Supporting Waimea Middle School


Read this article in ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi

Long-time Waimea educator Pat Rice and a pair of OHA grants are helping Waimea Middle Public Conversion Charter School expand its student services.

There are many people involved in supporting the students of Waimea Middle School, but maybe none as truly dedicated as veteran educator Pat Rice.

Photo: Pat Rice
Veteran educator Pat Rice has served students in Waimea for 48 years.

Rice has been at the school since 1975, first as a teacher, then as a counselor, on to a vice principal, and she’s also served as principal on four different occasions. She’s even retired twice, but today you’ll still find her serving the institution, now as the organization’s school improvement specialist, tasked with writing grants for the school and following up on grant accountability.

“I deeply care for the Waimea community,” she said. “Having worked with our students’ grandparents and parents and with their expanded ‘ohana, I’m grateful for the connections we have made over the years, and it is these connections that keep me trying to help even more.”

Rice is certainly still helping. When students began returning to in-person learning as the COVID-19 pandemic eased, Rice observed that they weren’t fully engaging in the school setting and were having behavioral issues. Rice began her grant-writer research and secured an OHA COVID-19 Impact and Response grant worth $60,000.

“The Mālama i nā ʻŌpio grant enabled us to hire a trauma-informed art teacher/counselor. We knew that students returning from the pandemic would have many social-emotional issues and that they would need trained adults to help them manage their anxieties as they transitioned back to an in-person school setting,” Rice said.

“Perhaps the most significant thing about this grant has been that students who were hesitant to express their feelings verbally felt safe when afforded opportunities to express them through the creative process. That opened the door for the counselor to collaborate with others at the school and with the students’ families to help the students develop effective coping strategies.”

Waimea Middle School is one of three public conversion charter schools, along with Kamaile Academy on Oʻahu and Kualapuʻu Preschool and Elementary School on Molokaʻi, that make up the community of the Hoʻokākoʻo Corporation. Established in 2002, Hoʻokākoʻo is a private, nonprofit organization that has grown to oversee and transform education programs at the three schools which comprise nearly 15% of Hawaiʻi’s public charter school student population.

More than half of the student population at Waimea Middle School is Hawaiian.

While Hoʻokākoʻo served as the fiscal sponsor for Waimea’s COVID-19 response grant, Hoʻokākoʻo Executive Director David Gibson, Kualapuʻu Principal Lydia Trinidad and Rice collaborated on writing a second grant which received another award from OHA.

Hoʻokākoʻo is implementing its Ke Awa Hoʻomalu (Safe Harbor) project at Waimea Middle School and Kualapuʻu School thanks to a $220,000 Community Grant from OHA. The two-year grant is being used to increase access to Hawaiian culture-based educational, behavioral and mental health services for Native Hawaiian children and their families at both schools.

“Despite our best intentions, we lack the resources at Waimea Middle School to help all students and their families to access the much-needed community and/or school services that can improve student educational and social-emotional learning outcomes. The ʻohana engagement facilitator provided through the Ke Awa Hoʻomalu grant is working with students and their families to create personalized plans intended to help our families link to school-level and community-based supports that they have previously been unaware of in an effort to provide wrap-around services individualized for each child,” Rice said.

“As a Hawaiian-focused charter school, we utilize all our resources to ‘empower all students with the skills, values, and cultural understanding to successfully navigate high school and beyond,’ which is our mission statement at Waimea. The support provided by OHA has been crucial in expanding our services to students and their families.”