A True Princi-‘Pal’

St. Catherine School students pose under the tree with principal David Adams (front in blue) and St. Catherine Parish pastor Father Anthony Rapozo (front in gray).

When he’s not planning out the campus’ future on Kaua‘i, St. Catherine School’s newest principal David Adams can be found interacting with students of the Kapa‘a Catholic school.

St. Catherine School in Kapa‘a is soaring into the holiday season on a high note under the leadership of its new principal David Adams, who took over the reigns in late October from interim principal Drew Cohick.

“My journey in life has been blessed with amazing opportunities, (and) it is an honor to serve as the principal here at this amazing school,” says Adams.

The New York-born Adams served as principal at six different schools in three countries, and was part of the team that successfully opened the first Canadian-certified school

in the Middle Eastern country of Oman. Prior to arriving on Kaua‘i, Adams was living in Canada, where he served as the first head coach to lead both the University of Lethbridge men’s and women’s basketball teams to their respective playoffs.

Then, a family tragedy struck, and Adams decided to change his path in life, as he felt a calling to be of greater service. He moved to Kaua‘i last July and began working as a crisis therapist, helping others move forward through difficult and challenging times.

When a teaching position opened at St. Catherine, Adams applied.

“Next thing I know, I’m the new principal,” he says with astonishment.

It’s a position he clearly loves, as is evident in the way he bounds across the campus, merrily greeting students and faculty with all the unbridled enthusiasm of a kid on Christmas Day.

On a cool Hawai‘i winter morning, Adams stops to check in on the kindergartners rehearsing for their Christmas pageant, and after that, giddily challenges the fourth-graders to a dodgeball match and chats with eight-graders about their future plans.

“(I) love the people here,” Adams says. “St. Catherine’s learning community has incredible students, talented staff and supportive parents that strive for excellence.

“St. Catherine School reminds me of that great surfing spot that a choice few know about … a best-kept secret.”

The secret, though, may soon be out as St. Catherine School’s achievements continue to grow. Last month, the school’s robotics team ranked second in the state and qualified for the Hawai‘i FIRST Robotics state championships Dec. 14 on O‘ahu. The winning team — made up of Katie Campden, Landon Szegda, and Martian and Marc Binonwangan — finished third overall and won the coveted 2019-20 First Tech Challenge THINK Award.

More recently, St. Catherine School sixth-graders held a classroom food drive and volunteered their time with Kaua‘i Independent Food Bank, touring the facility and sorting hundreds of pounds of food for distribution, according to middle school instructor Kristen Simczak. The class donated nearly 200 pounds of food to help local families through the holidays.

These accomplishments are just part of the fundamental values that the school promotes.

“We focus on a single character trait for each month that we are together at the school: responsibility, self-control, punctuality, gratitude, generosity, honesty, kindness, politeness, tolerance and perseverance,” explains Adams.

Robotics team members Marc and Martian Binonwangan, and Katie Lambden (not pictured is Landon Szegda) prepared for the Hawai‘i FIRST Robotics state championships with help from adviser Drew Cohick.

For Adams, the most important indicator of school success can be found in its alumni.

“St. Catherine School is proud to have graduated students who went on to be successful contributors to society in all facets of careers,” says Adams. “For example, two former mayors on the island of Kaua‘i are alumni of St. Catherine School.”

The campus first opened its doors in 1946 with classrooms for students in kindergarten through fourth grade. The first class graduated in 1952 and in 1984, a preschool was added. Now, the school sits on 11 acres on the hillside overlooking Kapa‘a town.

The private school boasts a total of 156 students — the average class size is 12 students — and 29 staff.

St. Catherine School students make a beeline for the playground during recess.

“We intentionally monitor class size as educational research clearly demonstrates that smaller class sizes yield higher educational success for the students,” says Adams.

The student population at St. Catherine School shows that a little more than half identify as non-Catholic, but Catholicism is integrated into school hours every day.

“For example, we start each and every day with a morning assembly and we pray together as a school at that time,” Adams adds. “We have religion classes for all of our students as part of our curriculum. We are blessed to be able to celebrate monthly masses at St. Catherine Parish, which is also on-site.”

Looking ahead to the future, Adams hopes to expand growth into new areas. Currently, transportation to the school from the North Shore is available, and he would like to add a southern route from the Līhu‘e area.

There are also plans to add a Surf Academy for middle-schoolers, and in the 2020-21 school year, faculty and staff will begin the planning stages of growing into a Catholic high school. According to Adams, the parish is also in discussion with Kamehameha Schools to open a preschool on campus.

For more information, visit scskauai.com.