Retiring Pomaikai principal bid farewell

Pomaikai Elementary School bid farewell Monday to Principal Rene Yamafuji, who opened the Kahului school seven years ago.

A farewell assembly was held on the campus to send her off into retirement in the “Pomaikai Style,” a news release from the school said. Pomaikai is the first and only public elementary school on Maui to employ an arts integration curriculum. Teaching could involve dancing to illustrate a math concept or painting while listening to the “William Tell Overture,” according to the school website.

“At Pomaikai, the arts are integrated to support the whole child by engaging a variety of intelligences, learning styles, experiences and backgrounds,” according to the website.

In that spirt, each class prepared a farewell performance that included chants, improvisation, songs and dance. Yamafuji stepped off the stage to join 2nd-grade teachers and students as they performed the Japanese obon number “Tanko Bushi.”

“She had a vision of grand ideas,” said emcee Shandon Obregon, a 5th-grader. “Her vision was of a school that we know today as Pomaikai Elementary. She moved mountains in ways that allowed for the arts to be taught in the classrooms. . . . Day in and day out, she showed up to lead our school to be a campus known for its unique, creative and exciting ways.”

Yamafuji came to Pomaikai from Kula Elementary and has 30 years in the state Department of Education.

Bernice Takahata, formerly the principal of Haiku Elementary School, today officially became principal of Pomaikai, a kindergarten-to-grade 5 school.

“I will be seeing you around the island,” Yamafuji told the audience while offering her thanks.