East Hawaii News

Kea’au High Principal Wins Excellence Award

May 1, 2015, 7:17 AM HST
* Updated May 1, 7:19 AM
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Kea’au High School Principal Dean Cevallos was presented with Island Insurance Foundation’s 11th annual Masayuki Tokioka Excellence in School Leadership Award of $25,000.

Principal Cevallos was recognized during the annual Public Schools of Hawai’i Foundation Dinner, held Thursday night at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel.

Each year, the award, named after the late founder of Island Insurance Company, Ltd., is given to a public school principal who is visionary, community-minded, and who has an entrepreneurial spirit. Island Insurance officials say these are all qualities that Tokioka provided an example as in running his company and in the business community.

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

As part of the $25,000 award, Cevallos will receive $15,000 for a school project of his choice and an additional $10,000 cash reward.


Cevallos has been the principal of Kea’au High School now for four years. He has worked to ensure that all students at Kea’au High School receive the support necessary to succeed in school and in the future. As principal, Cevallos has allocated funds in the school’s budget to provide necessities to students, including transportation, school supplies, breakfast, and lunch, in addition to after school activities, tutoring, and study halls.


Beyond those basic needs, Cevallos has implemented proactive programs on campus to assist in the student transition into high school and in preparation for college. Ninth grade students are enrolled in a college prep class, and a senior school level counselor was hired in order for student sto receive assistance in completing the FAFSA and other scholarships.

“Principal Cevallos has made it his mission to ensure that every student on the campus is highly encouraged to attend college and receives any and all support necessary to make it a reality,” said Christopher Ho, an instructor at Kea’au High School.  “He is continuously working to come up with more ideas to help all students throughout the campus strengthen their desire to attend college and work towards attaining a college diploma.”

As the winner of the Island Insurance Foundation’s 11th annual Masayuki Tokioka Excellence in School Leadership Award, Cevallos will utilize the money to upgrade technology within the school. The upgrades will enable students to have the tools and technology that they need to excel. These purchases would include computers and iPads. The award will also be used to complete the school’s 3D mapping progress through Google’s 3D mapping program. Using a drone camera, the Google program would map out the entire campus. The map could then be accessed through a personalized app. With the extra technology, new students, families, and community members would have the opportunity to virtually walk through the campus.


In addition to Cevallos’ $25,000 award, Island Insurance Foundation also presented two $2,000 cash awards to two semi-finalists: Principal Malaea Wetzel of Haleiwa Elementary in Haleiwa and Principal Stacie Kunihisa of Kanoelani Elementary in Waipahu.

A total of 13 candidates were nominated for the award during a March 28 recognition ceremony. Each of the candidates were awarded $1,000 and a commemorative plaque. In addition to Cevallos, Wetzel and Kunihisa, the additional 10 nominees were: Bruce Anderson, Maui High School (Kahului, Maui); Frank Fernandes, Kaimuki Middle School (Honolulu, Oahu); Shelley Ferrara, Mauka Lani Elementary School (Kapolei, Oahu); Steve Franz, King Kamehameha III Elementary School (Lahaina, Maui); Debra Knight, Nanaikapono Elementary School (Waipahu, Oahu); Corey Nakamura, Wilcox Elementary School (Lihue, Kauai); Deborah Nekomoto, Kapunahala Elementary School (Kaneohe, Oahu); Dennis O’Brien, E.B. DeSilva Elementary School (Hilo, Hawai’i); James Sunday, Radford High School (Honolulu, Oahu);and  Sean Wong, Ala Wai Elementary School (Honolulu, Oahu).

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