Shout out to businesses, big and small

March, 2006

A high school classmate of mine, contacted me recently, concerned about how Act 51 and the new weighted student formula is going to cut funds at the small public elementary school his children attend. I could relate, knowing that the principal of my son’s elementary school is faced with doing surgery to his budget, also.

It all seems so counterintuitive to the concept of reform, when research has shown that small schools and smaller class sizes produce better educational results. My friend’s concern was not just for his school’s budget, but also about a perceived need for business to become more involved in improving schools and the quality of education in Hawaii. I pointed out that this has been a focus for certain segments of the business community for many years, such as the Hawaii Business Roundtable and the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii.

I don’t think my friend’s concerns stemmed from a lack of participation by the business community. Rather, it was his perception that businesses are not involved at the school or grassroots level, where changes in funding will be felt. Perhaps business may not know how to help. When the Department of Education held a summit several years ago, one of the top suggestions from the business sector was for an information clearinghouse where businesses could offer help or learn of specific needs.

It seems to me that the School Community Councils present the perfect opportunity to get involved, if you are a businessperson who is not already a parent of a child attending a public school. Even if you are not elected to your school’s SCC, a principal or parent representative would surely point you in the direction of school-based needs, where you could make a difference. If you are a parent of a public school student, I’m assuming you are already involved at the school level, and your child’s school should be welcoming and encouraging your participation.

I can think of two recent examples where grassroots involvement has created hope and inspiration. In November, Roosevelt High School held a fundraiser, for which matching private sector funds would be used to improve the stadium, which is used by a number of schools in the Honolulu District. That 75th anniversary dinner raised $610,000 for both the stadium and auditorium. This is a low-tech, but high touch example.

Just imagine what can happen when the power of technology is employed. In February, I went to a parent coffee hour at Noelani Elementary School, where we were introduced to a number of Web-based educational resources. One amazing program was My Access Writing at There, each student’s main page lists all assignments and peer reviews (which are also done online). There are prewriting organizational tools and revision tools. This program will also critique and score a written piece, making it possible for the student to revise it accordingly before the due date. Noelani is piloting a program of computer-based learning in partnership with Apple Computers. Businesses should be looking for partnerships and asking, “How can we help?”


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Kelli Abe Trifonovitch