Red Alert for OC Education: Mijares-Bean race is FINAL this week!

OC Democrats (and other reasonable folks) have done their best to alert voters that the three races for OC Board of Education, which we must win to wrest control from the SABOTEURS on that Board, is FINAL RIGHT NOW, and NOT a primary. But we didn’t realize till recently that the 2-way race for County Superintendent between accomplished incumbent Al Mijares and charter school zealot Stefan Bean is ALSO final right now, not a primary. That’s because THERE ARE ONLY TWO CANDIDATES, and it’s one of those County races where if ONE breaks 50% the race is over Tuesday. So take that race seriously and don’t skip it.

For the past six years while the Board’s Alpha Dog Ken Williams has enjoyed a majority, OC’s Department of Education [whose mission and purview is described here] has presented a bizarre paradox – a very well-run and innovative Department, the envy of the state and nation, run by Mijares… but stubbornly persecuted, held back and slowed down by an extremist elected Board that wastes millions of public dollars on always-doomed lawsuits, approves any and all charter schools good and bad, and jumps on every insane rightwing bandwagon, earning itself celebrity on that particular fringe while generally bringing us embarrassment in the wider world.

I already knew I didn’t support what the Williams Board and Dr. Bean want to do to education in the OC. But I did want to talk to Dr. Mijares, to find out what he’s most proud of accomplishing this past decade he’s been in charge, and what he’d like to accomplish in coming years. And he talked to me for over an hour…

Accomplishments of the Mijares Decade.

Dr. Mijares was actually APPOINTED, ten years ago, BY THE all-Republican OC BOARD OF EDUCATION, to take the place of retiring Superintendent Habermehl. Yes, you read that right, 2012 was a different world, and not all Republican politicians were crazed zealots driven by farfetched conspiracy theories – the board included such distinguished moderates as Jack Bedell and David Boyd, who took their jobs seriously and believed in public education, and facts. (In fact, rumor has it Al is a Republican himself; I didn’t think it was important enough to ask though.)

Al immediately developed a “strategic plan” in consultation with community stakeholders – educators and the business community. “Common Core” had been approved two years earlier by Governor Schwarzenegger and his Republican state school board – but OCBOE troublemaker Ken Williams, though he still wasn’t controlling a majority, couldn’t get it out of his head that Common Core must have SOMETHING to do with the hated President Obama, and Ken had managed to slow down compliance with it … but our new Superintendent did all he could to bring our county up to the new state standards.

Next, Al set his sights on “broadening career tech starting in pre-K – now it’s funded before age 5!” He got UCI and CSUF involved and applied for a state grant, with the goal of making sure all students achieve and stay “at grade level” by grade 3 – especially “English learners” – which involved augmenting the pre-K years. (As Al’s enthusiasm grew over the hour, while describing all the things his district has done these ten years, I attempted to keep up by taking notes I’m now deciphering. Two things were obvious – his caring about not leaving a single student behind, and his passion for improving OC’s ECONOMY through effective education.)

In 2015 he and his colleagues created MTSS, a “multi-tiered system of support,” which in 2016 was recognized by the state, which asked him to create a blueprint to replicate the program’s success elsewhere. MTSS deals with pedagogy and student engagement, helping teachers “understand how to utilize a plan to strengthen their teaching in class, and keep students engaged.”

In 2016 Mijares’ department started “OC Pathways,” which is Professional Career Technical Education, and is run in partnership with Mark Percy’s CEO Leadership Alliance. In the older days we had trade schools for students who may not be headed to college, but the technology we use these days is so complex – like electric cars – that it requires much more education. He worked on this program with four community colleges, the college districts, UCI, Chapman, CSUF, and the OC Business Council. OC Pathways entails a “rigorous diploma” including “entrance track.” (?)

And the NEXT YEAR, 2017, Mijares & co. created a charter school he’s proud of, the College and Career Preparatory Academy, (above) which goes up above age 18, and is run by the OCDE in partnership with the OC Business Council. (It’s good to see that group do something constructive with education rather than lobbying for projects that are bad for the taxpayer and environment.) ALSO I hope you see: it’s a myth that liberals oppose all charter schools (the way “conservatives” these days support any half-assed one that comes along, on principle.) Two other OC charter schools Al speaks highly of are Santa Ana’s Samueli Academy which is geared toward foster kids, and Orange’s TLC for autistic kids.

Al frets about the possibility of an ideologue like Dr. Bean taking over this department – and it’s not just Bean’s eccentric beliefs, “This department has an $8 BILLION budget, Vern… you can’t have a novice just step into something like this.” Looking toward the future, Dr. Mijares sees Orange County as “the next Silicon Valley” – he believes that we could “lead the world in the field of Artificial Intelligence.” And Al Mijares believes that, at the helm of our Department of Education, he can help make that happen.

…and then there’s the Clown Crusades…

1. THE LAWSUITS – that’s what the Williams Board is best known for, their 24-7 litigiousness, costing taxpayers uncounted millions over the years, with nothing to show for it. Just a few weeks ago, they lost another one, over Mijares’ 2019-20 budget. The Register quotes Mijares’ attorney, “This is a win for Al for sure – the other winner is the public. They don’t have to keep paying for attorneys.” And the Reg concludes: “Meanwhile, another OCBE lawsuit — approved by Trustees Barke, Williams, Sparks and Shaw — is still pending. That suit is against Gov. Gavin Newsom over mask mandates. Three of those trustees are running for re-election June 7. Their support for the various lawsuits has become a top issue in their races.” Yeah, I’ll say.

From the moment Ken got a Board majority, whenever the law is “gray” between what the Board wants to do and what the department wants to do, Ken doesn’t consult the AG, he SUES. And the Department already has FIVE ABA-approved attorneys, but Ken’s Board insists on using their OWN, no matter the taxpayer cost. Generally this is over state education laws that they don’t like, and want to keep out of OC, but as Al says, “These are state schools and we HAVE to follow state law – otherwise there’s sanctions – FINANCIAL ones.”

2. THE CHARTER SCHOOLS. The Williams Board is where Charter Schools go to get approved, no matter how bad the idea and business models are, no matter how unnecessary they are, after they’ve been rejected (generally for good reason) by the district they want to set up camp in. To most of us, the facts that charters 1) bleed money from public education, 2) often rake in profits in unethical ways, and 3) often get away without being regulated… is a PROBLEM – but to zealots like the Williams Board, THOSE ARE ACTUAL GOOD THINGS. Features, not bugs.

It’s important, if you’re new to this “discourse,” that you remember the buzzphrase “School Choice” or “Parental Choice” is just a euphemism for approving any and all Charter Schools. Also, does nobody else see a problem with Dr. Bean and Mari Barke’s loony gun-toting doctor husband helming the OC Classical Academy, while being hooked up like this???

3. THE FIGHT AGAINST MASKS AND VACCINES. When Covid hit, and federal and state governments did their best to protect our students along with the rest of us, SOME of us were just predisposed to believe that anything coming from a liberal government had to be a lie, a trick, a scam, TYRANNY. And naturally the Ken Williams OCBOE was in the forefront of protecting our precious schoolkids from any kind of health precaution, from masks to vaccines. No doubt, they killed some. And as we saw above, they are still suing the state over these old mandates.

4. SEX EDUCATION MYTHS This has been going on for decades, where nuttier “conservatives” fantasize that liberal educators are secretly grooming our youngsters to be promiscuous, to be gay, now to be transgender. Usually they can never point at anything real, but it’s easy for THEM and their friends to believe. The Williams Board had a PARTICULAR cow in 2016 with the passage of the California Healthy Youth Act, part of a general “health framework” which encouraged the teaching of anatomy, human sexuality, simple unavoidable things like the facts of menstruation. The curriculum alerts kids to the dangers of human trafficking and STD’s, and teaches kids to be discerning – it’s even allowed to teach abstinence, and parents can opt out, for Christ’s sake! That didn’t stop the drama queens on the Board from crying out and SUING over the “sexualization” of our children, and now with new measures to protect the transgendered, they have even further frontiers for their paranoia. (See the Dr. Bean video below.)

5. “CRITICAL RACE THEORY” MYTHS. You’ve noticed of course that “Critical Race Theory” is this year’s right wing bugaboo, and in their fearful minds it is the same thing as Ethnic Studies. State law requires that Ethnic Studies be taught in all state schools, and by 2030 (which seems a long time away) you won’t be able to graduate without at least one ES class – a diploma won’t be good without it. It’s just a model, it can be “customized” to the district.” But of course this gave the Williams Board YET ANOTHER REASON to sue heroically, expensively, fruitlessly. And of course CRT is a favorite whipping boy of Dr. Bean as well. But – where’s my manners? It’s time to…

Meet Dr. Bean!

I thought it would be fair, after talking so long to Dr. Mijares, to spend some time looking at his opponent’s website. Both men have doctorates. But while Mijares has a bachelor’s degree in child development, a master’s in social welfare, and a doctorate in philosophy, Bean’s degrees, as far as one can tell from his website, are in business administration.

His platform, as far as one can tell, is just the usual rightwing list of complaints and myths that we get from the Board majority, as listed above. In his bio he bemoans that “recently the quality, corruption and policies hampering positive reform became a dinner table conversation even for those without kids” – giving us a good picture of where Dr. Bean picks up all these myths. We must give him credit, however, for not hiring someone with good writing skills to edit his website for him. Here is an actual screenshot:

And here is THE ONE video on his website – the one issue Dr. Stefan Bean finds the most important to address us personally about:

FACT CHECK. This book, “Who Are You?” DOES exist, but “Anyways” is not part of the title, Dr Bean just added that. Even though he has it in his hand. More to the point, Dr. Bean has been unable to identify ANY elementary school in Orange County that includes this book in its library collection. Just another rumor he heard in the echo chamber *sigh…*

BUT DR. BEAN IS WELL-FUNDED, and backed by the OC Republican Party (which should tell you more about that Party than you wanted to know.) So DO NOT COUNT HIM OUT, and DO NOT SKIP THIS RACE ON YOUR BALLOT!

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Update: Just posted by Michelle Steel: pro-NRA OC Republicans smile in front of a backdrop of Uvalde victims, and there is Dr. Bean smiling in front. Who else do you see? Rear near left is Dean “Obama Watermelon Patch” Grose; seated toward the middle is Steel next to Mari Barke; her crazy husband Jeffrey, who likes to joke that his gun can kill Covid, 3rd from right.

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.