Big Island Principal Awarded $25,000 for Excellence in School Leadership

The Masayuki Tokioka Excellence in School Leadership Award from the Island Insurance Foundation is given annually to a public school principal who is visionary, community-minded, and has an entrepreneurial spirit.

Principal Dean Cevallos, center, with (from left): Supt. Kathryn Matayoshi, Principal Stacie Kunihisa, Principal Malaea Wetzel and Tyler Tokioka, Island Insurance Foundation President.

Principal Dean Cevallos, center, with (from left): Supt. Kathryn Matayoshi, Principal Stacie Kunihisa, Principal Malaea Wetzel and Tyler Tokioka, Island Insurance Foundation President.

Keaau High School Principal Dean Cevallos was honored Thursday night as The Island Insurance Foundation’s 11th annual Masayuki Tokioka Excellence in School Leadership Award winner at the annual Public Schools of Hawaii Foundation Dinner.

Named for Island Insurance Company Ltd.’s founder, the award includes a gift of $25,000 — a $10,000 personal cash award and $15,000 to go towards a school project of the principal’s choice. The honor is given to a public school principal who is visionary, community-minded, and has an entrepreneurial spirit — qualities of leadership that Tokioka exemplified in his own company and in the business community.

“Principal Cevallos exemplifies the type of leadership that can transform our public schools into model learning institutions,” said Tyler Tokioka, Island Insurance Foundation president.

“By recognizing outstanding principals such as Dean, it is our hope that his accomplishments will inspire others in public education.”

The Island Insurance Foundation also presented a $2,000 cash award to the top two semi-finalists, Principal Malaea Wetzel of Haleiwa Elementary, who won the state-level National Distinguished Principal award last weekend, and Principal Stacie Kunihisa of Kanoelani Elementary. The other principals nominated for their excellent leadership were:

  • Bruce Anderson, Maui High School
  • Frank Fernandes, Kaimuki Middle School
  • Shelley Ferrara, Mauka Lani Elementary School
  • Steve Franz, King Kamehameha III Elementary School
  • Debra Knight, Nanaikapono Elementary School
  • Corey Nakamura, Wilcox Elementary School
  • Deborah Nekomoto, Kapunahala Elementary School
  • Dennis O’Brien, E.B. DeSilva Elementary School
  • James Sunday, Radford High School
  • Sean Wong, Ala Wai Elementary School

Each received $1,000 and a commemorative plaque, which were presented to them at a recognition ceremony on March 28.

Dean Cevallos has been principal of Keaau High School for nearly four years. Cevallos implemented numerous programs to improve performance such as an in-school detention/lockout classroom (which reduced schools suspensions by 50 percent), a 9th grade college-prep class, tutoring programs, a senior school-level counselor to help students in accessing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and scholarships, and parent/student nights to assist in the financial aid and college application processes.

Cevallos plans to use the prize money to upgrade the school’s technology infrastructure.

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