De Silva Elementary Principal Named 2019 NDP Honoree

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The Hawai‘i Elementary and Middle School Administrators Association (HEMSAA) on Sunday, April 28, 2019, named Principal Dennis O’Brien, from Ernest Bowen De Silva Elementary on the Big Island, a National Distinguished Principal honoree.

HEMSAA also named Principal Stacie Kunihisa from Kanoelani Elementary School as the 2019 Hawai‘i National Distinguished Principal (NDP). Kunihisa will join the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) awardees from the other 49 states in Washington D.C. in October.

Kunihisa will join the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) awardees from the other 49 states in Washington D.C. in October. PC: Department of Education

The other 2019 NDP honorees include:

  • Lorelei Aiwohi, David Kalākaua Middle, Honolulu District
  • Jamie Dela Cruz, Kaelepulu Elementary, Windward District
  • Halle Maxwell, Kīhei Elementary, Maui District
  • Garrett Yukumoto, ‘Iliahi Elementary, Central District
  • Paul Zina, Ele‘ele Elementary, Kaua‘i District

Michael Sugano from Prince David Kawānanakoa Middle School was honored as the 2019 Hawai‘i Outstanding Vice Principal. He will be traveling to Spokane for the NAESP conference in July where he will be honored with the other Outstanding Assistant Principals.


“School leaders, both principals and vice principals, play a critical role in a student’s education experience, from making sure our campuses are safe to providing the tools that educators and staff need to nurture and teach their students,” said Superintendent Dr. Christina Kishimoto. “Congratulations to Principal Kunihisa, Vice Principal Sugano and all of the well-deserving district honorees. Mahalo for your dedication to the Department and Hawai‘i’s public school students.”

Complex Area Superintendent Keith Hui praised Kunihisa as an innovative and effective leader, adding, “Under Principal Kunihisa’s leadership, achievement in math, English language arts, and science has consistently improved year after year and surpasses goals for the complex and the state. Her work speaks volumes not only to her commitment to our community, but her work speaks to her effectiveness as a leader.”

The Hawai‘i Elementary and Middle School Administrators Association (HEMSAA) is the local chapter of the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP).
PC: Department of Education

Just last week, Kunihisa also received the $25,000 Masayuki Tokioka Excellence in School Leadership Award, which annually recognizes outstanding public school principals in Hawai‘i for their efforts to provide high-quality learning opportunities for their students.


Kunihisa has been a principal with the Hawai‘i State Department of Education for 10 years, seven of which have been at Kanoelani Elementary. As principal, Kunihisa has established a positive school culture of learning more, caring more, and being more. Her most significant accomplishments as school principal include nearly doubling teacher satisfaction, developing a Teachers Leading and Learning program to convert faculty meetings into teacher-led professional development sessions and building a Community Partnership Program that has brought in a significant amount of financial and human resources to increase the school’s extracurricular offerings.

The 2019 NDP awards took place at the Hale Koa Hotel and was sponsored by HawaiiUSA Federal Credit Union, iStation, Spectrum and the Educational Institute of Hawai‘i.

HEMSAA is the local chapter of NAESP. The purpose of HEMSAA is to facilitate positive educational leadership and serve as a voice for elementary, middle-level principals and other members.


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