Why I’m running
It’s been said that we are a nation divided, and that many of those same divisions run through Orange County.
But spend any time in our communities and it’s clear that our interests, values and destinies are very much aligned. And that’s why I’ve never been more certain that our county’s best days lie ahead.
From San Clemente to La Habra, Orange County families want their children to attend high-quality schools that maximize each student’s potential. They want the peace of mind that comes with knowing their kids are safe, secure and happy from the first bell to the last. They want clean campuses staffed by caring professionals who are committed to ensuring every child’s academic, behavioral and social-emotional needs are met. They want options for college and career preparation, as well as personal enrichment.
It is easy to get caught up in the binary choices often associated with politics. It is tempting to want to choose sides. But the fact is, the traits that unite us as a county are far greater and more meaningful than any wedge issues, and we are going to need to work together to heal the wounds of a global pandemic and fortify the values that we share and hold sacred.
The job of Orange County superintendent of schools is an elected position, but it’s also a nonpartisan one that requires consensus-building. Since taking office as leader of the Orange County Department of Education in 2012, I have worked to unite educators, families, businesses, elected officials, law enforcement representatives, faith-based communities and other stakeholders behind a shared vision of what our schools can be. And we have found success in this model.
We have seen our county’s graduation rate rise north of 90 percent and our drop-out rates fall accordingly. We have outpaced the state on virtually all measures of academic performance. We have expanded our business partnerships and exponentially increased the number of career pathways and work-based learning opportunities for students.
We have scaled up proven academic, behavioral and social-emotional interventions and supports — and not just across our county, but statewide. We have put a renewed focus on engaging technologies, civic learning and kindness. And we have met the moment of a once-in-a-lifetime public health crisis with communication, collaboration and compassion.
But the job is not done. As we emerge from a drawn-out pandemic, our students need accelerated learning, social-emotional interventions, counseling and access to wrap-around mental health services. Our fatigued school employees need extra support, grace and stability. Our families need resources, expanded learning opportunities, communication and a greater voice in matters of education and health.
I am running for re-election because as much as we have accomplished, we still have more to do to put our students in a position to lead the nation in college and career readiness and success.
I am running because in the wake of a pandemic that brought loss, illness and disruption, we need leadership, stability and continuity.
I am running because I truly believe that together we can create a healthier, kinder and more prosperous Orange County.
I am running because I know there is ultimately far more that unites us than separates us, that we have the resources and resolve in this county to achieve anything, and that our students deserve nothing less than our full and unwavering commitment to guiding them along their academic journeys toward limitless futures.
This is more than a moment — it is a movement, and a promise that we must make to the next generation. I hope you will join us.
Al Mijares joins Jodi Balma, host of the “A Slice of Orange” podcast and professor of political science at Fullerton College, to talk about the upcoming election and the future of Orange County schools.