Three Big Island Principals Rewarded for Leadership Excellence

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The Island Insurance Foundation recognized 14 outstanding Hawai‘i public school principals nominated for its 14th Annual Masayuki Tokioka Excellence in School Leadership Award. Three of the principals were from the Big Island.

Island Insurance Foundation President Tyler Tokioka presented each nominee with a $1,000 personal cash award. Special guests included Department of Education Deputy Superintendent Phyllis Unebasami and 14 Complex Area Superintendents and their representatives, as well as State Sens. Laura Thielen, Michelle Kidani and Donna Mercado Kim, and State Rep. Richard Onishi.

The recipient of the Masayuki Tokioka Excellence in School Leadership Award will be announced at the Public Schools of Hawai‘i Foundation Dinner on Thursday, April 19th.

The selected principal will receive $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.


The 14 qualifying public school principals are:

  • Sharon Beck, Ka`u High and Pahala Elementary, Big Island
  • Stacey Bello, Keaukaha Elementary, Big Island
  • Danny Garcia, Kohala Elementary, Big Island
  • Dale Arakaki, Pauoa Elementary, O‘ahu
  • Erik Burkman, Kalaheo Elementary, Kauai
  • Alfredo Carganilla, Farrington High, O‘ahu
  • Disa Hauge, Waianae High, O‘ahu
  • Catherine Kilborn, Baldwin High, Maui
  • Robin Martin, Moanalua High, O‘ahu
  • Cindy Otsu, Kapolei Elementary, O‘ahu
  • James Rippard, Kailua Elementary, O‘ahu
  • Aaron Tominaga, Lehua Elementary, O‘ahu
  • Bernadette Tyrell, Castle High, O‘ahu
  • Corinne Yogi, Kipapa Elementary, O‘ahu

The award is named after Island Insurance founder Masayuki Tokioka, an immigrant from Japan, who moved to Hawai‘i at age 12 and graduated from McKinley High School in 1921. He earned a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Hawaii 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 Hawai‘i Immigrant Preservation Center, Crown Prince Akihito Scholarship Foundation and the Japanese Cultural Centers in Hawai‘i and San Francisco.


“My grandfather, Masayuki Tokioka, believed that education, integrity and hard work were the keys to success,” said Tyler Tokioka. “Everything that he achieved was only possible because the Hawai‘i 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,” he added.

“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,” Tokioka added. “We hope that this award will showcase their leadership and inspire others to service in public education.”

The award criteria is 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 2017 award recipient was Darlene Javar of Na‘alehu Elementary on the Big Island. Javar used the monies to expanding the school’s He Keiki Aloha Na Mea Kanu garden project. Built in 1928, the school is located in the southern-most community on the island of Hawai‘i. Sixty-three miles from Hilo on the east and the same distance from Kona on the west, students’ homes are located anywhere from small, rural communities in Na‘alehu Town to Hawaiian Ocean View Estates. This cultural diversity is also intertwined with a large percentage of students who face the challenges of poverty, geographic isolation and limited resources. Many Na‘alehu students do not live in areas with productive soil and a consistent supply of water. This project teaches students the gardening practices that are applicable to the area’s rugged and diverse landscape and align with HMSA’s Blue Zone Project, which promotes smart choices and healthy living.


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