OC Superintendent Al Mijares Announces Retirement Amid Cancer Battle

Orange County Superintendent of Schools Al Mijares addressed questions about his whereabouts on Friday with a poignant announcement. Mijares disclosed that he has cancer, and that he's decided to retire for the sake of his health.

Mijares was appointed superintendent in August 2012 to fill the vacancy left by William Habermehl. He ran unopposed in 2014 and 2018, and won another re-election against charter school executive Stefan Bean in 2022.

In August, Mijares took a medical leave of absence. Until now, he has remained tight-lipped about the cause of his absence.

“Dr. Mijares’ unshakeable commitment to the success and well-being of every student was inspiring to all who worked alongside him,” OCDE Deputy Superintendent Dr. Ramon Miramontes said in a statement. “His dedication to rigorous academics and career pathways while promoting empathy and compassion will forever be his legacy, reminding us of the profound impact that a caring leader can have on the lives of students and families.”

You can read Mijares’ announcement below.

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.

Over the past year, I have chosen to keep many of the details of my health challenges private, largely to avoid distracting from the critical work we undertake together. Now, I feel it is appropriate to share with you that I have been battling cancer.

Anyone whose life has been impacted by this type of diagnosis knows it can be an uneven journey fraught with challenges — and countless medical consultations. My own road has been both humbling and enlightening, but I have not traveled it alone.

Along with the support of my family, I have witnessed extraordinary acts of kindness and compassion, particularly from those who have dedicated their lives to caring for others. Moreover, this experience has highlighted the remarkable medical advancements achieved by professionals who, it should be noted, once stood in the shoes of the students we serve.

This time has allowed me to deeply reflect on our collective mission to guide those students toward becoming the best versions of themselves. It is my hope that they will not only lead fulfilling lives but will also be in a position to make significant contributions of their own to scientific and medical breakthroughs that benefit humankind.

Looking back at my professional life — from my early days as a program specialist serving physically disabled children, to my later years as a district and county superintendent — I feel incredibly blessed to have had such a long and fulfilling career. Now, having surpassed the age at which many choose to retire, I know in my heart that it is time to pass the reins to new leaders, and I am grateful that we have so many capable individuals right here in Orange County who are ready to take our programs and services to the next level.

I am especially grateful to Deputy Superintendent Dr. Ramon Miramontes, who has been my designee since August. Ramon has shown considerable wisdom and enthusiasm, embodying the mission, vision and values of our organization. He will continue to lead our department alongside OCDE’s leadership team as the Orange County Board of Education undertakes the process of filling the superintendency with an appointee who will serve out the remainder of my term, as required by California’s Education Code.

Finally, I want to express my deepest appreciation to all of you, not only for the support you have shown me through these challenging times but also for the exceptional work you do on behalf of our students every day. Some of you have been rightfully recognized with accolades at the state and national levels, while others work quietly behind the scenes. Regardless, your dedication is seen, and it is shaping today’s learners into the leaders and innovators of tomorrow. It has been an immense privilege to lead such a passionate and effective team.

Remember that we at OCDE are stewards of the department, serving it diligently and safeguarding it for future generations. As I step away, I will carry with me cherished memories and a profound sense of pride in all that we have accomplished together. At the same time, I look forward to watching each of you continue to inspire and lead, pushing this organization and the students we serve to even greater heights.

God bless you richly as you serve countless students that will enable them to reach their full potential.

Al Mijares, Ph.D.
County Superintendent of Schools


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Thursday, March 28, 2024 - 09:07

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