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Haleiwa Elementary administrator named top Hawaii principal

    Hawaii National Distinguished Principal Malaea Wetzel, right, with Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi.
    District honorees (front row, from left): Deborah Nekomoto, Michael Pollock, Shelley Ferrara, Erik Burkman, Lorelei Aiwohi and state winner Malaea Wetzel. In back, district leaders, HEMSAA representatives and Supt. Kathryn Matayoshi.

Haleiwa Elementary’s top administrator is the state’s 2015 National Distinguished Principal.

Malaea Wetzel, whose North Shore school is in the Hawaii’s Department of Education’s Central District, was among seven principal nominees honored on Sunday for their excellence and leadership. The other nominees were: Lorelei Aiwohi, Kalakaua Middle (Honolulu District); Erik Burkman, Kalaheo Elementary (Kauai District); Shelley Ferrara, Mauka Lani Elementary (Leeward District); Deborah Nekomoto, Kapunahala Elementary (Windward District) and Michael Pollock, Lihikai Elementary (Maui District).

Also honored was the state’s 2015 Outstanding Vice Principial — Shannon Cabanilla, who works at Lihikai Elementary School on Maui.

In accepting the top principal honor, Wetzel expressed appreciation for the work of others. “There’s no way I would be up here without my faculty, staff and family making me look good,” Wetzel said.

John Brummel, Complex Area Superintendent for Leilehua-Mililani-Waialua, said Haleiwa Elementary has made impressive student achievement gains under Wetzel’s leadership. In 2009-10, when she started serving as principal, the school’s reading proficiency average was 77 percent. Math proficiency was 64 percent. The following year the scores shot up to 92 percent in reading and 99 percent in math, with the scores remaining in subsequent years. 

“In the four of the five years that she was principal, Haleiwa Elementary had the highest math scores in the state at an elementary school,” Brummel said. “Malaea takes a team approach in making decisions based upon data. She is very effective in using data and knowing when to give kids extra support. It’s a mark of a great leader when you know how to use the resources that you have effectively.”

Haleiwa Elementary was named as a 2014 National Blue Ribbon School. The national program honors public and private elementary, middle, and high schools where students either achieve very high learning standards or are making notable improvements in closing the achievement gap.

The National Distinguished Principals program was established in 1984 to recognize and celebrate elementary and middle-level principals who set high standards for instruction, student achievement, character, and climate for the students, families, and staffs in their learning communities.

The 2015 Distinguished Principal national event will be held in mid-October in Washington, D.C.

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