Koko Head Elementary School has a multipurpose celebration slated for today.
Besides being designated Monday as a Blue Ribbon school, Koko Head is commemorating its 55th anniversary and honoring Cecilia Lum, who retired in July after devoting 30 years as principal of the school.
Second-grade teacher Jacky Jaeger attributes the school’s success to Lum.
"I think she was quite instrumental in helping us achieve our Blue Ribbon award," Jaeger said. "She was such a workaholic, and she knew all of the children and their families and she just poured her heart and soul into the school.
School counselor Rayne Hense also credits the school’s success to Lum’s making a "conscious decision to say we’re going to take one student at a time, whatever it takes to help each one, she decided that’s what to do."
"In time it brought us the success," Hense said. "Scores have climbed pretty steadily" for the last five years.
"It wasn’t uncommon to find her working with the student personally before school, during school, after school, on weekends. She helped students and families without hesitation, which is what made our school unique and family-centered."
The state’s top-scoring elementary school in reading and math will hold its 55th-anniversary luau from 4 to 9 p.m. today on the school lawn with food, music, hula dancers, other entertainment and a silent auction.
The federal Blue Ribbon program recognizes public schools 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 three 2011 Blue Ribbon schools — the other two are Waialua Elementary and King Liholiho Elementary — will compete for the national title.
The Hawaii Blue Ribbon campuses were chosen from among 15 nominees and were awarded $3,000 each for their achievement.
Jaeger also credits Lum for her career shift from microbiologist to teacher.
Lum inspired Jaeger, whose daughter began attending Koko Head as a fourth-grader, to leave her 25-year profession as a microbiologist to get her master’s degree in education and become an elementary school teacher.
Jaeger’s daughter "loved it so much," and "we loved it so much," Jaeger said, that although the family could have afforded private school, they kept her there.
Jaeger describes the 269-student school as family.
Lum probably will not take any credit for the school’s excellence, Jaeger said. "She was such a humble person. She would say it was none of her doing."
Hense said Lum does not like to boast and is "the smartest person you’ll ever meet."
Lum’s humility and distaste for taking the spotlight is why the school is trying to keep her pending honor under wraps.
"She has meant so much to so many people, and we are expecting an enormous crowd," Hense said.