Sep2 Featured in Honolulu Star Bulletin

New Web site offers detailed school data

By Katherine Nichols

Anyone who has ever navigated the maze of public and private schools in Hawaii knows it can be overwhelming. How do you begin to determine which school is best for your child? It’s difficult enough when you live here; imagine how it feels to the parents of tens of thousands of military children arriving in Hawaii at any given time.

Evan and Kari Leong have taken the first steps toward making life a little easier for everyone. Their Hawaii School Guide Web site ( went live yesterday. Almost two years in the making, it consolidates massive quantities of information about more than 800 schools from pre-kindergarten through grade 12.

Like multiple-listing services for real estate that allow people to search for homes according to specific criteria, everybody’s needs are different, said Evan Leong, who developed Greater Good Radio with his wife, Kari. The interactive site invites parents to find and compare schools based on location, tuition, ethnicity, test scores, special needs, religion or after-school care, for example.

The Leongs’ own frustration during their search for preschool and kindergarten for their two young sons ignited the idea for the Hawaii School Guide. With their own seed money, they began to develop the initial database while seeking input from the military, the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools, the Department of Education, the Department of Human Services, the community and some schools. As it grew, they approached the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation and Joint Venture Education Forum, both of which supplied grant money. In March 2008 “the ball really started rolling,” Evan said.

“It’s going to be a fabulous resource for parents,” said Robert Witt, executive director of the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools. “Admissions directors are enthusiastic about participating. It’s just one more way to reach families with young children… There will be a ton of data that parents can examine and consider.”

Evan explained that it gives people the opportunity to see all the options while saving valuable time. “If you’re looking at preschools, you’d never guess there are around 400 of them,” he noted. It also allows parents to request information from the schools, stay in touch with deadlines and obtain in-depth statistics on DOE schools in particular.

A unique quality of the Leongs’ site is that it does not simply link to each school’s existing Web site. “It offers a Web platform for schools that don’t have anything like that,” Evan said, providing a venue for those schools to highlight their best programs.

It also helps schools communicate with parents of current and prospective students. A single update through the Hawaii School Guide allows schools to disseminate new links or alterations to the calendar.

The Leongs are still developing and perfecting details on the site, but they hope that over time it becomes the key reference for parents in and outside Hawaii.

The original article was published at Star Bulletin by Katherine Nichols