And active parents.
King Liholiho, Koko Head and Waialua elementary schools — named Blue Ribbon schools yesterday at a ceremony in Waikiki — all have those things as part of their recipes for success in an increasingly challenging educational landscape.
"We have a ‘Why not?’ attitude," Christina Small, principal of Liholiho Elementary, said of her school. "We all work as a team to overcome many challenges."
The Blue Ribbon program recognizes public schools across the country that show dramatic improvement in test scores or achieve scores in the top 10 percent of schools in their state in reading and math.
Hawaii’s 2011 Blue Ribbon campuses, announced yesterday at a gathering at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, will go on to represent the state in Washington, D.C., and compete for the prestigious national Blue Ribbon designation.
The Hawaii Blue Ribbon campuses were chosen from among 15 nominees and were awarded $3,000 each for their achievements.
Scott Moore, principal of Waialua Elementary, said he was "actually a bit stunned" to be named among the winners.
"We’re kind of a rural school," he said. "We’re not usually in with the more noteworthy schools."
Waialua has gone through a "gradual process" of improvement, despite hefty challenges, Moore said.
About half of the school’s students are economically disadvantaged, and 12 percent have English as a second language.
"We just try to do everything we can to support every student," he said.
For Waialua that has included using technology to increase student achievement. Students work on blogs, use the Internet for research and for tutoring, and produce podcasts.
"We have a pretty strong culture of trying to be a little bit better every day," said Moore, who has been principal at Waialua for five years.
Koko Head Elementary, celebrating its 55th anniversary this weekend, was designated a Blue Ribbon school at a time when it is also fighting for its future.
The school is among the campuses the Department of Education is eyeing for possible consolidation.
Koko Head has 269 students in kindergarten through fifth grade but was built for 1,100 students.
Principal Loretta Yee said the school is working to increase its population by attracting students from outside its district, which covers Portlock and lower Hawaii Kai.
School officials would like about 10 percent of Koko Head’s students to attend Koko Head on geographic exceptions.
Yee said the East Honolulu school is also enhancing its curriculum, and plans to develop an environmental education program.
"We’re moving forward," Yee said.
The school’s test scores were among the top 10 percent in the state.
Liholiho Elementary in Kaimuki is used to accolades, but Small said it was still a surprise to be named a Blue Ribbon school yesterday.
The school was also a Blue Ribbon school in 2004, and has been honored for its primary-school adjustment program and named "Best Elementary School" in 2006.
Small said everyone at the school pitches in to make the campus great. Among the school’s innovative programs is a Web-based curriculum to boost reading and math achievement.
About 60 percent of the school’s students are on geographic exceptions because their parents work in Waikiki, and a third of students have English as a second language.