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November 3, 2020 — California General Election
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San Joaquin Delta Community College DistrictCandidate for Trustee, Trustee Area 2

Photo of Van Ha To-Cowell

Van Ha To-Cowell

School Vice Principal
10,329 votes (27.69%)
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • Preparing Students for Success: It is a critical time for increased education or even exploring a new career. Providing foundational skills in technology and science is essential for Delta Students to compete in our modern-day economy.
  • Expend Intership Programs: Partnering with businesses and community leaders will allow students to learn real world experience from skilled professionals. An opportunity for potential employers to assess interns and eventually hire them.
  • Provide Fiscal Accountability: It is imperative in these lean times that we spend taxpayer dollars wisely. We must prioritize effective programs while finding ways to make Delta College efficient.



Profession:Vice Principal/ SJ Delta College Appointed Trustee
Vice Principal, Lodi Unified School District (2016–current)
Trustee, San Joaquin Delta Community College Board of Trustees, Area 2 — Appointed position (2020–2020)
Teacher, Lodi Unified School District (1988–2016)
Trustee, Lincoln Unified School District Board of Trustees — Elected position (2008–2016)
Bilingual Teacher, Sacramento City Unified School District (1984–1988)


California State University, Stanislaus Certificate, administrative credential services (2016)
Calfornia State University, Sacramento Master of Arts (M.A.), English language development, multilingual education (1988)
University of Tennessee, Knoxville Bachelor of Science (B.S.), elementary education (1978)

Community Activities

Co-President, American Association of University Women, Stockton Branch (2018–current)
Member, League of Women Voters of San Joaquin (2012–current)
Member, Association of California School Administrators (2019–current)
Chair of Public Policy, American Association of University Women, Stockton Branch (2016–2018)


In December of 1974, Van Ha To-Cowell left Viet Nam to attend the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Four months after her arrival, the Viet Nam War ended and she lost contact with home and family for many years. Understanding her parents’ sacrifice and commitment to education, she worked three manual jobs and stayed in school while helping her 22 year-old sister raising their younger brother. She completed her Bachelor’s degree in Education in less than four years and earned her Master’s degree in 1988.

 Van-Ha has worked in public schools since 1982 and has served students of many different needs, from second language learning to gifted education. She is entering her fourth year as vice principal in Lodi Unified School District.

 She and her husband, Dana Cowell, moved to Stockton in 1988, and they raised two sons in Lincoln schools. She actively volunteered in her children’s classrooms and served on five different advisory groups in the Lincoln School District. Believing in the power of education and in the potential of every student, she has served faithfully as an active voice on committees and frequently pressed for equity in policies and school programs on behalf of students and families. In 2008, Van-Ha was first elected to the Lincoln Unified School Board of Trustees and successfully completed two four-year terms. She was Board President twice in those years. She was also elected to represent Region 8A on the California School Boards Association Delegate Assembly. As a trustee of Lincoln Unified, she initiated conversations on various issues that positively affect student learning such as equitable access to advanced courses, student leadership opportunities, and anti-bullying curriculum.

 In April 2008, Van-Ha received a Public Service Award from Delta Kappa Gamma Society, a professional honor society of women educators.  In April 2011, with three other distinguished women in San Joaquin County, she was honored as “Woman of the Year” by Senator Lois Wolk who represented the fifth Senate District. In February of 2012, she was a recipient of the Susan B. Anthony Women of Achievement Award for her contribution in education in San Joaquin County. Also, in 2012 San Joaquin A+ awarded her the Spirit of Literacy Award. In 2016, Van-Ha was given the Torch of Literacy Award by the American Literacy corporation, and in 2017, she received the Exemplary Leadership and Community Service Award from Central Valley Asian Chamber of Commerce. Van-Ha thinks her biggest reward is when she's able to mentor students and help them achieve their educational goals. Since 2010, she has established the Cowell Education Scholarships to award deserving high school seniors who aspire to become educators. Believing in the gift of literacy, Van Ha helped the Stockton Little Free Library (LFL) Committee with their mission to acquire 100 Little Free Libraries for the community. When teaching, she furnished her classroom with hundreds of new books quarterly and gave them free to her students. 

In March 2020, Van-Ha was appointed to San Joaquin Delta College Board of Trustees. She would be honored to have the opportunity to continue her service.






Who supports this candidate?

Featured Endorsements

  • Dr. Everett Low, Lincoln USD trustee (ret.)
  • Patrick Johnston, California State senator (ret.)
  • Ralph Womack, former Lodi USD Trustee

Organizations (10)

  • San Joaquin Delta College California State Employees Association - Chapter 359
  • San Joaquin - Calaveras Central Labor Council
  • Lodi Chamber of Commerce
  • Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 442
  • Stockton Democrats Together
  • San Joaquin Building Trades
  • San Joaquin County Democratic Central Committee
  • Sheet Metal Workers Local 104
  • Truman Club of San Joaquin
  • North Valley Labor Federation

Elected Officials (10)

  • Dan Wright, Vice mayor of City of Stockton
  • Jenny Van DePol, Lincoln USD trustee
  • Kathleen Solari, Lincoln USD Board of Trustees President
  • Kathy Miller, San Joaquin Supervisor
  • Michael Tubbs, Mayor of City of Stockton
  • Norris Palmer, Lincoln USD Board of Trustees Vice President
  • Susan Lenz, City of Stockton Council Member
  • Susan Talamantes Eggman, California State Assembly member
  • Therese Tutupalli, Lincoln USD trustee
  • Tony Yadon, Lincoln USD trustee

Individuals (55)

  • Janet & Richard Ghio, SJ Delta College professor (ret.)
  • Carolyn Sue & Victor Mow, San Joaquin Supervisor, Port commissioner (ret.)
  • Andrew Chesley, executive director of San Joaquin Council of Governments
  • Dennis Lee, executive director of Central Valley Asian Chamber of Commerce (ret.)
  • Diane Oren, SJ Delta College Professor (ret.)
  • Dianne England, SJ Delta College professor (ret.) & Alan England
  • Don Ruthstaller, former Lincoln USD Trustee & Kay Ruthstaller, executive director of Family Resource and Referral Center
  • Elbert Holman, City of Stockton vice mayor (ret.)
  • Gillian Murphy, SJ Delta College Dean of Applied Science, Business & Technology (ret.)
  • Josie Malik, San Joaquin Delta College adjunct professor (ret.)
  • Kathy Schick, San Joaquin Delta College professor
  • Larry Hernandez, Stockton USD vice principal
  • Mary Ann Cox-Martin, former SJ Delta College Trustee, Dean of Communication Skills and Instruction (ret.)
  • Moises Zapien, former San Joaquin County Supervisor
  • Tod Anton, Lincoln USD Superintendent (ret.)
  • Wilma Okamoto-Vaughn, Humphrey's College Dean of Administration (ret.)
  • Thomas Uslan, Lincoln USD superintendent (ret.)
  • Lee Canady
  • Eric Merlo
  • Jeni & Ed Bonilla
  • Paul Jacobson
  • Marilyn & Russ Wylie
  • Dwane & Sara Milnes
  • Susan Kenmotsu
  • Donald Lenz
  • Donna Hammel
  • JoAnne Garrett
  • Tom & Pam Mallett-Jones
  • Judith Buethe
  • Sharon & Conrad Jarvis
  • Mary & Willie Luntao
  • Julia Schardt
  • Roger Phillips & Wendy Lee
  • Dr. Prasad Dighe
  • Dr. Ajith Puthillath
  • Beverley Dierking
  • Bette Outlaw
  • Jo & Joel Wagner
  • Gladys Ikeda
  • Paula & Ed Almaas
  • Diane Stauffer
  • Denny & Lauren AhTye
  • Julie Damron-Brown
  • Jan Everhart
  • Karen Frank
  • Carolyn Wischhusen
  • Anne Baird
  • Bev Blum
  • Colleen Foster
  • Pat Fluetsch
  • Sandra Cooperman
  • Clarence Chan
  • Brett & Laura Setness
  • Donna LeCuyer
  • Cindy Milford

Political Beliefs

Political Philosophy

Education is Van-Ha's life calling. She was raised in a family of many educators. As a long time teacher (33 years), school vice-principal, school board trustee, and current Delta College Trustee, Van-Ha is thankful to have had the opportunity to serve students and families of San Joaquin County. She strongly believes in the power of education, whether it's academic or vocational, she focuses on upholding high standards, closing opportunity gaps, maintaining safety on campuses and fiscal accountability.

Position Papers

Servant Leadership


Van-Ha has won many awards for her work in education and in public service over the years. Whether working as a teacher or school administrator full-time, doing board work at Lincoln Unified school district and now at San Joaquin Delta College, she still devotes her time helping the homeless at the Emergency Food Bank and St. Mary's Dining Hall during her school breaks.


Van-Ha has been at the forefront of many award-winning programs, including Construction Engineering Academy, Civic Pride Academy and Lincoln Latin Leadership. She also served as Delegate on the California School Boards Association Delegate Assembly. She is Co-President of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), Stockton Branch. AAUW Stockton yearly gives thousands of dollars in scholarships to high school and college students. AAUW STEM and TECH Trek programs support and mentor girls from 7th grade on to college. 

In 2011, Van Ha was named San Joaquin Woman of the Year and was given the Lincoln Latin Leadership Commitment Award. The following year she was awarded the Susan B. Anthony San Joaquin County Women of Achievement and the San Joaquin A+ Spirit of Literacy Award. In 2016, the American Literacy Corporation awarded her the Torch of Literacy. She was the only teacher in Northern California who received this award. In 2017, the Central Valley Asian Chamber of Commerce gave her the Exemplary Leadership & Community Service for her commitment and many years of service.

Van Ha has a unique perspective on Delta’s growing partnership with K-12 districts that is essential in collaborating with primary and secondary education institutions and ensure a smooth transition to Delta College or placement in the workforce. Her primary focus has always been upholding high academic standards, closing opportunity gaps, keeping our campus safe and fiscally accountable.

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