County Supt. Al Mijares is among the OC Register’s 125 Most Influential People

Dr. Al Mijares, who leads OCDE as Orange County’s superintendent of schools, has made the OC Register’s roundup of the 125 top local influencers of 2021.

He joins an eclectic list of distinguished notables that includes Los Angeles Angels two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani, Los Alamitos Unified Superintendent Dr. Andrew Pulver, County Health Officer Dr. Clayton Chau, World War II veteran John Morton, Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins, Orange County Business Council CEO Lucy Dunn and California State Teachers of the Year Alondra Diaz and Sovey Long-Latteri.

County Superintendent Al Mijares
Orange County Superintendent Al Mijares speaks during OCDE’s ethnic studies forum in July 2021

Mijares was first appointed as county superintendent of schools in August 2012, and he was elected to full terms in 2014 and 2018. Before that, he spent six years as vice president of the College Board, and he served for 11 years as superintendent of the Santa Ana Unified School District.

Under Mijares’ leadership, OCDE made it a priority in 2021 to support the mental and physical health and wellbeing of returning students returning for in-person instruction. Much of that work centered on providing robust training and technical assistance aligned with California’s Multi-Tiered System of Support framework

OCDE also developed resources and programs for students, families and school employees who experienced trauma related to COVID-19, and the department used grant funding to hire seven regional mental health coordinators, creating a countywide infrastructure to strengthen systems and protocols.

Here’s what the Register had to say about Dr. Mijares’ contributions in 2021:

The superintendent of Orange County schools kept the county at the lead of reopening while also being sensitive to areas hit harder by the pandemic. Mijares moderated a forum about ethnic studies. “There’s been so much confusion and questions about the new ethnic studies model curriculum,” he said. “I want to demystify it, debunk myths, and set the record straight.”

Meanwhile, quite a few other figures with connections to local schools and districts were among this year’s 125 Most Influential People in Orange County. Here are a few familiar names that we spotted, along with the Register’s descriptions:


Jodi Balma

The Fullerton College instructor continues to be a leading voice for OC politics and public policy, a trusted analyst about electoral campaigns and public policy, a pursued thought partner for political and elected officials in Orange County. Balma, who was nominated by a reader, recently was featured on Fox News’ “Special Report with Bret Baier” to discuss the upcoming battleground campaigns in Orange County.

Kayley Chan

The 16-year-old University High student created an online cybersecurity course that focuses on elementary students and includes examples of threats, their definitions and how to protect yourself online if they appear. By last summer, about 250 students had participated in Chan’s course.

Melody Chang

The high school senior, who was nominated by a reader, identified an urgent need in public health education in young children whose education does not offer them the knowledge and information needed until a later age. She conducted multiple workshops to teach public health using a book she wrote and published, and piloted an initial curriculum in the Santa Ana unified school district this summer through a $5,000 grant from the Dragon Kim Foundation.

Jasmine Chhabria

The Northwood High senior was nominated by a handful of readers, including a former most influential honoree. She has delivered enactments and an analysis of Mendez v. Westminster, the OC-based case decided in 1947 by the Supreme Court that struck a first major blow to school segregation.

Ernesto Cisneros

The Santa Ana Unified teacher wrote a children’s story book that his own students could connect with, and it won a top literary award given to a Latino writer whose work best portrays and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in children’s literature.

Alondra Diaz

Diaz, a third-grade teacher at Ralph A. Gates Elementary in the Saddleback Valley Unified School District who teaches general education and dual Spanish immersion, will represent California in the national competition for Teacher of the Year. Diaz said she grew out of early life challenges by finding inspiration and motivation from the teachers who guided her as child growing up in Santa Ana.

Brian Dozer

Dozer, president of Vital Link, rode more than 203 miles on his bicycle to visit every high school district, ROP and community college in Orange County to raise awareness of career education opportunities in the region and to raise money for community college student scholarships. Vital Link successfully raised more than $20,000.

Cielo Echegoyen

The teen is believed to be the fourth student in Santa Ana Unified’s history to gain admission to Harvard. She got there thanks to her high GPA and also her essay, which detailed how she helped her dad and two other men in an immigrant detention facility win their freedom. A video of the then-Santa Ana High student’s reaction – and her family’s – upon learning of her college acceptance last December went viral.

Jacob Eusebio

The Orange Lutheran High senior was one of six 2021 recipients of the Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Awards, national honors for youths who use the power of sports as a catalyst for change and making a positive impact on society. Eusebio, who was inspired by his brother who is on the autism spectrum, created Serving Advantage to connect on the tennis court with kids who have special needs.

Sovantevy “Sovey” Long-Latteri

She was one of two Orange County educators (and among five in the state) named California Teacher of the Year. She teaches special education at La Sierra High in the Fullerton Joint Union High School District and is part of the school’s Adult Transition Program, educating people with severe disabilities between the ages 18 and 22.

Andrew Pulver

As superintendent of the Los Alamitos Unified School District, Pulver dealt with an organized outcry against “critical race theory” in Orange County. Despite hours of passionate and angry comments by people from around Southern California at meetings, the school board unanimously voted for an ethnic studies elective class.

The full list of the OC Register’s 125 Most Influential People can be found on the OC Register website.