Kea‘au Middle Principal Receives School Leadership Award

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(L–R) Christina Kishimoto, superintendent, Department of Education; Fred Murphy, Mililani High; Stacie Kunihisa, Kanoelani Elementary; Elna Gomes, Kea‘au Middle School; and Tyler Tokioka, President, Island Insurance Foundation. PC: Island Insurance Foundation.

The Island Insurance Foundation presented cash awards to the winner and two semifinalists at the 15th annual Masayuki Tokioka Excellence in School Leadership Award ceremony on the evening of Thursday, April 18, 2019, at the Public Schools of Hawaii Foundation banquet at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel.

One of two $2,000 cash awards went to semi-finalist Elna Gomes, principal of Kea‘au Middle School on the Big Island.

The other semifinalist, Principal Fred Murphy of Mililani High School, was also awarded $2,000.

A total of 14 local public-school principals were nominated for the award, including Rachelle Matsumura of Honoka‘a High and Intermediate School, and Heather Dansdill of Hilo Intermediate School on the Big Island. They each were awarded $1,000.

Island Insurance Foundation presented Stacie Kunihisa, principal of Kanoelani Elementary School in Waipahu, with the first-place $25,000 award.


The award was named in honor of the late Masayuki Tokioka, founder of Island Insurance Company Ltd. It is presented annually by the Island Insurance Foundation to a local public-school principal who is visionary, community-minded and has an entrepreneurial spirit—qualities of leadership that Tokioka exemplified in his own company and in the larger business community.

“Principal Kunihisa is a leader who is transforming Kanoelani Elementary into a model learning institution,” said Tyler Tokioka, president of the Island Insurance Foundation. “By recognizing outstanding principals such as Stacie, it is our hope that her accomplishments will inspire others in public education.”

At the event, Kunihisa received $15,000 for a school project of her choice and an additional $10,000 cash award.

Fourteen local public-school principals were nominated for the award. They each received $1,000 and a commemorative plaque, which were presented to them at a recognition ceremony on March 30.

The other nine principals nominated this year included:


· Alisa Ann Estrella Bender, Hickam Elementary School, O‘ahu

· Michelle DeBusca, Ala Wai Elementary School, O‘ahu

· Sherry Gonsalves, Kilauea Elementary School, Kaua‘i

· Shannon “Cappy” Goo, Hahaione Elementary School, O‘ahu

· Jon Henry Lee, Campbell High School, O‘ahu


· Deborah Nekomoto, Kapunahala Elementary School, O‘ahu

· Stacey Oshio, Olomana School, O‘ahu

· Cynthia Rothdeutsch, Kamali‘i Elementary School, Maui

· John Wataoka, Waianae Intermediate School, O‘ahu

Kunihisa has been principal of Kanoelani Elementary School for nearly six years. Upon her appointment as principal, she worked with the school community to introduce a new brand and defining vision for the school: “Learn More. Care More. Be More.”

“Learn More” is both teacher and student focused. For teachers, rather than large group meetings, Teachers Leading and Learning (TLL) sessions are created for teachers with similar interests and expertise where they can collaborate and learn from each other. For students, high-interest classes are shaped based on student input that includes basic Korean, culinary arts and painting. Students also have accountability in their academic growth and are able to track their own progress throughout the year. “Care More” focuses on emotional intelligence through the Choose Love Movement, which teaches students how to treat themselves and others. Positive change has been made as many Kanoelani families have seen transformations in their children through the focus on Courage, Forgiveness, Gratitude and Compassion in Action. “Be More” means providing strong support for each other and ultimately for students, families and the community. Students are now given more options to explore, create and learn outside of the classroom experience. The school’s co-curricular activities have skyrocketed from four classes to an impressive 23.

As the award recipient, Kunihisa plans to use the monies for the school’s “Lokahi Lounge,” a transition center for all second-language learners, as well as new students to Kanoelani. The goal is to focus on the struggles all new families face as they assimilate to Hawaii’s culture, processes and systems, while offering a safe place for people to connect. The “Lokahi Lounge” would include a redesigned classroom to help increase comfort and aid in the transition for students, while giving parents a place to go for support, advice, translation services and, ultimately, a “home away from home.”

About Masayuki Tokioka

An immigrant from Japan, Masayuki Tokioka moved to Hawaii at age 12 and graduated from McKinley High School in 1921. He earned a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and a Master of Business Administration in international commerce from Harvard University. His business career spanned 70 years, during which time he founded several successful enterprises including the Island Insurance Companies, International Savings & Loan Association, Ltd. and National Mortgage & Finance Company, Ltd. He was also a driving force in establishing many community-focused entities including the Hawaii Immigrant Preservation Center, the Crown Prince Akihito Scholarship Foundation and the Japanese Cultural Centers in Hawaii and San Francisco.

About the Island Insurance Foundation

The Island Insurance Foundation was established as the charitable arm of Island Insurance, Hawaii’s largest locally owned and managed property and casualty insurance carrier. Island Insurance has been serving Hawaii’s families and businesses for nearly 80 years and is the only Hawaii-based company to be recognized as one of the Top 50 property & casualty insurance companies in the nation by the Ward Group for 11 consecutive years. Island Insurance holds a financial strength rating of “A” (Excellent) from A.M. Best Company. For more information, visit its website at

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