Hawai’i Public High Schools Redesigned for Innovation Future

Panel on High School Academies Forging New Innovative Ground (L-R) Paul Yokota, president FCH Enterprises; Jodi Wilmott, Asia Pacific Regional Events General Manager, World Surf League; Kelcy Koga, principal, Waiakea High School; Wade Araki, principal, Kaimuki High School; Al Carganilla, principal, Farrington High School; Daniel Hamada, principal, Kapa’a High School

The 4th annual Future Focus Conference on technologies and innovation is underway in Honolulu. The highlight was educating tomorrow’s workforce.

Future Focus on Technology and Innovation

Al Carganilla, principal, Farrington High School

Hawai’i’s 48 public high schools have been redesigned to provide students with pathways to college, work and careers.   Farrington High School has 5 academies for creative arts and technology, business, culinary and teaching, health and engineering.  Al Carganilla, who graduated from Farrington, is now the school principal.

“All our 9-12 are in an academy. We have collaborated with our middle schools and they choose their academies in the 8th grade.”

Paul Yokota, president FCH Enterprises

Early College and advanced placement courses are embedded in the academies.  Most programs have a school vice principal leading each academy and a community business advisory board that guides the program.  Paul Yokota, president of FCH enterprises, parent company of Zippys, says the program offers real-life experiences.

“Every year, we have about a dozen schools that send students to us and they work for us for a couple months as interns – paid interns – by the way.  And they work between 18-24 hours a week depending on what their school schedules are.  They learn how to handle their  first paycheck.  How to start a savings account.  How to show up on time and in uniform.  And how to work with managers and peers.”

Kelcy Koga, principal, Waiakea High School

The academies focus on the 3 R’s:  relevance, relationships and rigor.   Waiakea High School principal, Kelcy Koga, says the program is not designed as a pipeline to college because the social and extracurricular activities in high school are important.

“I talk a lot about college-ready on our campus.  But it’s mostly career readiness.  The soft skills like getting along with everybody else, not looking at your phone while you’re working when somebody’s in front of you.  All those important social aspects of working somewhere should be of most importance.  And that’s what we expect for our kids.”

The community and business partners also provide feedback to educators on the level of a graduate’s work-readiness.  Hawai’i Pacific University president, John Gotanda, says employer surveys potentially point the way forward.

John Gotanda, president, Hawai’i Pacific University

“The Chronicle of Higher Education came out with this survey of employers and what’s the one skill that your new sort of employees really missing.  And that’s resilience.  We have to teach them today to be able to fail and then to pick themselves up and figure out how then to move forward.  That’s an important skill and I think, collectively, that’s something we all need to focus on.”

For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.