O.C. Ed Board taps longtime charter school leader Stefan Bean as new superintendent

Orange County Board of Education trustees pose Tuesday with newly appointed Supt. Dr. Stefan Bean.
O.C. Board of Education trustees, from left, Jorge Valdes, Ken Williams, Tim Shaw and Mari Barke with newly appointed Orange County Supt. Dr. Stefan Bean, seated.
(Orange County Department of Education)
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Filling a vacancy left by Orange County Supt. Al Mirajes — who announced in April he would retire June 30 due to health issues — the county Board of Education Tuesday appointed longtime charter school administrator Dr. Stefan Bean as his successor.

The appointment comes two years after Bean tried to unseat Mirajes in a June 2022 election, running on a platform of enhancing parental rights, particularly around school choice and pandemic precautions.

For the record:

6:34 p.m. June 21, 2024A previous version of this story stated Bean would be overseeing 28 schools. He will be overseeing 28 school districts in Orange County.

Officially endorsed by four of the board’s five current trustees, one of whom donated $500 to his election campaign, Bean lost with 45% voter approval.


The Garden Grove resident will be officially sworn in at the board’s July 3 regular meeting to serve out the remainder of Mijares’ term, which runs until Jan. 4, 2027. He will earn an annual base salary of $300,000, the same amount Mijares is earning after 12 years of service, according to a board vote Tuesday.

Garden Grove educator Dr. Stefan Bean cites the oath of office Tuesday at an Orange County Board of Education meeting.
Garden Grove educator Dr. Stefan Bean cites the oath of office Tuesday at an Orange County Board of Education meeting. Bean will undergo an official swearing-in July 3.
(Courtesy of Stefan Bean)

If history repeats itself, the appointed Bean, like Mijares before him, will have the opportunity to run for a four-year term in 2026 as an incumbent, which could enshrine charter school advocacy among the county’s top educational leadership for at least the next several years.

In an interview Friday, the 53-year-old father of four reflected on his educational background, which took him from the classrooms of traditional public schools in Long Beach and Fresno County to an educational consulting and training business, during which he advised curriculum and coached superintendents and principals.

It was in that role that Bean says he got a chance to closely observe charter school clients, the methods they used and the outcomes of that methodology. He recalled being inspired by one school which, in one instance, grouped students by reading level, not grade level.

“Charter schools are able to take those kinds of instructional approaches or practices and have the freedom to do that as a public school,” he said. “When I saw what some charter schools could do it fascinated me, so I went into the charter school world.”

Bean became principal of Los Angeles Unified School District’s now-shuttered Cornerstone Academy in 2005 and served in the role for four years before accepting a principal position in 2010 at a South Gate campus of Aspire Public Schools.

Co-authors of Senate Bill 907 claim adding two trustees and moving elections to November would diversify the pro-charter, Republican-backed Orange County Board of Education. But trustees call the move a political ploy.

May 24, 2024

Moving up the ranks at Aspire, he became associate superintendent in 2016 and was two years later promoted to superintendent, a position he held until November 2021. During that time, he lost his wife, Janet, to metastatic breast cancer.

He said Friday that his wife, before dying, urged him to continue on the path of providing opportunities for all kids to “really believe in themselves and unlock that potential.”

“When the [2022] election cycle came out and I had this opportunity, I thought, ‘You know what, this is the way to have an impact across the county of Orange,’” he said.

By then, Bean was executive director of the Irvine International Academy, a newly formed Mandarin-immersion charter school. He was also serving on the board of the Orange County Classical Academy, a charter school launched in August 2020 by charter advocate Mark Bucher, founder of the anti-union California Policy Center — who along with wife Bronwyn donated $4,400 to his campaign — and Dr. Jeff Barke, then-husband of Board of Education Trustee Mari Barke.

It was through Mari Barke that Bean would be introduced to other educational leaders in Orange County, including fellow OCBE trustee Ken Williams, who endorsed Bean and, according to campaign finance records, donated $500 to Bean’s 2022 bid for superintendent.

Williams said Thursday the candidate reached out to him on the campaign trail seeking an endorsement and, upon meeting, he was compelled by Bean’s personal story as an individual living with disabilities who fled Vietnam as a child in 1975 and was later adopted by his foster family.

“His success and what he’s accomplished has been very admirable and impressive,” he said of Bean. “We also aligned very much politically, in educational governance and policy-wise. Because of his vision for education, I thought he was a very excellent candidate, and I supported him.”

Despite backing from the openly pro-charter school Board of Education, trustees maintain Bean’s appointment as superintendent was conducted in a fair and transparent manner over the course of a May 22 special meeting, during which six candidates were publicly interviewed, and regular meetings on June 5 and 18, at which endorsements and comments were taken from the public.

“I’m proud of the process we ran — it was as good as could be expected,” Board President Tim Shaw said Thursday, adding that to hold a countywide special election for superintendent would have been a costly endeavor.

“I wanted to allow the public to have plenty of time to watch the interviews and give us feedback. I even said publicly I’m not going to be calling applicants one on one because I don’t want any backroom deals.”

Two days after the board’s May 22 interview panel, Bean’s executive director position at Irvine International Academy was posted on online education job portals. Bean said Friday he’d given the charter school’s board notice of his interest in the superintendent position, but had no intention of leaving if his second bid was unsuccessful.

Williams, who’s served on the Board of Education since 1996, agreed with Shaw that Bean’s selection was handled in a fair manner. He said Thursday he remains hopeful the new appointee will usher in a new era of collaboration between the board and Department of Education, which have been entangled in recent years in a series of legal disputes over the power and authority of the board and superintendent when it comes to budget decisions, the hiring of legal counsel and other matters.

“I hope and pray that the division and the discord between the superintendent and the board will be resolved so we can govern together,” Williams said.

Bean said Friday he was more focused on getting down to business in his new job than on whether he might seek to extend the position another four years by running for office in 2026. He plans to better familiarize himself with the county’s 28 school districts and specialized programs and the people who operate them, by conducting a series of listening tours.

Like Williams, Bean said he’s keenly interested in being a bridge between the board and the department.

“My hope [now] certainly is to resolve any disputes,” he said. “We want to repair any damage that was done and come to a mutual resolution.”