As the Kamehameha Schools celebrates 125 years of educating Hawaiʻi’s keiki, a new era in its legacy is dawning atop Kapālama. With expanded facilities to serve more students to brand new leadership at the helm.
Earl Kim, the new Headmaster for the Kapālama campus, was born and raised on Oʻahu before leaving the islands for college. He earned degrees from Cornell and Princeton Universities, and honorably served in the Marine Corps before starting his career in education in New Jersey.
“I’ve been in education for over 25 years I think now as a classroom teacher, as a coach, been a principal, system principal, super intendant at schools,” says Earl Kim, new Poʻo Kula of Kamehameha Schools, Kapālama campus. “So I’ve seen education from a lot of different perspectives, and that gives me a real appreciation for the complexity of the work.”
During his career, he established a reputation for challenging the status quo and raising the bar for the education of his students, something that is expected of him at Kapālama.
“So my experiences with that kind of a change process in other school systems I think has prepared me pretty well for the kinds of challenges we’re going to have here.”
From the moment he was hired, Earl Kim was faced with significant challenges. The most evident being that he is a non-Hawaiian leading the foremost Hawaiian school in the nation. But that hasn’t impeded his desire to learn.
“Language is culture and culture is language it is true at the deepest level. I think that’s something that I need to grow in and appreciate more because I think it’s important for the leader of this school to be fluent in the language of the people he is trying to serve.”
To achieve this expectation, he is takes classes with fellow staff and faculty.
“In Ke Ala Leo, we’re able to speak, to pass, to make mistakes, and there are five rules of the class, and one of them is to respect the other students in the class,” he says. “It’s very enjoyable, I really look forward to going to class every Wednesday night.”
Another challenge he faces is following in the footsteps of his legendary predecessor.
“The most daunting part, honestly has been taking over after Dr. Chun.”
“This man had spent his entire life, virtually his entire life, committed to this institution and he sits me down and says: ”Earl, all I want you to do is to take this school to the next level,” he continues to say.
And Earl Kim has promised to do his best to fulfill just that.
“This year I’m spending a lot of time listening to different groups of people, alumni, faculty, students, hearing what some of the challenges they’re facing are, and getting to the vision that we have for our institution, and coming up with some strategies to get us there.”
“My thinking is that one of the things that we’re going to have to do is come up with a way of organizing our efforts as a school so that everybody feels engaged, so that everybody feels that they have a stake and then we’ll get there.”