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New leader takes helm at Kamehameha Schools-Hawaii

Photo of Stender available by Hollyn


Tribune-Herald Staff Writer

His first name means “Running in the Rain” — a fitting title for the new headmaster at Kamehameha Schools’ campus in rainy East Hawaii.

Holoua Stender comes to Kamehameha Schools-Hawaii after spending 32 years at Kamehameha’s Kapalama campus in Honolulu. Most recently, he served for eight years as principal of Kapalama Elementary School. Now, he enters the Hawaii campus as the institution’s second headmaster, after the retirement of founding Headmaster Stan Fortuna, who shaped the direction of the school for 10 years.

“(Stender is) someone with great passion for student learning and has contributed tremendously both at the division and campus levels of leadership,” said Dee Jay A. Mailer, CEO of Kamehameha Schools. “He is well respected for his educational knowledge and his deep understanding and expression of Hawaiian culture, language and life. He practices what he believes in and inspires others to do so as well.”

The new headmaster grew up on Kewalo Hawaiian Homestead on Oahu and learned Hawaiian culture there at an early age. But, he added Thursday, he also has deep roots on the Big Island, where two of his grandparents were born.

“My grandfather was born in a grass house here. … I’m glad to be back. In a way, I’m re-establishing those ties,” he said.

He’s also learning to love the lighter traffic and slower pace of life here in comparison with Honolulu.

As for the start to the new year, which Kamehameha-Hawaii will recognize on Tuesday with a school-wide assembly, Stender says he has one over-arching mission to guide his decision making: “My mission is to provide for the wellbeing of Native Hawaiian students and Hawaiian culture. … My vision for Kamehameha Schools is to provide the very best in educational experiences and different types of opportunities in whatever areas our students choose to excel. I want us to be the absolute best.”

He added that he intends to continue and expand Kamehameha’s long-standing tradition of partnering with other Hawaii Island schools and organizations to provide a variety of community services and learning opportunities.

“Our mission is very broad,” he said of Kamehameha Schools, which is supported by a $9.06 billion trust, endowed by Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop. The system includes K-12 campuses on Oahu, Hawaii, and Maui, and 31 preschool sites statewide. The combined 6,715 preschool through grade 12 student enrollment makes Kamehameha the largest independent school system in the United States.

On his plans and goals for himself as the new school year gets underway, Stender says he hopes to keep his own learning curve high.

“My biggest challenge will be my capacity for learning,” he said with a laugh. “This is the first time I’ve been headmaster of a school, and I’ve got 245 staff I will oversee. I’ve got to learn to be the best cheerleader I can be for this high flying group.”

As he has prepared to take the reins at the school, Stender says Kamehameha-Hawaii’s founding headmaster proved to be an invaluable resource.

“Dr. Fortuna has been such a wonderful mentor for me. We’ve spoken weekly, either by phone, or by flying over, to help me with the transition. I’d like to commend him for the great job he’s done here. He was here from the beginning, and he’s built so much.”

Stender arrived on the Big Isle on June 11 — Kamehameha Day — and has busily been moving into his office and meeting faculty, staff, students and parents. He lives in a home in the Keaau Ag Lots with his wife, Allennette, and his daughter, Ehulani, who will be entering the fourth grade at Kamehameha.

In his spare time, Stender says he has enjoyed exploring the island’s many prime snorkeling spots with his daughter.

In 1979, he achieved the level of kumu hula and still advises and supports various halau and Hawaiian performing arts groups in Hawaii and on the mainland. He teaches chant and mele composition and translates Hawaiian documents, songs and poetry for groups and individuals. He also volunteers at church activities and community fundraisers.

Stender received his doctorate in education from the University of Southern California, where he serves as an adjunct assistant professor. He also holds a master’s degree in education from the University of Colorado at Boulder and currently serves on the core planning team of Kamehameha Schools’ Standards-Based Kula Hawaii curriculum project.

Also new on campus this year is Lehua Veincent, principal of Kamehameha Schools-Hawaii’s high school. He formerly served as principal at Keaukaha Elementary School.

Email Colin M. Stewart at


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