New principal named for Lanai school

Elton Kinoshita, a vice principal at Campbell High School on Oahu, will be the new principal at Lanai High & Elementary School, a Department of Education official said late Monday afternoon.

The new principal, who will officially takeover Sept. 9, may find himself teaching in the classroom as well as running the school from the administration building.

There is a shortage of substitute teachers and educational assistants on Lanai, so much so that even the school’s temporary principal and vice principal have had to step into classrooms this school year, said Lindsay Ball, complex area superintendent for Lahaina, Hana, Lanai and Molokai schools.

“Unfortunately, the vice principal and principal had to substitute classes this year,” Ball said.

The department is working to remedy that situation by offering courses that will qualify residents to work as substitute teachers, Ball said. He added that those interested in becoming educational assistants may visit the school to see if they may qualify for positions.

The district superintendent did not have staffing shortage figures on Lanai immediately on hand.

The announcement of a new principal should relieve some parents’ concerns about the administration at the school and the lack of substitutes and educational assistants.

Judi Riley, whose son is in the 1st grade and has autism spectrum disorder, said that there has been a shuffling of substitutes in her child’s class and that she thinks it is affecting his learning.

“There are no lesson plans,” Riley said last week. “According to (her son) he’s only being baby-sat.”

Riley said that she has pulled her son out of the school until the staffing situation is firmed up.

While critical of what was going on, Riley did not fault the school staff.

“They are doing the best they can in the situation, but it’s a total mess,” she said.

DOE spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz said that the department is aware of the concerns. She said that there is a regular 1st-grade teacher on personal leave but that a substitute is in place.

“When teachers take leave for personal reasons, certified substitute teachers are placed in the classroom. However, there is a shortage of substitute teachers on Lanai,” Dela Cruz said in an email.

Riley wondered why the DOE was not bringing over substitute teachers from Maui via the ferry. Ball replied that the ferry idea would not work if a teacher called in sick for the day that morning. By the time a substitute teacher was located on Maui, the teacher would not arrive on Lanai until mid-morning, well into the school day. He added that the DOE would not be able to compensate the substitute teacher for the gas to drive to Lahaina Harbor to catch the ferry.

Roderick Sumagit, the athletic director, has been filling in as principal since the retirement of longtime educator and principal Pierce Myers.

The DOE has “been on the search for a while” for a new principal, Ball said, adding that the island’s remoteness and lack of housing are issues that the DOE and applicants have to face.

“Rod’s doing a good job,” Ball said of Sumagit. “We are appreciative he’s stepped up (to help).”

Ball also is pleased that Kinoshita accepted the post.

“We feel very fortunate we have landed a very strong principal candidate for the school,” he said. “We are looking forward to adding him to our complex area.”

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at