Wearing a black suit and tie and standing across from retired California legislator Marian Bergeson, Dr. Al Mijares raised his right hand as he took the oath of office as Orange County Superintendent of Schools.
That event took place nearly 10 years ago on Oct. 10, 2012. At that time, he had been serving as superintendent for three months after he was appointed by county trustees to replace retiring Superintendent William Habermehl.
Dr. Mijares would go on to be elected to full terms in 2014, 2018 and, most recently, in 2022.
Under his leadership, the Orange County Department of Education serves some of the most vulnerable student populations and provides support and mandated fiscal oversight to 28 school districts serving more than 600 schools and approximately 475,000 students.
In addition to providing direct instruction to students through its own alternative and special education programs, OCDE administers an array of programs and services that are critical to the operations of local school districts and community colleges, facilitating professional development, legal guidance, payroll, career and technical education support, high-speed internet access, Local Control and Accountability Plan assistance and approval, resources for families, and student enrichment.
“It is our goal that Orange County will lead the nation in college and career readiness and success,” said Dr. Mijares. “We aren’t just interested in leading California. We want to lead the nation.”
As focused as he is on education, the superintendent also believes in the Golden Rule, which is the principle of treating others as one would like to be treated.
OCDE launched the One Billion Acts of Kindness initiative in 2016. While the campaign seeks to quantify kindness with the goal of reaching one billion acts, its broader aim is to promote character, improve school climates and amplify civility in Orange County and beyond. Today, there are more than 14 million acts of kindness submitted through the site.
“I encourage our schools to embrace this opportunity to celebrate and promote kindness in our classrooms, in our county and beyond,” said Dr. Al Mijares. “I truly believe we have the potential to reach one billion. At the same time, let us be mindful of the fact that even a single kind act has the power to change lives while instilling in our students vital lessons on character and service to others.”
Before coming to the Orange County Department of Education, he served for six years as vice president of the College Board, where he worked to expand the high school-to-university pipeline as part of an effort to promote college readiness and success for all students.
Before joining the College Board, Dr. Mijares served for more than 11 years as superintendent of the Santa Ana Unified School District, which received national recognition for successfully meeting the needs of a large and diverse student body. He has also served as superintendent of the Bakersfield City and Coachella Valley Unified school districts and as a principal in the Moreno Valley Unified School District in Riverside County.
Dr. Mijares is treasurer of Comunidad Latina Federal Credit Union, a member of the Board of Trustees for Biola University, a past member of the advisory council of the Tiger Woods Learning Center Foundation, a member of the advisory board of Public Schools for Tomorrow, and former first chairman of the Santa Ana Empowerment Zone board of directors.
He is the recipient of numerous honors, including the American Association of School Administrators Leadership for Learning Award, the Orange County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s 2005 Educator of the Year Award, the League of United Latin American Citizens’ 2004 Excellence in Education Award and the Association of California School Administrators’ Diversity Award.
Under his leadership, the department earned five prestigious Golden Bell awards from the California School Boards Association.
In 2017, the Institute for Community Impact named Dr. Mijares as one of four Pillars of Influence in Orange County, and in 2021 he made the Orange County Register’s list of 125 top local influencers.
Dr. Mijares earned his bachelor’s degree in child development/special education from California State University, Northridge. While working in the San Francisco Bay area as a project specialist for physically disabled children in public schools, he earned his master’s degree in social welfare from the University of California, Berkeley. He went on to earn his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California, and he holds several education credentials, including school psychology and school administration.
Dr. Mijares and his wife, Jackie, are the proud parents of five grown sons, all of whom attended public schools and have graduated from college.
Ten years after the superintendent’s first swearing in ceremony, and with a new four-year term set to begin in January, he remains committed to serving the children of Orange County.