Who is running for the San Diego Unified School Board?


On Tuesday, some voters in the San Diego Unified School District will decide who gets to fill two school board seats.

Four candidates are running for office in the school district’s northeast Subdistrict B, which includes neighborhoods from Hillcrest to the San Diego State University area north of Serra Mesa and Tierrasanta, and the sub -district C, which spans the district’s coastal communities from Point Loma to La Jolla to University City.

About the candidates:

Run for sub-district B

Shana Hazan

Education: University of Wisconsin, BA in Political Science; Northwestern University, MA in Education and Social Policy.

San Diego Unified School District school board candidate Shana Hazan in an undated photo.

Professional experience: president of Hazan Strategies; former Director of Philanthropy, Jewish Family Service; former Chicago Public School teacher.

Learn more about Hazan: Hazan is originally from San Diego and graduated from Scripps Ranch High School in 1998. She has deep family roots in San Diego, dating back to the early 1900s. Today, Hazan’s oldest daughter attends elementary school Franklin, the same school Hazan’s grandmother attended. She also has another four-year-old daughter and is married.

Hazan started his own company, Hazan Strategies, which offers organizational consulting services for businesses, nonprofits, and public clients. She serves on the California Children and Families Commission, also known as First 5 California, an organization focused on early childhood health and education. Hazan also serves on the City of San Diego Human Resources Commission, sits on her daughter’s school site council, and is a member of the District Advisory Board on Compensatory Education.

After graduating from college, Hazan began her career as a public school teacher in Chicago. After two years of teaching, she became involved in promoting physical fitness and physical education through her work for Walk Across Illinois and Active Transportation Alliance. She gained experience managing large fundraising programs working for the Jewish Family Service of San Diego, where she rose through the ranks to become the director of philanthropy in less than eight years, before launching Hazan Strategies.

Hazan’s priorities include:

  • Closing the success gap.
  • Use accountability data and systems to determine investment placement.
  • Improve transparency and communication, and develop community partnerships.
  • Respond to mental health needs.
  • Improve learning outcomes using visual and performing arts, hands-on STEM learning, and inquiry-based reading instruction.
  • Advocate for community schools to meet the needs of children and families through access to mental health, healthcare, housing and other services.
  • Improve the recruitment, development and retention of school leaders

Godwin Higa


San Diego Unified School District school board candidate Godwin Higa in an undated photo.

Education: University of Hawaii, Bachelor of Education; Azusa Pacific University, MBA.

Professional experience: assistant professor of social psychology at Alliant International University; former principal and teacher.

Learn more about Higa: Higa was born and raised in Kaneohe, Hawaii by his single mother, with family roots in Okinawa, Japan, where his farming family immigrated and settled in the United States. He moved to San Diego in pursuit of his dream of becoming a teacher. Higa has no children and is married.

Higa retired after 30 years of experience in education as a principal and teacher. He currently serves on the City of San Diego Human Relations Commission and the California Campaign to Overcome Childhood Adversity.

He launched his teaching career at Donovan Correctional Facility and Pacific Beach Elementary in 1990. He taught at other unified schools in San Diego, including Bird Rock Elementary and Dingeman Elementary, before becoming vice-principal at Boone Elementary in 1999. A year later, he became the principal of Penn Elementary, then Standley Middle in 2004 and Cherokee Point Elementary in 2008, where he worked until his retirement in 2017.

According to his campaign website, Higa says his efforts to reduce suspensions among students led Cherokee Point Elementary to become the first trauma-informed/restorative justice school in San Diego. Higa says he also worked with a San Diego Juvenile Hall judge to implement a countywide plan to address the school-to-jail pipeline issue. San Diego Unified named Higa Principal of the Year in 1997. In addition to Higa’s work in education, he served on the board of directors of the Citizens Review Board on Police Practices for eight years and was a volunteer patient in hospice for five years.

Higa’s priorities include:

  • Establish trauma-informed and restorative justice schools, including reducing suspension and expulsion rates.
  • Establish responsible fiscal leadership.

Run for Subdistrict C

Cody Petterson


Courtesy of Cody Petterson

San Diego Unified School District school board candidate Cody Petterson in an undated photo.

Education: UC Berkeley, BA in English Literature; University of Iowa, MA in Creative Writing; UC San Diego, Ph.D. in Anthropology.

Professional experience: Senior Advisor for Land Use, Environment, and Tribal Affairs for San Diego County Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer; former Director, Sequoia Foundation; former senior researcher for impact evaluation.

Learn more about Peterson: Petterson is a San Diego native who grew up in La Jolla. He is the father of two children who attend Torrey Pines Elementary School, where he serves on the school site council and site governance team.

In addition to his county councillor, he also serves on the La Jolla City Council and the boards of the San Diego River Conservancy, the San Diego International Sister Cities Association, and the Volcan Mountain Foundation.

After college, Petterson started as a senior scientist at Impact Assessment, an agency that conducts applied research and analysis of the human environment, including outreach and education. After that, he served as director of the Sequoia Foundation, an organization that works to protect the environment through research, policy development, and community engagement. He later became chairman of the San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action.

Petterson’s priorities:

  • Invest in programs like GATE, STEAM and Dual Enrollment.
  • Leverage pandemic support to help teachers, students and families recover.
  • Advocate for community schools that are adequately staffed, trained and resourced to address the whole child and the whole family.
  • Advocacy for universal preschool education and transitional kindergarten.
  • Improve the main pipeline.
  • Advocacy for ethnic studies.
  • Provide students with a comprehensive climate curriculum.
  • Increase the neighborhood’s solar and battery storage capacity to reduce energy costs and carbon emissions.
  • Collaborate with SANDAG to improve the safety of cycling and walking routes between neighborhood schools and local communities.

Becca Williams


Courtesy of Becca Williams

Becca Williams, school board candidate for the San Diego Unified School District in an undated photo.

Education: Belmont Abbey College, BA in Theology and English; John Paul II Pontifical Institute, Master of Theology/Theological Studies

Professional experience: Founder and employee of a group of charter schools; former Texas schoolteacher; former stock car driver.

Learn more about Williams:

Williams was born and raised in Wisconsin. She is the mother of two preschool children.

Currently, Williams works part-time in program management for Valor Public Schools, a group of K-12 charter schools in Texas that she founded around 2016.

On his website, Williams highlights his career in professional stock car racing. She holds several titles for her achievements in sports. She also oversaw the operations of the LLC that supported her run. She also says she was a finalist on the BET reality show Changing Lanes. After her racing career, Williams went to college and became a teacher at Great Hearts Academies in Texas, where she helped teach first and fourth graders before establishing Valor Public Schools. In 2017, she returned to school to study theology.

Williams’ priorities include:

  • Provide real accountability in school funding.
  • Advocate for education programs for all children, including gardening, mindfulness and workshop classes.
  • Advocate for programs that unify the district “through a common pursuit of equality.”
  • Create safe learning environments and schools with a culture that emphasizes listening and gratitude, “bullying-free and open to critical thinking”.
  • Advocate for healthy use of technology or “smarter use of screens”.

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