September 24, 2004

Michael Carr, NASSP
Holly Sheffer, MetLife


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Gail Awakuni, principal of James Campbell High School in Ewa Beach, Hawaii, today was named the 2005 MetLife/NASSP National High School Principal of the Year.

Awakuni received the award for demonstrating excellence in resolving complex problems, involving the local community in the school, and her consistent success in improving James Campbell High School’s overall learning environment. Awakuni will receive $5,000 as part of her award.

“Gail Awakuni looked critically at the needs of her school. Although change would not be easy, she saw it was necessary in order to provide the best learning environment for the students at James Campbell High School. She thoroughly understood the importance of involving her staff, students, parents, and the community in order to achieve the goal of providing an improved school environment,” stated Dr. Gerald N. Tirozzi, executive director, NASSP. “More now than ever it is imperative our nation’s high schools have visionary leaders like Gail who understand the need for change to facilitate learning. We are proud to have her as the 2005 National High School Principal of the Year.”

“We applaud the efforts of Gail Awakuni -- a perfect example of how the strategic planning and hard work of a school principal can make a significant, positive impact on America’s future,” said Michael K. Farrell, chief executive officer, MetLife Resources.

Gail Awakuni, who has served at James Campbell High School since July 2000, sees her role as one of transformational leader, and Hawaii State Senator Willie C. Espero agrees saying, “Dr. Awakuni is innovative, creative, and thinks outside the box. She is open to not only what is best for her students, but also what is best for her teachers, her staff, and her community.”

Working with teachers and staff members, she has set her focus on reculturing the school of 2,000 students to instill a school-wide sense of responsibility, trust, pride, and high achievement. Her reform efforts have centered on proven best practices such as professional learning communities, personalization through small communities of learning, and a rigorous curriculum.

One of the most significant elements of the reform effort was the implementation of a block schedule that provided opportunities for increased staff development and an advisory period for students to meet regularly with staff members.

Teachers teach three periods per day and have one period of staff development for collaborative inquiry, modeling, observation, and team planning. Awakuni recognizes the importance of meeting each student’s needs. “School operations and procedures need to be flexible to accommodate the diverse needs of students,” she says. “No child should be left behind or fall between the cracks.”

Complex Area Superintendent Mamo Carreira echoes the sentiments of many: “With her boundless energy, data-driven, results-oriented decision making, ability to develop partnerships, and insatiable quest to increase student success, it is easy to see why Gail Awakuni is a shining example of a professional who exemplifies the qualities of a dynamic educational leader.”

Awakuni has been serving as the 2004 Hawaii High School Principal of the Year. She was one of three state finalists selected from candidates from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA).

***Photos and bios of the National and State Principals of the Year for 2004-2005 can be seen at

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The National Association of Secondary School Principals—the preeminent organization and the national voice for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals and aspiring school leaders—provides its members the professional resources to serve as visionary leaders. NASSP promotes the intellectual growth, academic achievement, character development, leadership development, and physical well-being of youth through its programs and student leadership services. NASSP sponsors the National Honor Society™, the National Junior Honor Society™, and the National Association of Student Councils™.

MetLife Resources, a division of MetLife, provides retirement plans and other financial services to healthcare, education, and not-for-profit organizations. MetLife, a subsidiary of MetLife, Inc. (NYSE: MET), is a leading provider of insurance and other financial services to individual and institutional customers. The MetLife companies serve individuals in approximately 13 million households in the U.S. and provide benefits to 37 million employees and family members through their plan sponsors. Outside the U.S., the MetLife companies serve approximately 8 million customers through direct insurance operations in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Korea, Taiwan and Uruguay.