Along with the beginning of the second semester and a new year, Hawaii Baptist Academy welcomed Elton Kinoshita as its new high school principal. He takes over from long-time principal Marsha Hirae, who led the high school for 24 years.

Prior to coming to HBA, Kinoshita worked in Hawaii’s Department of Education first as an educator and then most recently as the principal of Lanai High and Elementary School. Born and raised on Oahu, Kinoshita felt the pull to Lanai as his father was raised there. “My father grew up on Lanai, and he moved there when he was about a year old,” he said. When the Lanai principal job opened up, Kinoshita saw it as unique professional opportunity. “There are only six schools, public schools, that go from kindergarten to 12th grade. So if you think about it, you get experience at all three school levels. If you’re a principal there, you’re an elementary principal, a middle school principal and a high school principal all in one. [I was attracted to] getting that experience all at the same time,” he said.

Deer grazing outside of Elton Kinoshita’s Lanai apartment when he lived there. Photograph courtesy of Elton Kinoshita.

As he’s settling into his role at HBA, Kinoshita wants to hear what students have to say. “Student voice is very important. In other words, I need to hear from you. Because this is your school. And I don’t know how much the adults and the leaders have listened to you in the past. But at my last school, I had an open door; students would come and talk to me all the time,” he said. Kinoshita shared that at his last school, he made it a point to listen to feedback from the student body about the school’s policy on cell phones and dress code. “At that time cell phones were completely banned. We gave them a meeting, and each student had three minutes to say what they wanted. We made some changes to the dress policy based on what they said, and they came up with a written plan for cell phone use, and we adopted it exactly the way they wrote it,” he said.

Kinoshita says he’s a “people-person” and hopes students will feel comfortable introducing themselves to him if they run into him on campus. He’s been pleasantly surprised at how friendly students have been at HBA. “You’re lucky if you get just a grunt back on Lanai,” he says, smiling. “Here [at HBA] the kids are very open, very friendly.”

When not working, one of Kinoshita’s favorite things to do is travel. “I love going to Las Vegas. I don’t gamble, but I go because I love to eat. I love going to San Francisco because I’m a 49ers and a Giants fan, and I love to go to sporting events. I haven’t been there in a while, but I love New York. I would go to Broadway for different events, and [have gone to] Florida for Disney World two times.” Kinoshita is not married and does not have children of his own. However, he shared that he helped raise his friend’s son, who is now 29 years old and lives in Poland. “We talk probably almost every week, sometimes several times a week because I’m the closest thing he has to family besides his mom,” he said.

To help Kinoshita transition into his new job, former principal Hirae will remain at HBA till the end of the semester. The Eagle Eye asked her to share some advice for Kinoshita. She said, “From just the very short time I have been able to work with him, I can tell that Kinoshita is and will be a caring, student-centered principal. If anything, I would encourage him to continue to lead our school with God’s wisdom and guidance and to serve our students and their families with humility and loving-kindness.”