Who’s running for San Diego Unified school board?
On Tuesday, some San Diego Unified School District voters will decide who gets to fill two seats on the school board.
Four candidates are seeking election to the school district’s northeastern Sub-District B, which includes neighborhoods from Hillcrest to the San Diego State University area north to Serra Mesa and Tierrasanta, and Sub-District C, which spans the district’s coastal communities, from Point Loma to La Jolla to University City.
About the candidates:
Running for Sub-District B
Education: University of Wisconsin, bachelor’s in political science; Northwestern University, master’s in education and social policy.
Professional experience: President of Hazan Strategies; former chief philanthropy officer, Jewish Family Service; former Chicago public school teacher.
More about Hazan: Hazan is a San Diego native who graduated from Scripps Ranch High School in 1998. She has deep family roots in San Diego, tracing back to the early 1900s. Today, Hazan’s eldest daughter attends Franklin Elementary, the same school Hazan’s grandmother attended. She also has another four-year-old daughter and is married.
Hazan started her own business, Hazan Strategies, which offers organizational consulting services for corporate, nonprofit 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 sits on the City of San Diego’s Human Resources Commission, serves on the school site council for her daughter’s school and is a member of the district’s Advisory Council on Compensatory Education.
After graduating from college, Hazan began her career as a teacher at Chicago public schools. After two years of teaching, she became involved in promoting fitness and physical education through her work for Walk Across Illinois and Active Transportation Alliance. She gained experience in managing large fundraising programs working for the Jewish Family Service of San Diego, where she worked her way up to be the chief philanthropy officer in less than eight years, before starting Hazan Strategies.
Hazan’s priorities include:
- Closing the achievement gap.
- Using data and systems of accountability to determine the placement of investments.
- Improving transparency and communication, and developing community partnerships.
- Addressing mental health needs.
- Improving learning outcomes using visual and performing arts, hands-on STEM learning and research-based reading instruction.
- Advocating for community schools to address the needs of children and families through access to mental health, health care, housing and other services.
- Improving recruitment, development and retention of school leaders
Education: University of Hawaii, bachelor’s in education; Azusa Pacific University, master’s of administration.
Professional experience: Adjunct social psychology professor at Alliant International University; former principal and teacher.
More about Higa: Higa was born and raised in Kaneohe, Hawaii, by his single mother, with family roots in Okinawa, Japan, where his family of farmers immigrated from and settled in the U.S. He moved to San Diego in pursuit of his dream to become 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’s Human Relations Commission and on the California Campaign to Counter Childhood Adversity.
He launched his teaching career at the Donovan Correctional Facility and Pacific Beach Elementary in 1990. He taught at other San Diego Unified schools, including Bird Rock Elementary and Dingeman Elementary, before becoming vice principal at Boone Elementary in 1999. A year later, he became the principal at Penn Elementary, then Standley Middle in 2004 and Cherokee Point Elementary in 2008, where he worked until he retired 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 county-wide plan to address the school-to-prison pipeline. San Diego Unified named Higa principal of the year in 1997. Apart from Higa’s work in education, he served as board member of the Citizens Review Board on Police Practices for eight years and was a hospice patient volunteer for five years.
Higa’s priorities include:
- Executing trauma-informed and restorative justice schools, including reducing suspension and expulsion rates.
- Establishing responsible fiscal leadership.
Running for Sub-District C
Education: UC Berkeley, bachelor’s in English literature; University of Iowa, master’s in creative writing; UC San Diego, doctorate in anthropology.
Professional experience: Senior adviser for Land Use, Environment and Tribal Affairs for San Diego County Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer; former director, Sequoia Foundation; former senior scientist for Impact Assessment.
More about Petterson: Petterson is a San Diego native who was raised in La Jolla. He is a father of two children who attend Torrey Pines Elementary, where he serves on the school site council and site governance team.
In addition to his adviser role with the county, he also serves on the La Jolla Town Council and the boards of the San Diego River Conservancy, the San Diego International Sister Cities Association and the Volcan Mountain Foundation.
Post college, Petterson started as a senior scientist at Impact Assessment, an agency that conducts applied human environmental research and analysis, including outreach and education. After that, he was the director of the Sequoia Foundation, an organization that works to protect the environment through research, policy development and community engagement. He then became the president of the San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action.
- Investing in programs like GATE, STEAM and Dual Enrollment.
- Leveraging pandemic support to help teachers, students and families recover.
- Advocating for community schools that are adequately staffed, trained and resourced to address the whole child and whole family.
- Advocating for universal preschool and transitional kindergarten.
- Improve the principal pipeline.
- Advocating for ethnic studies.
- Equipping students with comprehensive climate curriculum.
- Increasing the district’s solar energy and battery storage capacity to reduce energy costs and carbon emissions.
- Collaborating with SANDAG to improve the safety of bike and walking routes between local neighborhood schools and communities.
Education: Belmont Abbey College, bachelor’s in theology and English; The Pontifical John Paul II Institute, master’s in theology/theological studies
Professional experience: Founder and employee of charter school group; former Texas school teacher; former stock car racer.
More about Williams:
Williams was born and raised in Wisconsin. She is a mother to two preschool-age children.
Currently, Williams works part-time managing curriculum for Valor Public Schools, a group of K-12 charter schools in Texas she founded around 2016.
On her website, Williams highlights her career in professional stock car racing. She holds several titles for her achievements in the sport. She also oversaw operations for the LLC that supported her racing. She also says she was a finalist on the BET reality TV show Changing Lanes. Following her racing career, Williams went to college and became a teacher at Great Hearts Academies in Texas, where she assisted with instruction for first and fourth graders before creating Valor Public Schools. In 2017, she went back to school to study theology.
Williams’ priorities include:
- Providing true accountability in school funding.
- Advocating for whole child education programs, including gardening, mindfulness and shop class.
- Advocating for programs that unify the district "through a shared pursuit of equality."
- Creating safe learning environments and schools with a culture emphasizing listening and gratitude, "free of bullying, and open to critical thinking."
- Advocating for healthy use of technology, or “smarter use of screens.”