Dr. Stefan Bean selected as next Orange County superintendent of schools

Dr. Stefan Bean with the OC Board of Education
Orange County Board of Education members voted unanimously on Tuesday to appoint Dr. Stefan Bean as the county’s 12th superintendent of schools.

Longtime educator Dr. Stefan Bean, who currently serves as executive director of the Irvine International Academy, has been selected to be the next Orange County superintendent of schools.

The Orange County Board of Education voted unanimously to appoint Dr. Bean on Tuesday evening, more than three weeks after a special meeting that spanned several hours and featured interviews with six candidates. Upon taking office on July 1, he will be Orange County’s 12th superintendent of schools dating back to 1889.

“I honestly felt like we had a terrific pool of applicants, so I want to acknowledge that I, in my heart, could have easily supported any number of them,” Orange County Board of Education President Tim Shaw said. “Dr. Bean brings the experience and credentials we need to lead the department at this time. He obviously had significant support from the community and our board, and we’re excited to have him hit the ground running on July 1.” 

Dr. Stefan Bean
Dr. Stefan Bean

Citing health issues, current County Superintendent Dr. Al Mijares announced in April that he will step down on June 30 after more than a decade in the role. Bean will complete the remainder of Dr. Mijares’ term, which ends in January 2027, and will have the opportunity to run for a full four-year term in 2026 as an incumbent. 

“First of all, I have to praise God and just give all glory to Him,” Bean said following Tuesday’s vote. “I also want to take the time to really thank Dr. Mijares for his long tenure with the Orange County Department of Education.”

“I know that the department has a lot of great bright spots, and I cannot wait to work with the people at OCDE,” he added. “Then, of course, I want to dearly thank the Orange County Board of Education and the five trustees who have put their trust in me. I look forward to collaborating with them and doing this great work together.”

The position of county superintendent carries significant responsibilities. Bean, whose career in education spans more than 20 years, will oversee the schools and programs administered by the Orange County Department of Education, serve as the employer of record for all OCDE staff and manage the department’s educational programs and services. Additionally, he will provide mandated fiscal oversight for each school district within the county and ensure that all students have access to sufficient textbooks and instructional materials.

The county superintendent also reviews and approves Local Control and Accountability Plans, or LCAPs; offers professional development for educators; coordinates educational programs and other services; assists with the purchase and distribution of instructional materials and equipment; and provides advisory services in school business administration, according to the California Education Code.

“On behalf of the Orange County Department of Education, I extend my heartfelt congratulations to Dr. Stefan Bean on his selection as the next Orange County superintendent of schools,” said Dr. Ramon Miramontes, who, as OCDE’s deputy superintendent, has been overseeing day-to-day operations in Dr. Mijares’ absence. “Our staff is committed to working closely with Dr. Bean to ensure a smooth transition as he assumes his new responsibilities. Together, we will continue to advance educational opportunities and support services for all students in Orange County.”

Career and education

Before making their selection, county board members asked prospective candidates to submit resumes highlighting their qualifications and experience, along with letters of reference. Applicants were legally required to be residents and registered voters of Orange County at the time of their appointment and possess a valid credential authorizing them to perform administrative services in California.

Bean has dedicated the past 24 years to serving Southern California communities and students as a teacher, principal and charter school administrator. While campaigning as a challenger for county superintendent in 2022, he advocated for educational reform and quality.

Prior to being named executive director of the Irvine International Academy, a public charter school, in July 2022, Bean worked for Aspire Public Schools in Los Angeles for over 11 years, progressing through roles as lead principal, associate superintendent and area superintendent. In the latter role, he oversaw 11 schools serving students from transitional kindergarten through grade 12.

Bean’s educational background includes a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern California, a master’s degree in educational leadership from Loyola Marymount University and a doctorate in educational administration from California State University, Fullerton.

Journey to the U.S.

Bean has said his personal experiences as an English language learner and a student with a disability deeply influenced his educational philosophy. He expressed a particular passion for supporting English language learners and marginalized students.

Born in Saigon during the early 1970s, Bean, originally named Nam Le Thanh, overcame significant challenges early in life. Stricken by polio and abandoned by his parents, he was brought to the United States as part of Operation Babylift, a humanitarian mission during the Vietnam War to evacuate orphans to safety. At age 4, he was thrust into the foster care system in the U.S. and was later adopted by the Bean family. With their support, he excelled academically.

Despite health issues, Bean engaged in sports and extracurricular activities as a child, serving as an umpire for sandlot baseball games, joining the student council and developing his public speaking skills. He was a straight-A student who was elected as sixth-grade class president and earned an opportunity to make a speech in Washington, D.C., advocating for those who were disadvantaged. After high school, he received a full scholarship to USC.

During his college years, Bean met Janet Soares, and the couple married in 2000. Together, they raised four children while immersing themselves in work and ministry. Bean has said Janet, who tragically died in 2021 after a battle with cancer, was a significant source of support throughout his life and career. 

Supporting students, districts

Bean is expected to assume his new role on July 1, leading an organization that serves the county’s most vulnerable student populations and provides support and mandated fiscal oversight to 28 school districts serving more than 600 schools and approximately 450,000 students.

Along with providing direct instruction to Orange County students through its own Alternative Education and Special Education programs, OCDE supports local districts with an array of services necessary for their operations, including professional development, high-speed internet access and security, legal and fiscal guidance, payroll systems, Local Control and Accountability Plan assistance and approval, and student enrichment.

“I want our students across Orange County to know that I’ve got their backs, no matter what, and that they should use me as an example,” Bean said. “No matter what they’re going through, no matter what challenges they may face — whether they have a disability, a speech impediment, whether they speak English as a second language, or whether they’re experiencing trauma — I want them to know that I’m there, and I’m going to protect them and help them throughout our county.”