Making a difference
My mission is to create a positive learning environment where children of all backgrounds are given the right support to reach their full potential.
My promise is to serve and empower students, teachers, and families of all backgrounds.
My years of experience as a teacher and principal have taught me that we must learn and adapt to best serve our students and community. This can only happen if the voices of our children, parents teachers, and leaders are heard.
Let's work together!
Because Experience Matters
Godwin Higa has dedicated his life as an educator and leader to promoting equity and equal access to education for all
students. Godwin was actively involved in creating schools with a true sense of community and has been successful in promoting education reform throughout California, Oregon, and Hawaii.
With his 27 years in education and administration for SDUSD, he has proven to be a dedicated, compassionate, and
an overwhelmingly qualified candidate for District B.
Proven Track Record
30 years of experience in education as a teacher and principal
Created the First Trauma-Informed School in San Diego, Cherokee Point Elementary School in the Mid-City area of San Diego
Named San Diego Unified School District Teacher of the Year from Dingeman Elementary School in Scripps Ranch
Presented at the California Conference of 30 county judges and other agencies on addressing the school-to-prison pipeline, then worked with the San Diego Juvenile Hall Judge to implement a county plan.
Named Principal of the Year by the Mid-City and City Council for promoting school and community involvement by the San Diego City Council
Was instrumental in securing and implementing, alongside his team, a $1,397,000 grant from the California Endowment-$947K to Cherokee Point and $450K to the SDSU Restorative Justice Program.
Was actively involved with the Mid-City Police Department, working closely with the Captain to ensure open communication for a safe community.
Teacher at Donovan Correctional Facility State Prison in San Diego.
Worked as hospice patient volunteer for elderly and AIDS patients for five years in Hemet and San Diego.
Helped a most challenging Hawaiian school district win promising results and academic gains by lowering the suspension rate in most schools and eliminating suspensions altogether in others, by increasing graduation rates, and by increasing teacher retention by over 50%.
Godwin Higa was born and raised in Kaneohe, Hawaii. He is from a family of hard-working farmers who immigrated to the United States from Okinawa, Japan to build a life in a new country. Godwin grew up in a single mother-led household with 1 brother and 4 sisters. While mom had to work several jobs to make ends meet, the family stuck together was supported by extended family, friends, teachers, and community members. Having this support growing up inspired him to want to give back and help others. To pursue his dreams of becoming a teacher, he moved to the “mainland” and settled in San Diego 36 years ago. Since then, he has taught children from all backgrounds, worked in diverse communities, and connected with families from all walks of life. Under his leadership as principal together with teachers and parents, he set up the first trauma-Informed school at Cherokee Point.
Career in Education
1990: Teacher at Donovan Correctional Facility State Prison in San
1993-1995: Mentor Teacher, ASDEG (Association of San Diego Educator
of the Gifted)
1990-1993: Teacher, Pacific Beach Elementary School
1993-1995: Teacher, Bird Rock Elementary School, La Jolla
1995-1999: Teacher, Dingeman Elementary School
1998-2000: Mentor Teacher, ASDEG
1999-2000: Vice Principal, Boone Elementary School
2000-2004: Principal, Penn Elementary School
2004-2008: Principal, Standley Middle School
2008-2017: Principal, Cherokee Point Elementary School
New York Times
San Diego Union Tribune
Voice of San Diego
San Diego Union Tribune
Honolulu Civil Beat
Supporters of Godwin's Candidacy
Jesse Kohler, Executive Director
The Campaign for Trauma-Informed Policy and Practice
The Campaign for Trauma-Informed Policy and Practice (CTIPP), a national nonprofit organization focused on supporting all individuals, families, and communities strongly endorses Godwin Higa for the San Diego Unified School Board. As a principal in the San Diego school system, Mr. Higa demonstrated he knows how to put trauma science to work in order to turn schools around, reduce suspensions, improve teacher retention, and improve academic performance. If elected, we are confident that Mr. Higa will bring that same expertise and achieve the same kinds of results for all of the schools in San Diego.
Neuroscientists have shown that developmental adversity (including but not limited to Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACEs) produces changes in the brain that can cause a person to suffer behavioral, emotional, physical, and social problems caused by high levels of stress for the rest of their lives. Both staff and students bring stress with them into the school environment and it is a major reason students get into trouble (both academically and disciplinarily) and teachers burn out. Particularly now, as our society continues to work through the stress and adversity caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, we need educational leaders like Godwin who understand methods to meet the psycho-social-emotional-spiritual needs of everyone who is part of the school environment.
Mr. Higa has demonstrated that he understands how to create culture change in schools that help the staff and students alike learn to remain calm and be able to access their cognitive/thinking brain, as well as how to regulate more easily when something triggers them. Applying this science in order to create a trauma-informed school, Mr. Higa not only has been able to reduce suspensions and improve teacher retention significantly, his program was able to eliminate the need for a school resource officer because serious disciplinary problems largely disappeared under his supervision.
CTIPP is advocating with school districts throughout the country to implement such trauma-informed initiatives San Diego is fortunate to have an educational leader who has successfully done such work in the past running for their school board. Mr. Higa has worked to teach his approach to school officials around the country. If elected to the School Board, he will be in a position to promote the implementation of these successful approaches throughout the San Diego Unified School District, benefiting everyone who is a part of school environments throughout the district.
These approaches require commitment from the district and school leadership to put the science to work. If elected, Mr. Higa will be in a position to provide that leadership for the District and produce the same extraordinary results he produced at his school, which is why we endorse him as a candidate.
Linda Sheridan, CEO/Founder
San Diego Cultural Arts Alliance
As CEO and Founder of San Diego Cultural Arts Alliance, I met Mr. Higa 8 years ago. I was invited to his school, Cherokee Pt. Elementary School, to discuss running our program, Graffiti Education & Mural Arts Program, for his students and leaving behind some of the best work we’ve seen of the students mural artwork.
As Godwin walked me across the campus to familiarize myself with the school, I was stunned by what I saw and felt at this school and among its students. The campus overall was extremely peaceful. Students kept running up to hug him and he knew all of their names. This was incredulous to me in a school of over 500 students of a multi-cultural population.
Soon I learned that Mr. Higa had created this school to be Trauma-Informed. And because of this, he created a safe and loving environment for these hard-pressed young people. In the later years of his tenure there were no expulsions among his students. I have neither experienced nor heard of any school with this kind of track record.
How can the City of San Diego and its citizens not demand to have such a leader on their School Board. Join me here and now. Support and vote for Godwin Higa, San Diego Unified School Board Member, District B.
I have never been so impressed by an individual and what they have created.
Dan Press, Native Affairs Attorney at Van Ness Feldman
Godwin Higa is a nationally recognized expert on improving schools through the application of the latest scientific discoveries about how early childhood adversity causes damage to the brain that in turn produces problems in the classroom. Schools he has worked with throughout the country, beginning with his own school, as former principal at Cherokee Point Elementary School, have seen dramatic decreases in suspensions and expulsions while increasing teacher retention. If elected to the San Diego School Board, Mr. Higa will be able to bring these same dramatic benefits to the San Diego Schools.
I host a monthly call-in show that features outstanding programs that are applying trauma-informed approaches to the many problems studies have shown have childhood trauma as their underlying cause, including youth suicide, substance abuse, diabetes, obesity, and poor performance in schools. This past Spring Mr. Higa presented on the trauma-informed initiative he implemented at the Cherokee Point Elementary School.
We know that early childhood adversity causes changes to the brain that cause the victim to live with high levels of stress for the rest of their lives. When students bring that stress to the classroom, they are easily triggered by the smallest incident, leading them to act out, get suspended, and get expelled. Mr. Higa implemented a program in which the teachers understood what was triggering these students gave the teachers tools to help students reduce their stress levels, and gave them ways to help students who were triggered to return to the classroom after having learned what they did wrong.
The results were dramatic. There was a 90% decrease is suspensions and Mr. Higa had to find another use for the Resource Officer because there were no more disciplinary problems for the Resource Officer to deal with. Perhaps most significant was the decrease in teacher turnover. Once teachers had tools for dealing with and preventing students from acting out in class, the teachers were able to do what they became teachers for – to teach and not just be disciplinarians.
Mr. HIga’s presentation on my call went viral and he has been contacted by educators from around the country for help in implementing similar programs in their schools. If elected to the San Diego School Board, Mr. Higa will be in a position to promote similar programs in the San Diego Schools, producing similar results and improving the entire school system. This is an opportunity for the San Diego Schools to become a model program, showing the improvements that can be achieved by applying brain science to the classroom. That is why I strongly support Mr. Higa’s candidacy for the San Diego School Board.
Hawai‘i State Representative, District 48
To be updated