elementary are waiting to hear if they are receiving funding for their schools.)  So many of our schools need to be renovated or upgraded, and funding from the Legislature is limited. We need to think of other ways to upgrade our schools, many of which are already 50+ years old.

The Hawaii Institute for Public Affairs examined the issue of private-public partnerships to build 21st century schools for Hawaii's students and shared their ideas in  "Systematic Approach to Building 21st Century Schools: Experiences in the Aloha State,"  Although a bill was passed by the State Legislature and signed by the Governor, in 2011, we have not yet seen the impact on our schools. In fact, communities and legislators have to "fight" to get their share of funding to upgrade or to build new schools in growing communities, and the cost continues to increase each year.

When I became principal of our school in February 2003, I never dreamed that we would ever be allocated funds to upgrade our facilities. Now that our project is completed, I hope that our positive experience will start the discussion on how to provide this kind of opportunity for other schools that were built for a different generation of students. All students deserve it.

Our Administration Building was the Phase I. The building was completed in July 2014, one year after groundbreaking. 
The 10-classroom building was Phase II and was completed in time to start the 2015-2016 school year. This building won the Masons Institute Award for the Best Project of the Year. Here's a link to the presentation that was prepared by Design Partners, Inc.  
Phase III included the library media and student support center located in the front of the school. Notice the new school name on the front of the building.

The covered play court was also part of Phase III. Now we have a place for assemblies for the whole school. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Continuously Learning in this Connected World

This is our last week for Quarter 1; I think the Department was wise to build in breaks after each quarter. I think we all are looking forward to Fall Break next week.

As I am in the twilight of my career, I think it's safe to say that I've still got so much more to learn as an educator and a school principal.I reflect on the early years when most of my learning came from books or professional magazines or from other educators or school leaders here in Hawaii. Today, I learn every day through my professional learning community on Twitter, Google+, or Facebook. It is amazing to me how accessible information is, and anytime there is a problem or concern that I want to learn more about, I can ask my own questions, explore, and discover information via social media. My perspective on how to be an effective school leader has been impacted as a result of my personal learning network.

Last Tuesday, we had a team from our school attend the Leadership Symposium (#HIDOELead). I don't go to many conferences or symposiums anymore, but this event confirmed our school's continued journey to prepare our students for their future.

George Couros was the keynote speaker for the Leadership Symposium, and when I read that he would be presenting, I immediately signed up a team to attend. I've been following George for years and was part of his #SAVMP project to virtually mentor new principals. I totally enjoyed his presentation at ISTE in Atlanta, and recently, I'd read and discussed The Innovator's Mindset with some of our staff. I marvel at George's ability to capture an audience, to change our mindsets about our own learning, and to make us laugh while occasionally making us teary. His presentations are entertaining, but they are also meaningful and we take away what is most applicable to us. I loved how George took a newbie Twitter user and within the breakout session, and with George's mentoring, her PLN had immediately expanded. Through the process, everyone in the room could follow along and expand their own network.

I've connected with and subscribe to innovative educators like Eric Sheninger, Peter DeWittJohn Spencer, and A.J. Juliani. Recently, I subscribed to Thomas C. Murray after reading his powerful blog, "One Nice Thing."  There are so many great educators out there trying new ideas and sharing them via social media. When I first started as an educator, we didn't have the opportunity to learn 24-7 in such an individualized way. I love being able to check out posts or tweets from other educators. It's impossible to read everything, but it is possible to click the link, scan the article or post, and decide if it's something I want to explore further.

I encourage our teachers and principal colleagues to be connected. I've shared at poster sessions about how we use technology to connect with our school community.  Now we need to continue to grow in this area and to convince our teachers that being connected is imperative in our ever-changing world.

With , , and at the Leadership Symposium.