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By Staff | Jun 10, 2010

NAPILI — Schools across the United States begin the school year much like an old steam locomotive leaving the station, slowly chugging away, gathering steam on the way to their final destination. 

Throughout the school year, there are landmark events that highlight the year, passing like the railroad stations along the tracks. As the end of the year looms, the “old steam locomotive” that is Maui Prep is transformed into a bullet train speeding down the track at high speed toward the final important “railroad stations” at the end of the route. As we approach those final events, I always enjoy sitting back and reflecting on many of the wonderful stops along the way. 

This year, several individuals and teams received state and national recognition in a variety of areas. Our Middle School Science Olympiad Team won the right to represent Hawaii at the national competition, and our History Day Video Team had their video, “The Impact of the Bar Code,” selected for the national competition as well. 

Maui Prep athletes qualified for state competitions in four Maui Interscholastic League sports — a significant gain in our second year in the league. Several students qualified for the National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA) Championships, and, because of tremendous student interest, we have registered the Maui Prep Surf Team with NSSA and will compete as a team at nationals in 2011.    

A significant part of the Maui Prep school philosophy is to provide students with frequent experiences outside the classroom. This year, our drama students performed to two full musical productions, “The Aristocats” and “Thirteen.” Science students have participated in fish counts and researched water quality. Eighth-graders spent a week in Boston and New York, fifth-graders experienced cultural and historical sites on Oahu, upper school students visited West Coast colleges and a group of students studied volcanoes on the Big Island. Stargazing overnights, sleeping with the sharks at the Maui Ocean Center, numerous trips to the MACC and the Nature Center, and roadside geology trips around the island offered students exciting opportunities for learning.

In other aspects of our program, Maui Prep launched its Advanced Placement program this year with students taking AP exams in five subject areas. Students scored well above state and national norms on Education Record Bureau (ERB) Tests,  PSATs and SATs — a tribute to our highly qualified and dedicated faculty. Among our youngest students, we are thrilled with the number of preschoolers who have already started to read. Technology continues to be a keystone of our program. It plays a major role in our preschool to fifth grade program, and then takes a significant leap forward with our one-on-one laptop program for grades 6-12. Students from K-12 recently presented their self-assessments and educational goals through Power-Points at student-led parent/teacher conferences. 

Another important “stop” along the way this year has been our focus on 21st century learning strategies and multidisciplinary, project-based and college preparatory learning opportunities. We believe a challenging and nurturing learning environment helps students of all learning styles and abilities excel. At Maui Prep, students take control of their own learning as they question and analyze material in pursuit of understanding and comprehension. The funding for this critical initiative was provided through a generous grant from the Hawaii Community Foundation’s Schools of the Future Program. Recently, the foundation recognized the significant strides the school has made on this project by funding Year Two of this initiative with an outstanding grant of $70,000.   

On the management front, our board has been working closely with Maui Land & Pineapple Co. to complete the transfer of the deed to our campus. The board and administration are also working on long-term financing for the school that will set the stage for the school’s growth and development for years to come. Recognizing the importance of a diverse student body, the school continues to vigorously pursue scholarship resources in order to continue providing tuition assistance to 40 percent of our student body. 

The school year, like a bullet train arriving at the last station, comes to a stop on graduation day. At Maui Prep, we honor our first graduating class — eight seniors who were offered a total of $192,000 in scholarships and who will all head off to four-year colleges in the fall. After 40 years of graduations, I still get choked up as I witness the graduates receiving their diplomas and stepping out into the world beyond high school. It is the formal end of a close relationship with our students, and there is always a sense of loss mixed in with the pride at their accomplishments. 

However, with only a brief stop to “refuel,” the faculty and I start preparing for the next school year and the new journey to come. Our Maui Prep steam locomotive will start chugging again on Aug. 16. All aboard!