Big Island principals nominated for high award

  • Pictured left to right: Front row: Phyllis Unebasami, Stacey Oshio, Rachelle Matsumura, Elna Gomes, Stacie Kunihisa, Alisa Ann Estrella Bender, Cynthia Rothdeutsch, Deborah Nekomoto, Dana Tokioka. Back row: Colbert Matsumoto, Shannon “Cappy” Goo, Heather Dansdill, Michelle DeBusca, Sherry Gonsalves, Jon Henry Lee, Fred Murphy, John Wataoka, Tyler Tokioka. Courtesy photo

HONOLULU — The Island Insurance Foundation recognized 14 outstanding Hawaii public school principals nominated for its 15th Annual Masayuki Tokioka Excellence in School Leadership Award on Saturday, March 30.

Island Insurance Foundation President Tyler Tokioka presented each nominee with a $1,000 personal cash award.


The recipient of the Masayuki Tokioka Excellence in School Leadership Award will be announced at the Public Schools of Hawaii Foundation Dinner on Thursday, April 18.

The selected principal will receive a total of $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 award is named after Island Insurance founder Masayuki Tokioka, an immigrant from Japan, who 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 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.

Tokioka was also a driving force in establishing many community-focused entities such as the Hawaii Immigrant Preservation Center, Crown Prince Akihito Scholarship Foundation and the Japanese Cultural Centers in Hawaii and San Francisco.

“My grandfather, Masayuki Tokioka, believed that education, integrity and hard work were the keys to success,” said Tyler Tokioka, in a press release announcing the nominations. “Everything that he achieved was only possible because the Hawaii 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.”

The award criteria are 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 2018 award recipient was Corinne Yogi of Kipapa Elementary in Mililani.

The 14 nominated public-school principals are:

· Alisa Ann Estrella Bender, Hickam Elementary (Oahu)

· Heather Dansdill, Hilo Intermediate (Big Island)

· Michelle DeBusca, Ala Wai Elementary (Oahu)

· Elna Gomes, Keaau Middle (Big Island)

· Sherry Gonsalves, Kilauea Elementary (Kauai)

· Shannon “Cappy” Goo, Hahaione Elementary (Oahu)

· Stacie Kunihisa, Kanoelani Elementary (Oahu)

· Jon Henry Lee, Campbell High (Oahu)

· Rachelle Matsumura, Honokaa High and Intermediate (Big Island)

· Fred Murphy, Mililani High (Oahu)

· Deborah Nekomoto, Kapunahala Elementary (Oahu)

· Stacey Oshio, Olomana School (Oahu)


· Cynthia Rothdeutsch, Kamalii Elementary (Maui)

· John Wataoka, Waianae Intermediate (Oahu)

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