The new building, constructed on the site of the old Makawao Tax Office and Courthouse, took the place of a smaller structure on Makawao Avenue where the Post Office is now.
According to school officials, an elementary school existed in Makawao since 1839, and its first principal was Harvard-educated Frederic Wood Hardy, who oversaw the school for 32 years.
A gala celebration of the school’s platinum anniversary was held recently in conjunction with the annual May Day Lei of Stars celebration.
Makawao pre-schooler Nicholas Ferandelli receives encouragement from his mother, Sara, during the Lei of Stars program celebrating the platinum anniversary of Makawao School.
During the event, Principal Robyn Honda received a certificate of appreciation and excellence from Mayor Alan Arakawa’s representative, Michael Molina, who graduated from the school and had fond memories of his time there.
One of the most touching moments came when custodian Martha Perreira, who has kept the plant shipshape for 37 years (almost half of its existence), was honored with lei bestowed by loving children. She tearfully thanked everyone for the love and respect she was given over the years.
More than 50 years of administrative excellence were represented by honored guests.
William Tavares, principal from 1959 to 1978, recalled his tenure as a strict disciplinarian and shared his family’s tradition of service in education. “There’s been a family member associated with this school in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries,” Tavares said.
His father, Antone Tavares, was the school registrar in the 19th century, William served as principal in the 20th, and his daughter, Mary Costales, is a faculty member at Makawao Elementary School today.
Besides Tavares and Honda, former principals present at the ceremony included Donald Karimoto (1979-1993), current Maui Complex superintendent Bruce Anderson (1996-2003) and current Lahainaluna High School Principal Emily DaCosta. There were many former teachers and vice principals in attendance as well.
Like everything here in the 1940s, Makawao Elementary School was taken over by the federal government and made into a hospital for Marines recovering from injuries suffered in Pacific battles.
During that time, students were scattered throughout the area at a barbershop, the St. Joseph gymnasium and a Po‘okela Church building.
According to school officials, Makawao Elementary School was among the fastest-growing in the state, and when Pukalani Elementary School opened in 1976, the population was finally reduced from its all-time high of 900 students.
The history of the school is displayed on a series of bulletin boards in the school’s cafeteria, including a log of students in Antone’s hand. Remembrances from the school’s golden anniversary include prominent graduates, such as the late David Cup Choy and County Councilmember Gladys Baisa.
Councilmember Baisa wrote about transferring to Makawao School from St. Joseph’s in 1952 to Mrs. Thelma Shibaski’s sixth-grade class, “…a strict disciplinarian, who kept all of us in line with a length of rubber water hose, which she used generously for serious offenses like dirty or long fingernails, talking or gum chewing.”
Despite this administration of corporal punishment—for which Mrs. Shebaski would be in deep kim chee for today—Councilmember Baisa said, “She was tough, but a great teacher.”
May Day in Hawai‘i is a unique celebration of spring, which recalls Hawaiian traditions during the days of the monarchy. For this special 2011 celebration, Kahiau Luat-Hueu was the king and Gia Poblete the queen. Each of the classes, under the direction of Kumu Lahela Augustin, honored the court with hula, chants and/or songs. Even the faculty got into the act with a humorous version of ‘E Ku‘u Baby Hot Cha Cha.