East Hawaii News

Waters of Life Named State’s Top Charter School

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Three Big Island charter schools will be among the honorees at the 2013-2014 Hawaii Charter Schools Awards being held on Oahu on Thursday, May 15.

Na Wai Ola Waters of Life Public Charter School in Mountain View has been named Charter School of the Year.

The award is yet another in a growing list of accolades for a school that faced the loss of its charter five years ago.

Last September, Na Wai Ola was honored by the state Department of Education as one of three Big Island schools, and 14 statewide, for progress toward raising student achievement and graduation rates.

The Puna charter school was one of three among the 14 – and the only one on the Big Island — singled out for “highest performance and high progress” under the state’s Strive HI Performance System. Na Wai Ola was the only public school with middle-school students placing in the top 5% in Strive HI.


Erin Kealoha Fale, spokeswoman for the Hawaii Public Charter School Network, said the criteria for the top school includes reviews of various test scores and the school’s improvement over the years.

“This year, Na Wai Ola continued to show outstanding achievement in their scores and performance as a school and was a clear choice for Charter School of the Year,” Fale said.

In 2011, the charter school network named Na Wai Ola its most improved charter school of the year.

That represented a major turnaround from 2009 when Waters of Life was placed on probation for questionable financial management and then threatened with revocation of its charter.


Other Big Island schools being recognized next month include Kona Pacific Public Charter School in Kealakekua and Ke Kula ʻO Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu Public Charter School in Keaau, both of which were named as the charter schools “Creating New Best Practices.”

Kona Pacific earned the honor for its quick resolution to news that the Hawaii County Equal Opportunity Council, West Hawaii’s only federally approved food-service vendor, was halting its food operations.

That affected not only Kona Pacific students but also Meals on Wheels clients and children served by Head Start and Early Head Start.

The school’s administrators responded by taking over the program by re-utilizing HCEOC’s former facilities and staff, and began developing a farm to provide it with produce.


Ke Kula ʻO Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu, a Hawaiian-language immersion public charter school for students in kindergarten through 8th grade, created partnerships to provide seamless education for its students through their college years, Fale said.

At the awards dinner, two educators at Big Island charter schools, Jonathan Kissida at the Hawaii Academy of Arts and Science in Pahoa and Leesa Foreman of West Hawaii Explorations Academy Public Charter School in Kailua- Kona, are also being inducted into the network’s “Circle of Teaching Excellence.”

Other honors to be bestowed at the May 15 dinner at the Pomaikai`I Ballrooms in Honolulu include:

  • Most Improved Charter School: Kamaile Academy Public Charter School, Waianae, Oahu.
  • Governing Board Member of the Year: K. Kehau Glassco, Ke Kula o Samuel Kamakau Laboratory Public Charter School, Kaneohe, Hawaii
  • Leader of the Year: Mahina Paishon-Duarte, Halau Ku Mana Public Charter School, Honolulu, Hawaii
  • HPCSN Legislators of the Year: Sen. Jill Tokuda and Rep. Ken Ito
  • HCPSN Community Partner of the Year: Karen Street, First Insurance Company of Hawaii

The awards dinner is open to the public, and tickets can be purchased by phone at 808-380-6403 or online here.

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