REPORT FROM THE DOE – Days after hearing her name announced as the Hawaii Department of Education’s 2014 Employee of the Year, Kahaluu Elementary’s Monica DeCosta said she still felt shocked. It was the first award she received in her 20-year DOE career, she stated.
“This award is meaningful because after all my hard work, it means someone recognizes me,” DeCosta, a school administrative services assistant, said.
After seven years of serving at Kahaluu, she is more than recognized. About 325 people gathered at a surprise school assembly to honor DeCosta on Sept. 16. She received leis, posters, roses and a gift basket. Lea Albert, Castle-Kahuku Complex Area superintendent, shared kind words about the guest of honor.
DeCosta’s reach extends far at the school of 292 students. She manages, trains and evaluates all clerical employees, and works as the secretary, health aide, registrar and student record keeper. Her 2014 accomplishments include securing funds of around $25,000 to ensure that the school’s Hawaiian Studies program continues. She also leveraged her relationships with parents to reduce student tardiness and absences, which fell from 29 percent a year earlier to 8 percent last school year.
“Every day, I call all of the parents who have absent or late children,” said DeCosta, a wife, mom of four, grandmother of 12 and soon-to-be great grandmother. “I tell them how important it is for their children to be in school and to come on time.”
Nominated by Kahaluu Elementary Principal Naomi Matsuzaki, DeCosta received two award certificates and $100 at the state award ceremony earlier this month.
“Mrs. DeCosta is acknowledged for her commitment to excellence in education,” Matsuzaki said. “She takes joy in seeing students learn and grow, and always gives her support for school activities. She values instructional time and makes sure that the teachers have what they need to do their jobs. She’s often heard saying, ‘Don’t worry; I’ll take care of that for you.’”
DeCosta is now eligible for the title of Hawaii State Employee of the Year, which will be announced next month. During the past six years, five of the DOE Employee of the Year award recipients have come from the Castle-Kahuku Complex Area schools. Four of these have come from Kahaluu Elementary and one from the Castle-Kahuku Complex Area.