Bowen Zhang steps down from Newark Unified school board

The Newark Unified School District is losing another member of its leadership team, but this time to a relocation.

Thursday night’s meeting of the Newark Unified School District board of education was the last for Board Member Bowen Zhang, who recently got married and is moving out of the area. Zhang’s term was set to end in December 2024. Board Member Phuong Nguyen thanked Zhang for his dedication and service to the community.

“It has been an honor and privilege to serve with you,” Nguyen said. “We have had to make some really difficult decisions together.”

Zhang is a software engine who currently works at cloud data platform company Snowflake. He moved to Newark in 2012 and was appointed to the school board in January 2019 before being elected in 2020, at the same time as Nguyen. Since then, she said they’ve had to make tough decisions on “school consolidations and restructuring the district’s finances to help eliminate the past structural deficit.”

“Together we have worked diligently, with Superintendent Triplett and staff, to move this district forward,” Nguyen said, adding he was “a strong advocate for 21st century learning.”

Board Member Katherine Jones said she appreciated Zhang’s insight and ability to see things clearly and Board President Nancy Thomas said his questions and comments “have always added to the conversation” and “brought a needed perspective to the discussions.”

“Thank you for your service to the district,” Thomas said.

Board Member Aiden Hill thanked Zhang for helping the district navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic, the shelter-in-place orders and returning to in-person learning.

“I know that you’ve made a lot of effort to get additional information from the community and also from other districts to bake into our decision-making process,” Hill said, “and so it’s been greatly appreciated and wish you the best in the next steps of your journey.”

Student Board Member Diego Torres said he’s sad to see Zhang go and learned a lot of new things about technology from him, including about artificial intelligence like ChatGPT.

“Now it’s really a big thing,” Torres said. “So he knew about it first.”

Zhang directed his comments to students, describing his own windy personal journey to convey that students shouldn’t be afraid of failures and curveballs in their lives. They should focus on finding one or two things that they’re good at and focus on those instead of the multitude of distractions in the world, he said.

“Your life is so short, so don’t bother wasting your time living somebody else’s life,” Zhang said. “Stay focused and stay curious.”

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