Press Releases

E.B. DeSilva Elementary and Keaau High Principals named as finalists in $25,000 School Leadership Award

Principal Dennis O’Brien of E.B. DeSilva Elementary School in Hilo and Principal Dean Cevallos of Keaau High School in Keaau were named as finalists for the 2015 Masayuki Tokioka Excellence in School Leadership Award. One Hawaii public school principal will receive $25,000 (a $10,000 personal cash award and $15,000 to go towards a school project of his or her choice). The recipient of this year’s award will be announced at the Public Schools of Hawaii Foundation dinner on April 30, 2015 in Honolulu.

The award, named after Island Insurance founder Masayuki Tokioka, is underwritten by the Island Insurance Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Island Insurance. Thirteen public school principals from across the state are finalists for the award, which recognizes their efforts to provide high-quality learning opportunities for their students.

Dennis O’Brien has been principal of E.B. DeSilva Elementary in Hilo for over 10 years. O’Brien fosters an environment where staff members, families and the larger Hilo community work together as a team in an effort to help students reach their highest potential and enrich their educational experiences. In addition, he strives to provide students multiple opportunities to participate in enrichment programs which may lead to further school and/or career interests. Over 70% of students participate in the school’s Edventure Program. These afternoon enrichment classes are taught by specialized instructors with courses such as ceramics, sports, drama, dance, music, foreign language, chess, carpentry and gardening.

Dean Cevallos has been principal of Keaau High School for nearly four years. During Cevallos’ tenure, the school experienced a dramatic turnaround and climbed 33 spots in the 2011 rankings/study/survey to become the #4 high school in the state and #1 on the Big Island. Cevallos implemented numerous programs to improve performance such as an in-school detention/lockout classroom (which reduced schools suspensions by 50%), a 9th grade college prep class, tutoring programs, a senior school level counselor (to help students in accessing the FAFSA and scholarships) and parent/student nights to assist in the financial aid and college application processes.

The other 11 nominees are:

Bruce Anderson, Maui High School (Kahului, Maui)

Frank Fernandes, Kaimuki Middle School (Honolulu, Oahu)

Shelley Ferrara, Mauka Lani Elementary School (Kapolei, Oahu)

Steve Franz, King Kamehameha III Elementary School (Lahaina, Maui)

Debra Knight, Nanaikapono Elementary School (Waianae, Oahu)

Stacie Kunihisa, Kanoelani Elementary School (Waipahu, Oahu)

Corey Nakamura, Wilcox Elementary School (Lihue, Kauai)

Deborah Nekomoto, Kapunahala Elementary School (Kaneohe, Oahu)

James Sunday, Radford High School (Honolulu, Oahu)

Malaea Wetzel, Haleiwa Elementary School (Haleiwa, Oahu)

Sean Wong, Ala Wai Elementary School (Honolulu, Oahu)

The Island Insurance Foundation was established as the charitable arm of Island Insurance, Hawaii’s largest locally owned and managed property and casualty insurance carrier.

Island Insurance has been serving Hawaii’s families and businesses for 75 years and is the only Hawaii-based company to be recognized as one of the Top 50 property & casualty insurance companies in the nation by the Ward Group for seven consecutive years. Island Insurance holds a financial strength rating of “A” (Excellent) from A.M. Best Company. For more information, visit its website at: www.islandinsurance.com.

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