National principal titles goes to Maori educator

[Reprinted from the September 2013 issue of IMUA Polenisia,
the Polynesian Cultural Center newsletter: Story and Maori photo by Mike Foley] 

Sheena-AlaiasaSome people at the Latter-day Saint Church-affiliated Polynesian Cultural Center only know her as Sheena, a part-time Maori musician, but to 600-plus students as well as the 52 faculty members she oversees every week-day, she’s Mrs. Alaiasa [pictured at right], Principal of Samuel Wilder King Intermediate School in Kaneohe, Oahu.

In fact, she’s so good at her full-time position that the Hawaii Association of Secondary School Administrators recently named her State Middle School Principal of the Year, based on her excellence in professional growth, collaborative leadership, advancements in curriculum, instruction and assessment, and personalization of learning.

With that honor, she went on to become the first person from Hawaii to be nominated as a national middle school principal of the year finalist; and subsequently won the title in Washington, D.C.

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Original Maori artisan refreshes PCC carvings

Maori_carvings11-30-13 [Published in the December 2013 issue of IMUA Polenisia
the Polynesian Cultural Center newsletter:
Story and photos by Mike Foley]

Before sunrise on November 30, in accordance with New Zealand Maori custom, carvers, service missionaries, island representatives, other Maori from the community and special guests waited at the Maori Village gate for a special kawanga ceremony to mark the reopening of the PCC’s Maori Village following an extensive renovation and replacing many of the original carvings.

More than 150 people participated in the ceremony that included Seamus Fitzgerald, PCC Director of Cultural Islands and Maori Village manager, and his team inviting the guests onto the marae with chants, followed by the entire group slowly inspecting the newly renovated features and carvings in a procession.

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What a ‘wero’!

Over the past 40-plus years I’ve seen Maori at the Polynesian Cultural Center welcome many visiting groups of their countrymen with traditional greeting ceremonies, but I think the wero or challenge-and-acceptance protocol the PCC and Maori from the surrounding communities put on for Te Panekiretanga O Te Reo Maori on July 27, 2010, was one of the most exciting ever…

…partially because members are carefully accepted into the Napier, New Zealand-based group to study and perfect Maori language and cultural skills: Where in past groups maybe one or two of the manuhiri or visitors would respond to the challenge and karanga chants, nearly all Te Panekiretanga O Te Reo Maori members joined these thrilling moments as they entered the Maori marae at the Polynesian Cultural Center:

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E hoa: Congratulations, Alfred


It is with great pleasure that I congratulate my young friend and former colleague, Puataata (if you ever wondered what the P. stands for) Alfred Grace, who was recently named as the first-ever Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the Polynesian Cultural Center. I can honestly say I knew Al back when.

I first met Al when he  recently returned from serving a Latter-day Saint mission in his native New Zealand (actually he’s from that thriving blink-stop town of Turangi in the North Island) and was working as a sales guide in the Polynesian Cultural Center Reservations Department — along with fellow Kiwi and Turangi mate Varen Berryman, as well as Francis Ho Ching.

They were terrific sales people, and I think that Kiwi accent helped Al and Varen close more than a few VIP sales. For his part, Al has always been quick to recognize the late Fia Moea’i (Mau) Sataraka, PCC’s long-time Reservations manager who helped train those young men, and many others…but I’m getting ahead of myself.

As I recall the story… [Read more…]