OC Superintendent of Schools Al Mijares Battling Cancer, Announces Retirement

By:Matthew Cunningham

Orange County Superintendent of Schools Al Mijares announced on Friday that he has been battling cancer for some time and will retire from his elective post effective June 30 of this year.

Mijares quietly went on medical leave of absence at the beginning of August in 2023. An e-mail went out to department staff on August 14 notifying them of his leave and stating he had “delegated to Deputy Superintendent of Instructional Programs, Dr. Ramon Miramontes to fulfill the duties and responsibilities of the county superintendent.”

“In March, Dr. Mijares shared with staff and close contacts that he was dealing with complications from a medical issue, which required him to cut back on public appearances. Unfortunately, his recovery has taken more time than anticipated, and his doctors recently advised him to take a temporary leave from work so that he can fully commit his energies to restoring his physical health. As a result, he will be using some of the sick leave time he has accrued to prioritize his recovery,” the e-mail stated.

While department employees were told, the public was not informed that their elected superintendent of schools had taken a leave of absence – a highly unusual move. Political strategist and commentator Jon Fleischman noted as much in a February op-ed in the OC Register, pointing that Mijares had not attended an Orange County Board of Education for a year. The day-to-day operations of the Orange County Department of Education have been in the hands of Miramontes.

A few weeks before announcing his retirement, Mijares publicly revealed his cancer diagnoses and acknowledged his absence but stated he planned to return for duty in August if his doctor approved.

“Currently, I remain focused on my health — and following my medical team’s advice closely,” Mijares said in a statement. “Yet if all goes as planned, I am hopeful to be cleared to resume my responsibilities in August, following an appointment with a trusted physician.”

On April 26, Mijares announced his retirement:

“In a memo shared with you in March, I expressed optimism about potentially resuming my duties as county superintendent this summer, following a medical leave of absence that was necessary to address a physical health issue.

Yet after extensive discussions with my medical team and my family, as well as considerable prayer, it has become clear that I must choose a different path. With the best interests of the Orange County Department of Education in mind, and for the sake of my health, I am announcing my retirement, effective June 30.”

Mijares was first ran for county superintendent in 2014 and would up running unopposed. He was also unopposed in his 2018 re-election campaign. When Mijares sought a third term in 2022, he was opposed by educator Dr. Stefan Bean; Mijares prevailed with 54% of the vote.

The Orange County Board of Education may fill the vacancy with an appointed superintendent who would serve the remainder of the term, which runs through 2026.

The OC Board of Education and the OC Superintendent of schools have a interesting structural relationship. Together, they constitute the OC Department of Education. The superintendent runs the department, while the board approves the department’s budget, and also hears appeals on matters such as charter applications, inter-district transfers and expulsions.

Mijares and the OCBE majority are frequently at odds, and those conflicts have sometimes wound up in court. In example, the Board fought back against Mijares’ insistence that the Board be represented by the OC Department of Education’s in-house lawyer. The Board objected that in the department’s counsel could not represent two parties that were battling each other, saying that violated basic legal ethics.

Under the state constitution, the Board has the power to set the superintendent’s compensation, and in 2022, the Board reduced the position’s base pay from $364,895 to $300,000 a year.

READ: OC Board of Education Cuts Superintendent’s Pay

When Mijares ran for re-election in 2022, four of the five members of the OC Board of Education endorsed his opponent, Dr. Bean.


Contact Us

Who is OC Independent?

The OC Independent is dedicated to providing factual, informative reporting on Orange County government, politics, education and quality of life issues such as homelessness and access to housing. We seek to illuminate aspects of issues, movements and trends that receive little or no attention from more established, mainstream outlets. Our editorial philosophy is grounded in the principles of the American Founding: limited government, federalism, the separation of powers and equality before the law as indispensable to securing our liberties. The opinions and stances articulated in OC Independent editorials flow from those principles, and are grounded in facts.