Endorse Godwin Higa

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Endorsements 

Supporters of Godwin's Candidacy

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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.


Sincerely,

Jesse Kohler

Executive Director

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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.

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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.

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Mike Gregory, 

Clinical Professor of Law

Director, Education Law Clinic

Acting Faculty Director, Child Advocacy Program

Harvard Law School

To be updated

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Lisa Kitagawa
Hawai‘i State Representative - District 48

To be updated

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Ann Mahi

Former Superintendent of the Nanakuli/Waianae Complex Area

As the former Complex Area Superintendent of the Nanakuli/Waianae Complex Area in Hawaii, we engaged the services of Mr. Godwin Higa as a consultant and trainer for our Trauma Informed/Skilled Community Initiative from 2015-2019. This was based on the success of his school, Cherokee Point Elementary and the positive outcomes that resulted in his commitment to ensuring that all students are treated with respect, parents learn how to change the effects of trauma and community partners are engaged in creating a safe, positive and caring learning environment for all.

He was key in the initial training of the Principals, faculty, staff, families and community partners in understanding the effects of trauma on student learning and to give hope that with the proper attention, the effects can be mitigated. He is well versed on the national perspective of trauma and the data to reinforce the need to have all school communities lead with compassion. He worked with our NW Complex Area staff to design the workshop oppo1iunities with schools, parents and our faith-based organizations. He provided evening sessions to accommodate the schedules of the parents and community members. Over the years our nine schools have been able to reduce the number of incident referrals and suspensions significantly over the statewide data and especially for our Special Education and Native Hawaiian student population.

Mr. Higa continues to provide his services as part of a national consortium of leaders who advocate for the need to have community wide efforts to implement trauma informed education and to utilize Social Emotional Learning Strategies as part of the daily instructional practices. He has continued to be a positive influence in our Hawaii educational community as a member of the Compassionate Koolaupoko Community Project advisory council whose goal is to create a system based on the learnings from the Nanakuli/Waianae Complex Area.

He we be an excellent addition to your Board of Education and a true advocate for what is best for all students, their families and the community. If you would like additional information about Godwin Higa, you may contact me at annmahil@gmail.com.

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Linda K Williams
Retired SDUSD Teacher

I met Godwin Higa in 2009, in the Peace Promotion Momentum Team (MidCity CAN) in City Heights.  Over the years, I have seen him demonstrate a deep caring about all students and parents, and he has worked tirelessly to meet their needs -- Academic, Social-Emotional, and Health need as well.


I have witnessed how, thanks to Godwin's leadership as Principal of Cherokee Point Elementary, the school community benefitted from his many tireless efforts, such as the following: 


  • Rigorous academic goals and training

  • Devoted many hours to working with educators to make available curriculum which combines the goals of Academic Achievement with the crucial goals of Social-Emotional Literacy and well-being

  • A Health Clinic created to address many unmet needs – e.g., making mammograms available to the community, plus arranging for the County Health Department to provide 700 free flu shots

  • Principal Chat (meeting with parents) regarding lead poisoning testing for children, which led to removing lead in homes

  • Coordinated a health fair with SDSU nurses, entire cohorts of nurses and student teachers on-site classes, free glasses, dental clinics, and more

  • Assisted students and parents to apply for DACA

  • Regular in-services on immigration laws from the Employee Justice Center in Midcity / City Heights

  • Facilitated food donations to needy families, including emergency food pantry, food distribution from the Food Bank

  • Supporting and empowering parents where domestic violence was occurring; Mr. Higa’s deep empathy is grounded in his personal experiences as a child in a home wherein domestic violence occurred.

  • Worked closely with Mid-City police department promoting community policing, especially focusing on youths, which helped support the safety of children and youth in the community.

  • Arranged for the community police liaison to work with parents on any legal questions they might have.

  • Providing training for both the staff and the parents in Restorative Practices and Restorative Justice, including the creation of an invaluable tool, "The Peace Path" which has been used by students to resolve conflicts on their own

Mr. Higa has been a vocal advocate at all levels

  • Steering Committee member of 4CA California campaign to counter childhood adversity 

  • Active in promoting statewide legislative efforts for Trauma-Informed / Trauma Responsive Lens, which causes us to ask what’s happened to a student who acts out, rather than asking what’s wrong with him/ her – and then to take steps to help them heal from their past experiences and move towards resilience. 

  • His passionate belief that conflict resolution and caring are the ways to address poor choices, rather than suspensions

  • 2012-2017 created community-wide events to help promote Peace and Compassion and to help bring the larger community together to learn peacemaking skills and how to demonstrate compassion more widely.


Mr. Godwin Higa's energy and passion for providing a safe, healing learning environment in our schools -- and in online learning -- is exactly what our District needs, especially in these turbulent times, when many students' Social-Emotional well-being has been dramatically impacted by the pandemic. 


Let's bring Mr. Higa's voice of compassion and many years of rich experience to our School Board, where he can help shape the way our District addresses our students' many needs.