Keepers of the Flame: The Cultural Legacy of Three Hawaiian Women (2005)

KEEPERS OF THE FLAME: The Cultural Legacy of Three Hawaiian Women


The lives of three extraordinary Hawaiian women, Mary Kawena Pukui, ‘Iolani Luahine and Edith Kanaka‘ole, are chronicled in this film. It shows how, together, they combined their talents and commitment to reignite the flame of tradition in a time when Hawaiian culture was gravely threatened.


Some Kind of Spark


This film follows kids from New York as they begin the life-changing experience of studying on Juilliard’s music advancement programme, an outreach class for communities that are underrepresented in the arts. This is a new world for these children, and demands are high. Ultimately, the film aims to serve as an inspiration for other programmes to nurture two of our most valuable national treasures: our children and our musical heritage.



PBS NewsHour
State of the Union Address


WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump will deliver his annual State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Jan. 30.


Join us on Tuesday, January 30th at 4:00 pm for PBS NewsHour’s coverage of President Trump’s State of the Union Address, the Democratic party’s response, and in-depth analysis from the PBS NewsHour team.


The Democratic response can be viewed below.



Paul Turnbull


Throughout his career, Paul Turnbull has helped create learning environments that encourage students to thrive. As President of Mid-Pacific Institute, he champions project-based learning and embraces innovation and technology in education – values that he brought with him from his experience at California public schools.


This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, Jan. 24, at 11:00 pm and Sunday, Jan. 28, at 4:00 pm.


Paul Turnbull Audio


Download the Transcript




In my world, in the preschool through twelfth grade world, I look at the … the defining characteristic of many schools is the old adage that you have to be a certain age before we can expose you to some sort of academic concept or subject. And all of us anywhere have probably been the recipient of a very pejorative: You’re not quite old enough to understand this yet. And while that may have been delivered with good intentions, most of the time, it’s just flat-out wrong.


He’s the president of Mid-Pacific Institute in Honolulu, and he believes that students should be able to pursue subjects that fuel their interest. Paul Turnbull, next, on Long Story Short.


One-on-one engaging conversations with some of Hawai‘i’s most intriguing people: Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox.


Aloha mai kākou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. In 2013, Paul Turnbull became the president of Mid-Pacific Institute in Mānoa, Honolulu, Hawai‘i, one of the largest private schools in the State with an enrollment of over fifteen hundred students from preschool to the twelfth grade. As the head of a school already known for its innovative approaches to education, Dr. Turnbull continues to move the school forward with project-based learning. He embraces the use of cutting edge technology for the students, and he pays close attention to how the changing job market will require very different skillsets, so that teachers can prepare the students. He says family and education are at the center of his life, and this native Canadian combined both when he decided to apply for U.S. citizenship. He enlisted the help of his fifth grade daughter and her class. This took place in 2015, two years after he took the reins at Mid Pacific Institute. The educator became a student again, with grade schoolers learning alongside him in preparations for the citizenship test, which he aced. For Paul Turnbull, the journey to Hawai‘i and U.S. citizenship began up north.


I was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. So, the eastern side of Canada. And my parents are really interesting individuals, and they worked really hard to sort of move us up, and we moved around the Toronto area for quite some time. And then, ultimately, over a period of years and going to different colleges, I wound up on the West Coast, just outside of Vancouver.


When you say your parents tried very hard to move you up, what does that mean?


Well, Mom and Dad both were high school graduates; they didn’t have college degrees. And so, Mom was in banking, Dad was in the telephone company. So, Mom started as a teller, a bank teller, and you don’t make a lot of money as a bank teller. And Dad was climbing telephone poles for quite some time. And ultimately, what ended up happening is that they each found that, I think to their own credit, they were more intelligent than perhaps they gave themselves credit for. And because of that, they worked their way up the ladder, each corporate ladder. So, in the telephone industry, telecommunications, and then in banking. And as that happened, we moved from one neighborhood to the next, and it was sort of the Canadian version of the American Dream where, you know, you realize that all kinds of things are possible.


Were they explicit in giving you advice, or did you learn by example?


Both. In my mom’s side of the conversation, I ultimately learned that the restrictions and sort of the barriers that are put in front of you, either from a societal level or from an industry level—she was a woman in a man’s world in banking, finance. She ultimately ended up becoming the only woman on her floor in the corporate office. So, in Toronto, Bay Street is the equivalent of Wall Street in New York. Only woman on her floor, so that was difficult. And I learned from her that barriers are both real, but they’re also what you make of them. And if you disagree with them and you just apply yourself, and you continually show that you can outwork anybody around you, then things will move. So, she moved very large mountains. Yeah; she did not agree with being told that she couldn’t do something because of her gender, so she just went ahead and did it.


And what about your dad? You said he rose in the ranks as well.


M-hm. So, the funny thing about Dad is that he’s the smartest guy in the room, but he manifests his intelligence into jokes. So, he’s a practical joker. And ultimately, he went from climbing telephone poles to managing a crew, and then ending up overseeing and engineering department in the corporate office as well. So, they ended up actually about two blocks away from each other on Bay Street. And you know, when I was in high school, they were both there.


And that was the equivalent of Wall Street in Toronto.


Correct. Yeah. And even as a high-schooler, you know, you’re jaded, and you think parents are so lame, when you’re in high school. But they would go and have lunch together. And Nathan Phillips Square is the city hall in Toronto. And right in front of Nathan Phillips Square is this very large fountain, but in the wintertime, they freeze it, and it’s a skate rink. And they would go skating at lunch. I mean, even as a high-schooler, I thought that was kinda sweet. So … yeah; they had the nice ability to come together on multiple levels.


Did you have brothers and sisters?


I’m an only.


So, they poured everything into you?


Yes and no. Mom made sure that I didn’t turn out to be representative of the stereotype, that everything is for me. Although my family every so often has to remind me at Christmas that all the presents under the tree are actually for everybody else.


While your parents were both working, you were actually really applying yourself. You did, what, four sports. What sports did you play?


In high school, so I played football, basketball, rugby, track and field. And I was lifeguarding on the side, so every so often for the swim team, they just needed points, so they’d throw me in for like, a fifty-meter freestyle.


So, you loved athleticism.


Yeah. If I was not moving, I was not a pleasant person to be around, so athletics was a very good thing for me, because it just made sure that I was occupied.


How did you do in school?


High school, I could have done much better, mostly because I was, you know, either in a pool, or I was on a field somewhere, or on a basketball court.


Paul Turnbull certainly applied himself in college, earning three degrees, with a fourth, a PhD to come later. He says his mother made sure he was grounded.


My mom reminded me—of course, you know, Mom was always around. My mom reminded me after my third degree that all those letters don’t yet spell J-O-B, so it was time to get a job teaching. So, I did that.


And by the way, how did you decide to be a teacher?


You know, honestly, it had everything to do with my teachers in high school. They clearly loved their job, they loved being together. They were inseparable. It was funny; they were like kids themselves. You know, they were always playing together. We were either playing basketball together, or I would see them going out and camping, and they started an outdoor camping club. So, I learned how to go camping in the snow in high school, and those kinds of things. And it just sort of hit me. I was in physiology class, and Dave Kaye was the teacher. And it just was the most matter-of-fact, I’m gonna be a teacher moment.


Was it a voice you heard, or just this overwhelming thought?


It was just a thought. It was not a voice; it was just, I’m gonna do that.


And then, you stuck to it.


Yeah. Yeah. My family refers to me as Even Steven. You know, if you try too hard to do some things, I think people in life probably have learned for the most part, if you try to force a square peg into a round hole, it doesn’t work. But if you just follow your passion, and you allow things to move with fluidity, that it all works out.


Paul Turnbull followed that sudden realization in physiology class into teaching English and physical education, coaching football and girls’ basketball in British Columbia, Canada. He found he had a passion for teaching. And at a teacher training conference in New Mexico, Dr. Turnbull would find a different kind of passion: the love of his life. Three children later, he can still get a little mushy, just thinking of meeting the woman he would marry.


I was teaching in Canada in Vancouver. My wife was teaching in Costa Rica at an international school. We both were teaching international baccalaureate English. And so, the IB organization is this amazing worldwide organization, and they’re known for rigor and fantastic academics. But one of the requirements is that you have to go to an IB training. So, we were both sent to this conference in July in Montezuma. We had no desire to go individually, of course. And we both went. I was sitting in the Albuquerque airport, looked up. That was it.


Attended the training, didn’t say anything. And then, you were at the airport?


So, we were there for a week, and we ended up in the same class, and it was brutal. I mean, I just … you know, when you fall in love, you fall in love. And, you know.


It was brutal to fall in love?


No; the ability—it’s happening right now. I can’t speak.

It’s just funny. When you … for me … oh, jeez.


You’re thinking back to that time?

Wow; you’re still in love, aren’t you?


Yeah. I think … the ability for us to understand that, you know, there was a great distance geographically between the two of us. And in those days, you know, internet and email, and all of those things were not readily available. So, it was an old fashioned letter writing correspondence.


That befits two teachers.


Which does, especially English teacher; right? So, it was just one of those things where … just like the teaching, when I decided I was gonna be a teacher, it was the most matter of fact, don’t have to contemplate this moment. This is just the next step.


But again, there were logistics issues. You were living in different countries.


Yes. So, at the time, Leslie grew up in Santa Barbara, and so, her parents were currently there. And they weren’t doing very well with their health, and so, it was the right thing to do. So, we moved to Santa Barbara to be closer to them.


That’s a beautiful place to live, too.


Unbelievable. Yeah; absolutely. So, I moved from snowy Toronto to beautiful Vancouver, to even more beautiful and warmer Santa Barbara.


But you did face a little obstacle with jobs; right?


Yeah. So, the difficulty about, you know, immigration is that when you go through the process—and it’s a very interesting, very involved and complicated process. Initially, you get two years. And so, it’s sort of a trial period, as a probationary landed immigrant or resident alien. I showed up, and I have a social security number, so I was able to apply for a teaching jobs. And unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a job teaching English, which is my first love and my first passion. But an administrative opportunity arose, and I was really lucky to be chosen for that.


But many teachers would not like the idea of moving to administration. They are two different fields; related, but different. Right? Different skills.




So, were you really happy?


You know, I was. So, as a teacher, in my mind, I could have an effect on thirty students in a classroom. But if I were an administrator, and if I had empathy for all the teachers with whom I worked, and I understood some of the barriers that were just, you know, frankly annoying as a teacher, if as an administrator, I could do something to remove one or more of those barriers, then that meant that I could affect how many students in a school.


Did you ever look back? Did you ever say: I want to go back to my first love, teaching?


Frequently; yes.


Oh, is that right?




But you remained an administrator.


I did. It was the path that I was on, and we were together, and we had a family, and you know, sometimes life gives you something that is probably a better course than you think.


Is Santa Barbara where you earned your PhD?


It is; yeah, at the University of California Santa Barbara.


So, you were working and going to school at the same time.


Yes; exactly right. And that’s another reason why I am absolutely just head over heels in love with my wife, because man, did she hold down the fort when I was going through my degree. It was a lot of very intense work.


You eventually became the head of a school district, one of the school districts in Santa Barbara County.


M-hm; that’s right. Yeah; I was the superintendent of the Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District.


How many schools did that cover?


It only had two schools. That’s the interesting thing about California. So, there are a thousand school districts, generally speaking. My particular school district was small by the number of schools and students, but my geographical area was fifteen hundred square miles.


Paul Turnbull married, with three children, and then living in Santa Barbara, California, earned a lot of respect in the role of district superintendent, working with more people in and outside of the school communities. He did not expect to relocate. But in 2012, he received a call that would take him and his family thousands of miles away, to Hawai‘i.


Living in Santa Barbara was a great thing, and I got a call from a search consultant, who asked me to consider Mid-Pacific. And I frankly said: You know what, I have a great life. My wife is working at UC Santa Barbara, and our kids are here, and it’s fine.


If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.


Exactly right. There’s no reason to move. So, I said: Thank you, but no, I’m good. And then, I got a call a couple weeks later and said: No, you should really look. So, we looked; but we look as parents first. Our sons were in boarding school, so that was okay. Meaning that if we had moved away to Hawai‘i, that they’d be fine. So, when we started looking at Mid-Pacific, we were thinking about our daughter, who would have been in fourth grade, had we made the move. And everything that we looked at was great. I mean, it fit our beliefs and our philosophy as a family, it fit, I think in terms of the academic opportunities and the approach to learning that our daughter would have enjoyed. And then, having satisfied that aspect, we started looking at the community, instead of the administrative spot. The community fit very closely with Santa Barbara. And then, I looked at it as a job. And from there, I didn’t see a thing I didn’t like.


As the head of Mid-Pacific Institute now, what were some of the things that surprised you that came along? ‘Cause you know, you had certain expectations moving locations. Anything that surprised you, something really that you didn’t expect?


The community at large, it was just such a welcoming, wonderful … family-centric, individual … kind of place. And California sometimes can be that, and sometimes can not be that. And it’s a very fast-paced “me” kind of place, depending on where you live. Honolulu didn’t strike me as that, and it was a refreshing breath of fresh air. So, that was the first component. As far as the school is concerned, my office is sort of right in the middle of campus, and you can go up to the Kawaiahao Seminary, the old building which is now our center for the arts, and you can go down to the technology centers and you can see the middle school, and then the elementary school. I can have a bad day, and I can go in any direction, be around kids. Easy.


Sometime after you got here, and I know you were received with open arms and things were going very well.




You made another huge decision, which was actually to leave your Canadian citizenship.


So, I’m allowed to have dual citizenship.


Do you have it?




Okay; got it.


Yeah. So, the United States no longer asks you to renounce and remove all other citizenships. But you do have to denounce all potentates, which I think is hilarious, ‘cause who says potentates.

The idea that I wanted to become a citizen really came out of just the fact that I don’t believe that being a member of your community is a spectator sport. I think that we should be active, we should be involved. I had been doing that at the local level in Santa Barbara as a Californian, but I had never been able to vote, the last remaining step on the hierarchy of things to do.


What’s it like learning the civics of the United States? ‘Cause I believe you had to go through classes.


Yeah. So, ultimately, the civics test is ten questions that they ask, but it’s based on a set of a hundred questions possible. And so, the test that you get comes from a guide.


Oh, so you studied up; it wasn’t classes.


Correct; yeah. I didn’t have to go to classes, per se. But what we ended up doing was working with my daughter’s class in fifth grade.


At Mid-Pacific Institute?


At Mid-Pacific; yeah. So, at Mid Pacific, the teachers in fifth grade were great. We have two classes in the fifth grade. I asked them if they’d be willing to help me out. And it was pretty cool. The kids put together like a video study guide for me.

Using the questions from the guide itself, and I had multiple choice options. And I remember sitting in the classroom, and all the kids were on the floor, and the big screen on the wall with all these questions. And every time I got a question right, this sort of piped-in applause would happen.

It was pretty cute.


And your daughter was the springboard for this?


Yeah. We talked originally, and I said: You know, what do you think? ‘Cause she’s a dual citizen, so she’s the daughter of a Canadian and an American, born on American soil. So, she can go to Canada with a Canadian passport, she can stay in the U.S. with a U.S. passport. So, I said: What do you think; should I be like you? And yeah, she seemed … like as a fourth-grader then prior to taking the test, I think she had a little bit of this moment of like: That’s pretty cool; you know, like I’ve got something over Dad.


And I can help him become like me.



Yeah; exactly right. And it was great. She was able to help, the class did a fantastic job. And then, when I got my citizenship, after passing the tests, which it’s always nice to pass a test, we were able to go and go as a class for the ceremony. So, you know, a real lesson in civics for the kids. ‘Cause I don’t know how many people really get to see a citizenship ceremony.


Paul Turnbull feels he’s become a better member of the community because he gained a greater appreciation for the United States and its values through the preparation process for U.S. citizenship. As the president of Mid-Pacific Institute in Honolulu, Paul Turnbull places a heavy emphasis on project-based learning and innovative approaches to education that have the potential for real world applications.


Mid-Pacific Institute has really gotten a lot of great press for technological advancements. But it’s not just being able to use tools; it’s what you do with them. Can you talk a little bit about what you’re doing at Mid-Pacific?


Sure. We really took a look at why we needed to get into different versions of technology, and what they could do as tools. And my predecessor, Joe Rice, with whom you spoke on the show, was really the beginning of all of that. In the late 90s, he opened one technology center, then in the early 2000s we opened the Weinberg Technology Center as well. And thanks to the Hartleys, Mike and Sandy Hartley, the Math and Science Complex that we have at Mid Pacific is host to a center that is really like a scaled-down version of the MIT Media Lab. And in that lab, you have the ability to have engineering and digital storytelling, and design, technological design all together, so that the School of the Arts kids and the engineering-minded kids can work together and find different ways to apply these tools. So, that’s the philosophy behind how we approach technology. The tools that we use indirectly are amazing. I mean, they’re just so much fun. We were the first school in the State to use a one-to-one iPad program, so all of our students, right down to kindergarten, have the ability to have a mobile tablet. Because we believe that the application of that technology brings the classroom from the inside to the outside. And now, your real world, much like my citizenship, becomes more than an academic exercise, but it’s something to be learned and valued, and trusted. We’re the only school in the world right now using, I believe, and I’ve done as much looking and research as I can to prove it, using 3D laser scanning. So, Lidar scanning for historic preservation. And that means that our high school students and our middle school students are using an engineering grade level of laser scanning to go out and digitally capture and restore artifacts in our local community. So, we have a museum studies course that’s a humanities course, and a historic preservation class. They have gone out and scanned, for example, Kaniakapūpū, which is King Kamehameha II’s summer retreat, now dilapidated. And when you look at any very old building, there are no as-built drawings, or certainly they don’t meet code today. But if you scan them, and the integrity of those scans is down to the millimeter, anything that happens from that point forward, we can actually help to rebuild them exactly as they are. But ultimately, all technology will go by the wayside. It will evolve. And if it’s viewed as anything other than a simple tool, then we’re getting the message wrong. Problem-solving, the ability to analyze, the ability to use creativity, collaboration, the ability to bring together in groups problem-solving for the real world. So, how can you actually apply all of your learning. So, if you can do all of that with empathy, and you have analytic abilities to approach new learning or new situations with different types of learning, if jobs go away, we’re not lining students up so that they can only be, in my mom’s case, a bank teller, or only be, in my father’s case, a linesman climbing up a telephone pole. They’re gonna have access to technology and problem-solving skills that allow them to be fluid as the market changes.


At the time of our conversation in late 2017, Mid-Pacific Institute president Paul Turnbull said it was still the only school in the world, and the only organization in Hawai‘i, utilizing 3D laser scanning for historical preservation. Much like Paul Turnbull’s inclusion of Mid-Pacific’s fifth grade in his citizenship process, it’s an example of how education and the real world can come together. Mahalo to this leader in education, Paul Turnbull, a transplant from Canada and the U.S. West Coast, who has embraced Hawai‘i, and who has been embraced by Hawai‘i. And thank you for joining us for this edition of Long Story Short on PBS Hawai‘i. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha nui.


For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store or visit


It’s important to give back, and it’s important to realize that there were a lot of lean times when we were growing up, there were a lot of times where we grew into abundance as well. But in the times of abundance, it was clear that I was responsible to find out whatever percentage of things that I had available to me, and then to give them away. So, it was important to be part of the community.



Setting Course in Hawai‘i: You Can Guide Your Future

ROAD TRIP NATION - Setting Course in Hawai‘i: You Can Guide Your Future


The team interviews Governor David Y. Ige; environmental policy specialist Hoku Ka‘aekuahiwi Pousima inspires Tehani to pursue her interest in law; and biologist Chrystie Naeole advises Keakealani and Traven on how they can maintain their unique identities while pursuing their ideas of success.



The Education of Harvey Gantt


In 1960, a talented African-American student from Charleston, Harvey Gantt, graduated from high school and decided to become an architect. Clemson College was the only school in South Carolina that offered a degree in his chosen field. In January of 1963, with the help of NAACP lawyer Matthew J. Perry, Gantt won a lawsuit against Clemson and was peacefully admitted to the college, making him the first African-American student to attend a formerly all-white school in South Carolina.



Art Souza


As a teacher, Art Souza encouraged his students to approach learning from an experiential and exploratory angle. Now as a Hawai‘i Island complex area superintendent, he supports the 19 schools in his district from an administrative position, guided by his educational philosophy and an unyielding positivity.


This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, Jan. 16, at 11:00 pm and Sunday, Jan. 21, at 4:00 pm.


Art Souza Audio


Download the Transcript




Students have access to information, and learning, and knowledge that they’ve never had before. They’re more independent in their learning, and these are all good things. Technology has been a tremendous gift to young people, because it sparks creativity in thinking and learning. I think the challenge is … for the adults to catch up with the kids, and to have an understanding that kids can create their own learning because they have that technology available to them. And so, it’s kind of a reverse catch-up, if you wish. School hasn’t ever been that way before.


Art Souza’s ideas may sound new, but a lot of his philosophy is based on how he learned best; through experiences. West Hawaiʻi Island public education official Art Souza, next, on Long Story Short.


Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawaiʻi’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.


Aloha mai kākou. I’m Leslie Wilcox Arthur Francis Souza, Jr. has gained a reputation as a visionary administrator of public schools. He oversees nineteen public schools and special education services at five charter schools over a large expanse of the Big Island. He started teaching on Hawaiʻi Island in 1989 at Honokaʻa High and Intermediate School. Originally from Honolulu, he was inspired in his teenage years to go into teaching.


I was a little local kid growing up. You know, grew up in Liliha and spent my time going between Liliha and Puʻunui, and Palama, and hanging out in Chinatown at the old Chinese herbology shops, and exploring the rivers, Nuʻuanu Stream, playing baseball. Just the way kids grew up in the 50s.


So, kids would travel all that territory alone?


Oh, yeah, yeah. Well, you went anywhere with a friend or a pack, a herd. And you know, you went up and down the street and just got yourself into any number of adventures.


Did you get into adventures that got you into trouble?


You know, nothing that ever got us into real serious trouble. I think we were smart enough to know what the limits were. But risk-taking; that was part of the adventure, right? So, we took every opportunity to do that.


What’s your ethnic background?


I’m Portuguese, Japanese.


And your mom was, too; right?


My mom was Portuguese, Japanese; yes.


So, at this time, that’s probably not that unusual. But for somebody your age, and for your mother, that was unusual. I mean, we have so many mixing of races, but those two races weren’t the most common races to mix.


Yeah; I think that’s probably true. Maybe that’s where a little bit of the risk-taking and the adventure comes from. I think my grandparents and my mom were that way. And I think that’s vestiges of the plantation camps. You know, I think the people had to rely on one another, and that sense of community was strong. So, that integration and that opportunity to engage with each other was greater, perhaps, than sometimes it is now. Yeah.


Was that an accepted intermarriage in your family?


Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah; it worked wonderfully well for my parents. I think my parents’ philosophy was real experiential. You know, they let us explore. At least, I had that opportunity. Maybe it was a little bit more tight-strung for my sisters. But I really had freedom to just kind of get involved in adventure, and to learn experientially.


What did your parents do for a living?


My dad was a sheet metal worker, Shop 39.


At Pearl Harbor?


Out at Pearl Harbor. And my mom was a registered nurse at Pearl Harbor as well, and before that, at St. Francis Hospital.


And you lived pretty much on the site of the current State Education Building?


Yeah, yeah; that’s right. From the time I was a little boy. I was born, and then until I was about six or seven years old, I guess—six years old, maybe, we lived in Perry’s Court, which was just … an interesting little enclave carved out of the middle of Honolulu, right where the Queen Liliʻuokalani Building is now. And there were about six or seven homes for rent in there, and that’s where we lived for the first five or six years of my life.


Did you ever report to work in that building on the land where you used to live?


You know, interesting enough, I probably do. Because I end up in the Liliʻuokalani Building often enough for meetings and Board of Education hearings, and those kinds of things. So, hadn’t thought about it that way, but yeah, you’re right. Yeah.


Did you have a sense that you would go into education?


Yeah; very early on. I think my inspiration was, as a sophomore in high school, I had an amazing social studies teacher who let us, you know, talk about things, and express ideas and thoughts, and share what we were pretty radical notions in 1962. And I just thought that was … to allow people to think and speak that way would be a really important thing to do. So, that’s what encouraged me, and I became a teacher, I think, as a result of that.


What was the teacher’s name?


Terrence Healy; he was a teacher that I had at St. Louis High School.


Did you ever have a chance to thank him later?


I did. One of the really neat things that happened. There was a reunion at one point; I don’t know if it was our fifteenth year reunion or something. But there was a football game out at the stadium, and he came to the game. And we had a reception before the game, and I had a chance to say that to him. So, he passed on shortly after that, so I was happy to have been able to do that.


So, you believe it was one teacher that sort of made you pivot?


Without question. You know, I had a lot of teachers, but there was something special about this guy, and he just let me to do what I want to do.


That’s when you started thinking, I might want to be an educator myself.


Yeah; yeah. Yeah; so that led me to the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. And I was fortunate to go to school probably in the most socially dynamic time in the history of our country. I started college at Mānoa in the Fall of 1966, and lived through so much of what was America at the time: the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam, the Women’s Movement. And so, boy, what an opportunity. I probably spent as much time at marches and peace gatherings as I did in classrooms. But I learned. I learned.


And you continued your education after UH Mānoa, where you majored in …


I was a history and English major; a dual major. Yeah; my education was interrupted quite a bit by travel. You know, I spent a lot of time independently traveling, and you know, it was a time when, you know, as a young man, you’re looking to make meaning for yourself as well. So, I spent a couple of years traveling around South America, and you know.


Did you do that alone?


Yeah. I traveled in South America, and then later, my current wife Vicky and I traveled for another couple of years space in time, and spent time in Africa and the subcontinent. So, I’ve spent a lot of time just on the road, and … you learn an awful lot about the human condition that way.


What kind of travel? Is this backpack travel?


Yeah; yeah. Just backpack, and you know.


No plans?


Vague ideas of where you want to go. But when I was traveling in 1971 and 72 in South America it was very inexpensive. You know, for a dollar a day, I was a rich man. Riding buses and hitchhiking and doing that kind of thing. But to be immersed in the indigenous cultures and to see the things that were there to see and experience was amazing.


Did you travel continuously?


You know, pretty much so. I mean, there were brief stops to do a little bit of work here and there, but it was pretty much continuous travel. And you know, starting in Mexico, and going through Latin America, and then all the way down into South America, and you know, I got all the way down into Tierra Del Fuego, and got out to the Galapagos Islands. And did a lot of things that a lot of people don’t have a chance to ever do.


That’s amazing. So, you just kind of broke out of college and said, This is what I’m gonna do right now?


Yeah; I needed to do that. You know, college was stale. I was learning, I was experiencing. But I really wasn’t getting what I needed. So, this was something I wanted to do. You know, I tease people now that say that that was my retirement, that’s why I’m working so long now.


But it was the most important learning that I ever have experienced. It was worth twelve PhDs to have been able to do that kind of thing, and to just absorb people, and absorb cultures, and understand how people think, how people learn. It was really amazing.


After spending several years traveling the world, Art Souza came home. He went back to school, eventually earning two Master of Arts degrees in community leadership and in educational administration. In the meantime, he started teaching on Oʻahu, and later made a permanent move to the Big Island.


What made you move to the Big Island?


Thirty years ago, Oʻahu was crazy enough for me and my family. So, my wife and I just had our first child, and it was a chance to get to the Big Island and get to some place quieter.


Did you move directly to Waimea?




That’s where you live now.


Yeah. We did.


And why’d you choose Waimea? Did you have family?


You know, my wife and had been on vacation going up to the Big Island a number of times, and we just kinda fell in love with the area. And it all worked out nice, because the school I wanted to work at was at Honokaʻa High School. I wanted to teach at Honokaʻa High School. So, we ended up living in Waimea. I taught English at Honokaʻa, and eventually became a vice principal there. Went off and did principaling at Waikoloa Elementary School, and came back to be principal of Honokaʻa High School. So, it all worked out.


I think a teacher and a principal are not necessarily—I mean, that’s not necessarily an incremental step.




Those are two different jobs. Really; aren’t they?


Yeah; they’re very different jobs. And you know, in all of my years of education, as an educator, there’s nothing that will replicate that time I had in the classroom. That’s the best work; working with the kids that way.


So, why did you go into administration?


You know, it’s one of those things. You do it for the right reasons. First of all, I was asked. And I said, If I’m gonna be asked and you have that kind of faith in me, Mr. Kainoa, I’ll step in and help out where I can. But over time, you come to understand that your span of help, your span of influence that you can over kids and communities becomes greater as an administrator. So, one thing led to the next.


So, the systems part of it attracted you? Being in charge of not just a classroom and individual lives, but a systems approach.


I guess you could call it a systems approach. Not a systems in in terms of the structural bureaucracy, but the systems approach in terms of, Wow, can do more for more kids.




I can reach. And what if we did this with this community? You know. So, it was that kind of thinking. Yeah.


The community leadership masters came in handy?


Yeah; it did. It did. I think it just sparked a way of thinking about how we might be able to do education a little differently. Yeah.


So, from teacher to vice principal, to principal.




And, then what?


And then, to the complex area superintendent position. I was principal at Honokaʻa High School in 2005 at the time when Pat Hamamoto, who was superintendent then, asked if I could step in. There was a vacancy; the previous superintendent had left. And again, it was as much as anything, a call to duty. I was asked to do it. And you know, I hadn’t really thought about being a superintendent, but when asked to serve, and you think you can serve that purpose, you do it.


You know, for those who aren’t familiar with the structure of the DOE, people may not realize what a critical and strategic job the complex area superintendent is.




Would you explain that, what exactly it is that you do? And there are others statewide as well. Others in the state, as well.


Yeah. It’s an interesting structure. It’s one that was created by by Pat as a way to try to decentralize the Central Office and personalize supports in a very unique way for each unique community. So, a state superintendent sits at the top with a deputy and five assistant superintendents at the state level. And below that are fifteen of us; my colleagues. And we are scattered about in different areas of the State. So, my particular area is on the Big Island in West Hawaiʻi. My colleagues are Brad Bennett in Hilo-Waiākea, and Keone Farias in Keaau-Kau-Pāhoa. I have nineteen schools in my area; they’re all Title 1 schools, which means that they meet the poverty guidelines. So, we have access to federal dollars through that means. I also am responsible for special education services in five charter schools.


That is a huge responsibility. And you know, when you say West Hawaiʻi, I know that’s the title. Honokaʻa is really northeast; right?




So, you kinda go right around the top of the island, and down on the other side to Kohala.


Yeah; it’s an interesting geographic area. I go as far as east as Hilo to Paʻauilo, which is the school that’s furthest east. And then, I’m responsible for all of the schools in Waimea, Honokaʻa up to North Kohala, and then down through the Kealakehe complex in Waikoloa in the central part of the island.


That is a huge and diverse area.


Yeah; and then down to Kona. Yeah.


Down to Kona, too.


Yeah; down as far as Hoʻokena, near Miloliʻi, is where my area kind of stops.


That is monstrous.


It’s a large area.


That’s like an island in itself.


Yeah; I spend a lot of time on the road.


DOE Complex Area Superintendent for West Hawaiʻi Island, Art Souza, strongly believes that community building will help to build academic success in these rural areas.


The opportunity is the challenge, and the challenge is the opportunity. It’s how you reconcile all that. And it’s about how you lead, how you choose to lead, and how you build those partnerships and relationships with all those entities. And you get better at it over time. And I think I’ve gotten better at it over time.


How long have you been complex area superintendent?


This is my twelfth year. No one teaches you how to be a superintendent. You don’t go to superintendent school. So, I remember the turnover from the previous superintendent to me was about a thirty-minute meeting where I said, What is this job, what do you want me to do? He says, just read those books. And that was it. It was exploratory learning and experiential learning.


And that’s exactly what you love to do.


That’s exactly how I learn best. So, that wasn’t a challenge for me. I mean, yeah, you have to learn the rules and regulations, and yes, I did have to read those books. But finding my way, and creating the learning and creating the leadership as I learned it was really a remarkable opportunity.


Now, everyone talks about collaborative leadership.




And I believe you’re a collaborative leader. Were you always? Was that your nature?


I think so. Yeah; I think so. And I think that’s the only way we can learn and lead. You know, can I tell a story real quick?




So … because it just strikes me as kind of a metaphor for education. But Gloria Steinem tells a story about a time when she was in graduate school, and she was out on a field trip with her class. And she watched as this turtle perched itself on the side of the road, a very, very busy thoroughfare. So, she raced over, picked the turtle up, and took the turtle back down the hill from whence it came, and dropped it back at the pond, and feeling good about herself because she salvaged a dangerous situation. Her professor came up to her and said: You realize what you just did; it took that turtle six weeks to get up the mountainside to come to a place where she could lay her eggs safely, away from the predators and allow her children to scamper down to the pond to safety. And so, Gloria Steinem asked him in return: Well, what should I have done differently? He said, Next time, ask the turtle. And I think it’s a great metaphor for education; it speaks to why we try to do education by infusing policy, whether it’s at the federal or state level, or we infuse millions of dollars in technology or fancy curriculum, but we don’t ask the turtle, we don’t ask the kids, we don’t ask the communities, we don’t ask the people who are most impacted by our work. So, I think if we kinda flip the notion of how we do education, and make it more of a community business, I think we’d get further with our outcomes.


And yet, there’s less and less of a sense of community, even in rural areas, because people are working or they’re isolated. How do we get that community fabric?


You know, I think it’s incumbent upon us as educators in schools to create that opportunity for community. You know, school traditionally has been a standalone process where kids come at eight o’clock in the morning, and they’re dropped, and at three o’clock they go home, and we’ve done our job. But we haven’t made ourselves very welcoming to community, and we have to recognize that there’s huge wealth and resource. The teachers are in the community, so how do we create the community as the classroom. So, I think it’s that reciprocal trust that has to be built. And we’re getting there; that’s kind of the process of what we’re trying to do in West Hawaiʻi now.


So, how does that actually help the students?


What happens is that we’re creating opportunities for site-based and place-based learning opportunities, mentorships, internship opportunities for kids. It’s a funding source that can hopefully help to develop opportunities for more money for our dual college and dual credit programs. And I think it just creates an opportunity to have more voices tell us what education should look like. Because you know, I believe that our authority and our accountability, and our authenticity as school leaders really comes not from us doing it, but from us being able to say, Are we acting that way on your behalf. And so, that’s kind of why I believe that through this partnership, and through this community building we’ll make some gains.


So, you feel empowered and free in your position to do what you think best? I mean, ‘cause you know, you just hear of so many people who feel like they’re just in straightjackets of bureaucracy.


You know, there are elements that are straightjacket-like. I mean, it’s the bureaucracy. But I think within that, there’s plenty of room for flexibility, there’s plenty of room for autonomy. But you have to be willing to take risks, and you have to be able to know that it’s not always gonna be easy to fund. There are those challenges. But you have to start somewhere; right?


What’s it gonna take? That’s a very complex—speaking of complex. You talked about that several times. That’s a tough thing, to change somebody’s way of thinking based on their experience and their concerns.


You know, one of my favorite metaphors, if I could share with you, is one I read in a Paul Theroux book some years back, where you know, we have so many entities that are involved in education; right? We have the department, we have the collective bargaining units, the legislature, the governor’s office; you name it. But traditionally in education, when we bring all these entities together, it’s much like two bald men arguing over a comb. You know, because—


Who said that; Paul Theroux?


Paul Theroux, it’s a great visual because when you think about it, ideally and philosophically, you’re there for the right reason. We’re here for kids, we’re gonna do the right thing for kids. But you so quickly default to: But I gotta take care of my kuleana first, and I’m gonna do what I need to do for my entity. We have to switch that thinking. And so, yeah, that’s the hard work of transformation, is it’s changing traditional ways of thinking, and getting agreement that, Can we get a common agenda around hopes and dreams for kids?



You’re not a digital native.




No such thing as cell phones in your time, or nobody was using the web or smart TVs.




So, you’re teaching children who are all digital natives.




And obviously, infrastructure has been added, and policies have been made. But also, you know, there’s an argument that children are even hardwired differently now.




What have you seen?


I think students have access to information, and learning, and knowledge that they’ve never had before. I think they’re more independent in their learning, and these are all good things. I think that technology has been a tremendous gift to young people, because it sparks creativity in thinking and learning. I think the challenge is for the adults to catch up with the kids, and to have an understanding that kids can create their own learning because they have that technology available to them. And so, it’s kind of a reverse catch-up, if you wish. School hasn’t ever been that way before.



Where teachers sometimes have to get out of the way, or they have to be able to lead and follow.


That’s right; that’s right. And so, the role of the teacher is different, because you’re not just the dispenser of information and knowledge, but you’re a facilitator of learning. And that’s a different way of looking at it. The young people today are just absolutely brilliant. I’m amazed by, when I go and see what these guys are learning, what they’re capable of doing, when you see their senior projects and you see what they’ve accomplished at graduation. Sometimes, we just have to get out of the way and let ‘em learn.


And yet, you say all the schools in your district are Title 1?


Yeah. Yeah. So, we have those challenges, and you know, the social and emotional needs of our communities are such that, yeah, we have issues with drugs, and we have issues with teen wellness and teen suicide, and we have issues with teenage pregnancy and all. And the role of school has changed dramatically, and all the more reason why we have to understand we can’t do all of those things, and educate. But our job is to make kids well, to create leaders who will sustain their communities. You do that by having the community involved. So, if you have a successful student, I believe that has to be mirrored by a successful community. They’re one and the same, and we should have the same measures in defining what a successful student and a successful community look like.


You know, as you named some of the challenges, I thought, you know, you have to have a certain mindset to do the job you have. Because many people, when there’s a problem, when there’s a fear or a problem that takes precedence because that’s a danger. You have all of those things on your horizon, you know, as possible problems or threats, or immediate.

But you have to see the bright skies around the darkness, or you couldn’t do your job.



You know, I like to think of myself as irrationally optimistic. And I think you have to be. And I think if you ask any of my colleagues in any of the fourteen other complex areas, they have the same challenges I have. You know, some might be larger than others, but we have to remain positive in our belief that, you know, if we do it right, those goals, and aspirations, and hopes that kids have will be realized. They will be realized.


Although, on the other side of the fence, if you do it right today, it doesn’t mean it’ll work tomorrow.




So, you’re always having to change, as necessary.


Yeah; that’s a good point. You know, the work of the educator is probably the most dynamic one there is, and you always have to be aware of that. And that’s the biggest challenge in education when I’m asked. It’s not about lack of funding or resources; I think we have enough to work with. The challenge is changing mindsets. You know, I’ve been an educator for forty years, and we’ve been talking about transformation, but we haven’t really come much of a way toward real true transformation. So, it’s a constant effort to do that.



Following his philosophy of asking the turtle what it wants, State DOE Complex Area Superintendent for West Hawaiʻi Island, Art Souza, allowed his sons to find their own way in school. His older son Nathan graduated from private Hawaiʻi Preparatory Academy in Waimea, and gravitated to the arts. He now lives in Portland, Oregon. Ethan graduated from public school at Honokaʻa High, and works in environmental conservation on the Big Island. Mahalo to Art Souza for your passion and vision for quality public education in rural areas. And thank you for joining us. For PBS Hawaiʻi and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha, a hui hou.


For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes store, or visit


Do you ever want to just get your backpack and hele out?


Oh, you know it; you know it. I don’t have too much longer for my formal working with the Department. I’m kind of ready to start that transition, I hope it includes some backpacking. Absolutely.


Where would you go now? You’ve been to South America and Africa.


Yeah, yeah. No, there’s a lot of places that I haven’t been. I’ve always had this fascination with the Trans-Siberian Railroad, and getting up into some of the more remote areas of what was previously the Soviet Union. I’d love to get to China; I’ve never been to China. Those would be two destinations.





Setting Course in Hawai‘i: Know Where Home Is

ROAD TRIP NATION - Setting Course in Hawai‘i: Know Where Home Is


Roadtrippers Tehani, Traven and Keakealani begin their journey on Hawai‘i Island, where they meet the scientist who saved Hawai‘i’s papayas.


Setting Course in Hawai‘i: Cross the Ocean, Build Bridges

ROADTRIP NATION: Cross the Ocean, Build Bridges


Tehani, Traven and Keakealani visit the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory to explore an active volcano zone and meet with geophysicist Dr. Jim Kauahikaua and engineer Kevan Kamibayashi. Then they island-hop over to Maui, where they tour the NOAA Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.



1 2 3 12