UNION CITY — Lance Nishihira is one of four candidates for two New Haven Unified School District board seats in the Nov. 4 election.
Incumbents Sarabjit Cheema and Linda Canlas are seeking re-election; the challengers are Nishihira, who has served on Union City’s General Plan Advisory Committee, and Gwen Estes, who served on the school board from 1994 to 2010.
“My family and I have lived in Union City for the past 16 years, and I’ve been very active in the schools here in this district,” Nishihira said in a statement. “Now is the right time for me to contribute even more. Here are some of my thoughts.
“Keep EVERY student moving forward. It’s just as important to keep flourishing student engaged and challenged as it is to bring the struggling student to grade level proficiency. It doesn’t matter where a student comes from, or what a student’s parents do for a living. With our great teachers and the proper support at home and in the community, any child can achieve.
“We need to get the basics right. Regardless of what initiative you get behind — whether it be Common Core, project-based learning, full-service community schools, social emotional support, class size reduction, climate or whatever innovations develop over the next few years, overall educational excellence will boil down to getting the basics right — putting first things first.
“Education and technology are the great equalizers. We live in an exciting time and are located at the center of one of the most vibrant economies in human history. At the same time, a vast achievement gap still exists. Technology, coupled with fantastic teachers, can help put a huge dent in this country’s wealth gap.
“With your help, we can make the schools something we can all be proud of.”
Nishihira was born in Redwood City in November 1973. When he was 4, his family set down roots on Olive Street in Newark next to the city’s first mayor, George Silliman.
His father was a pig farmer from one of the most impoverished areas in Hilo, Hawaii, and through determination and sacrifice was able to establish himself in the Bay Area as an electrical engineer. His mother was raised in Redwood City and had a great love of education and public speaking. Nishihira says he learned about hard work, determination, and character from his father and compassion, leadership, and service from his mother.
At Newark Memorial High School, he was involved in student government, wrestled, played football, and was the captain of the drumline. Centering his life on the principle of service, Nishihira entered the U.S. Marine Corps with aspirations of becoming an officer and pursuing a law degree. A series of debilitating injuries led him to cut his military career short.
He first attended San Francisco State University, but after meeting his future wife, Tina, transferred to CSU Hayward (now CSU East Bay), where he received his bachelor’s degree in mass communication with a minor in sociology. Directly out of college, he became a typographer with Bay Area Typographical Union Local 21, working at The Daily Californian in Berkeley. This was 1997, when the World Wide Web was just beginning to lay down its foundation.
Nishihira took the opportunity to learn about the new medium, and companies like Netscape, AOL, Yahoo!, eBay and Comcast were his proving grounds. In 1998, he and his wife married and moved to Union City. Their three girls are all in NHUSD schools. In keeping with his commitment to service, he has continually served on school site councils beginning in 2006 at three different school sites, and has served as chair on most of those councils.
Lately, he spends much of his spare time working on Union City’s Economic Development Advisory Team and its General Plan Advisory Committee, and is the team manager for his daughter’s UC Premier soccer team, Arsenal. He is currently the head of user experience at a payments startup in Palo Alto.
Endorsers include: Alameda County Board of Education Trustees Eileen McDonald and Fred Sims; Alameda County Supervisor Richard Valle; former New Haven Unified School District Trustee Barbara Aro Valle; Union City Vice Mayor Lorrin Ellis; Ohlone Community College District Trustee Vivien Larsen; New Haven Unified School District Trustee Sarbjit Cheema; Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski; Newark Mayor Al Nagy; Union City Councilmember Emily Duncan; Alameda County Democratic Party; New Haven Teachers Association; California School Employees Association Chapter 61; Tri-City Democratic Forum.