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Mon Nov 25, 2013, 11:17 AM

Veteran Resuscitates Desperate School

Many of Hawaii's poorest citizens live in the Puna district. About 130 elementary school children attend Na Wai Ola (Waters of Life) school; 78% of the students are homeless. In 2009 the school was on the verge of being closed due to years of financial mismanagement and neglect. The state cut off its funding.

Enter Daniel Caluya, a retired U.S. Air Force vet from Texas who had recently moved to Hawaii. He had worked as both a teacher and principal and he decided he wanted to do something to save this school. He was given permission to step in and he financed his first year there himself, renovating and getting classes back up and running.

Now Na Wai Ola has been recognized by the Hawaii Department of Education as one of the highest-achieving schools in the state, which won the school a $95,000 prize. The school still faces many challenges. Caluya had to eliminate the seventh and eighth grades to invest more money at the elementary level. But Na Wai Ola is being referred to as "the little choo choo that could."

Caluya believes that every student has the potential for greatness as long as they're given the tools they need to succeed. After he retired from his 22-year stint in the military, he wanted to give back to the taxpayers who had supported his long career. Now, Caluya is set on closing the achievement gap between rich and poor students by continuing efforts to spruce up the campus, boost student learning and support the community through outreach programs.

He stresses that his work is nowhere near finished: "I do not think on what I have done, but what still needs to be done."


Caluya showed the state that even the most disadvantaged students can make and surpass the grade with the help of required Saturday school for struggling students, free after-school tutoring and a range of community outreach services.


Na Wai Ola has reinvented itself as an agri-science school and it incorporates the campus garden and accompanying aquaculture system into almost every class. Turner, the teacher who oversees the agriculture program, estimated that students, each of whom owns a pair of rubber boots, spend at least 15 hours in the garden each week.

Bravo, Sir.


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Reply Veteran Resuscitates Desperate School (Original post)
hermetic Nov 2013 OP
NYC_SKP Nov 2013 #1

Response to hermetic (Original post)

Mon Nov 25, 2013, 11:26 AM

1. The school, near Hilo on the big island, was about to shut down in 2010.


It was virtually all over.

16 families and 80, if I recall correctly, were about to get letters that the school would close before the end of semester and in the middle of HSA testing.

I'm so glad that they found a way to survive.

Good news, indeed!

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