Election 2018: Meet the candidates for Huntington Beach City School District board

Huntington Beach City School District candidates, from left: Jennifer Bunn Hayden, Shari Kowalke, Diana Marks and Paul Morrow. Not pictured: Karrie Burroughs.
(Courtesy photos)

The five-member board of trustees for the Huntington Beach City School District has three seats up for election Nov. 6, with incumbents Shari Kowalke and Paul Morrow seeking reelection to four-year terms.

They are challenged by candidates Karrie Burroughs, Jennifer Bunn Hayden and Diana Marks.

Current board President Rosemary Saylor is not running for reelection.

The district comprises two middle schools and seven elementary schools.


The Daily Pilot sent a questionnaire to candidates to get a better idea of who they are, why they’re running and what issues they feel are most pressing. Some responses have been edited for formatting, brevity or clarity.

Burroughs could not be reached.

Jennifer Bunn Hayden

Age: 34

Professional occupation: Attorney


Education: Juris Doctor, Stanford Law School; Master of Education in curriculum and instruction, University of Nevada, Las Vegas; Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science in economics, University of Pennsylvania

Time lived in the district: Six years

Neighborhood in which you live, and how long you’ve lived there: Downtown Huntington Beach, three years

Public service, activism and volunteerism: Valiente College Preparatory public charter school board; Junior State of America Foundation; Teach for America Corps; Orange County chapter of Stanford Law School Alumni; former law clerk to Orange County federal judge Josephine Staton

Immediate family members: Husband Eric, daughters Naomi and Marielle

What are the three issues you believe are the most important facing the district and why?

1. Preparing all students by providing the skills needed for success in today and tomorrow’s world: Academic skills, including STEM, are critical, but they are not sufficient. The district must be forward-thinking about what skills children need for success, including social-emotional and other “soft” skills, and it must provide an education in an environment where all students feel safe and secure so they are able to learn.

2. Financial security: Providing the highest-quality education requires resources, and HBCSD continues to face significant budgetary pressures as a result of shifting demographics (e.g., declining enrollment). To address this, the district should continue to push for increased funding from Sacramento as well as seek additional funding through creative avenues, such as encouraging a stronger education foundation that can raise private funds to alleviate some budgetary pressures. Over the long term, the district should explore ways to attract additional students, both through interdistrict transfers and by attracting new families with young children (like mine) to live in the district. Financial security also means continuous oversight of Measure Q implementation to ensure that limited resources are being spent wisely.


3. Communication and partnerships with all stakeholders: Communication with all stakeholders, particularly around the implementation of Measure Q, should be strengthened. The district should meet stakeholders where they are, including through the increased use of websites, email and social media. The district should also strengthen its relationship with the city and the larger community, because the strength of the schools depends on the strength of the city and vice versa.

Shari Kowalke

Age: 54

Professional occupation: Designer and career specialist

Education: Bachelor of Arts

Time lived in the district: 25 years

Public service, activism and volunteerism: Huntington Beach City School District board, 2011 to present; PTA; two school site councils; foundation for Edison High School Center for International Business and Communication Studies program; YMCA Parent Advisory Board; AYSO and Seaview Little League volunteer

Immediate family members: Husband Thomas, children Samantha and Evan

What are the three issues you believe are the most important facing the district and why?


1. What is best for students is what drives all my decisions and it is what motivates my work as a board member. That includes the classroom instruction, materials, the facility, their teachers, the administration at their school site and much more.

2. The financial well-being of our school district: The reality is that the current funding of schools has only brought us back to the funding levels prior to the budget cuts in 2007 and 2008. This still puts California school funding below the average for states in this country. We need to continue to work with Sacramento to once again make California a leader in school funding and student success.

3. Facilities and the ongoing implementation of the [2016] Measure Q bond: While we educate today’s students we must consider what our district will be in the future. I believe we must monitor the progress and planning in a forward-thinking manner.

Diana Marks

Age: 65

Professional occupation: Retired science teacher of 39 years in Huntington Beach City School District

Education: Master’s degree, Cal State Long Beach

Time lived in the district: 43 years

Neighborhood in which you live, and how long you’ve lived there: Peterson Elementary School neighborhood, four years

Public service, activism and volunteerism: Religious education, Sts. Simon & Jude Catholic Church and School; Quilts for Kids, Orange County Quilters Guild; PTSA liaison; many school activities

Immediate family members: Children David, Tommy and Tricia

What are three issues you believe are the most important facing the district and why?

1. Decreasing enrollment: Making decisions that are best for our students and at the same time maintaining fiscal responsibilities will be necessary in the next few years. I feel we need to make these decisions transparent and include input from the community.

2. Maintaining excellence in all educational programs: This includes attracting and maintaining excellent teachers as well as making sure that classrooms have what they need for the 21st century. This would include STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and extracurricular activities in the arts, music and sports.

3. Measure Q [bond issue approved in 2016]: We need to make sure our tax dollars are spent wisely. We need to improve our transparency and communication with our taxpayers while making sure our decisions are in the best interest of our students.

Paul Morrow

Age: 64

Professional occupation: Retired; former principal of Marina High School, Sowers Middle School and Moffett Elementary School

Education: Doctorate in educational leadership

Time lived in the district: 34 years

Neighborhood in which you live, and how long you’ve lived there: Huntington by the Sea, 34 years

Public service, activism and volunteerism: Huntington Beach City School District board, 2014 to present; Huntington Beach Community Participation Advisory Board; National Scholastic Surfing Assn.; community pastor, Rockharbor church, Costa Mesa; Sunburst Youth Academy; Surf City Young Life; Western Assn. of Schools and Colleges

Immediate family members: None

What are the three issues you believe are the most important facing the district and why?

1. Instruction and learning: Provide our students and staff with state-of-the-art schools focused on providing them with the skills necessary to compete in a global society as our students move through the educational system as well as providing our staff with the tools and training necessary to support student learning in the 21st century and beyond.

2 Funding: Provide our schools with the ability to house our students and staff in safe and secure learning environments that are also conducive to learning and the ability to maintain those environments in all of our schools.

3. Communications and decision making: Involve our stakeholders and community in decision making through well-designed communications structures that are transparent and focused on positive growth as well as effective tools to provide information that communicates what we are doing, where we are going and how they can be involved.

Twitter: @vegapriscella


3 p.m. Oct. 12: This article was updated to include a profile of candidate Jennifer Bunn Hayden, who was omitted from the original version due to a communication error.

This article was originally published at 8 a.m. Oct. 10.