Three high-profile conservative Orange County Board of Education trustees will face a variety of political challenges this June in newly redrafted congressional districts, according to recent campaign documents filed with the county.
Additionally, documentation submitted before the March 11 deadline shows that Superintendent Al Mijares, who oversees the operations of the Orange County Department of Education, will face a challenger, Stefan Bean, backed by most of the current board. Bean is superintendent of Aspire Public Schools, a charter school system.
The Board of Education, which can approve or reject the Department of Education’s budget but does not control any of the county’s school districts, has drawn attention in recent years for advocating against face masks in schools, vaccination mandates against COVID-19 and the study of racism. known as critical race theory. The board has pushed some of its positions through lawsuits against Mijares and California Governor Gavin Newsom.
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The board also supports the opening of more charter schools locally. It recently approved an application for a charter school founded by Jeff Barke, husband of Board of Education trustee Mari Barke, to move under the county umbrella for future expansion.
Several challengers in the trustee races say the incumbents have wasted taxpayer money on costly lawsuits and lost focus on their mission. The incumbents say they are proud of what they have achieved and want to be re-elected so they can continue to fight for, among other things, stronger “parental rights.”
All the candidates will face each other in the June 7 primaries using electoral maps that the incumbents unsuccessfully fought in court, saying the maps were drawn to make their re-elections difficult.
In Trustee Area 2, which includes Costa Mesa, Cypress, Huntington Beach, Los Alamitos, Seal Beach and parts of Fountain Valley, Irvine and Newport Beach, current board chairman Barke will face two challengers: Martha Fluor and Christopher R. Ganiere. .
Barke wrote in her candidate statement that she is running for re-election to continue advocating “for students and parent rights.”
Fluor is a former member of the Newport-Mesa Unified School Board and past president of the California Association of School Boards. She wrote in her candidate statement that she wants to see school boards committed to ensuring students receive an excellent education in safe, well-equipped schools, “instead of wasting millions of dollars on lawsuits against the State and the OC Superintendent of Schools.” ”.
Ganiere, an architect, described himself on LinkedIn as “not a status quo candidate.” Ganiere wrote that he wants homeschooled students to be able to join school activities and that he is against mask mandates and what he called “medical apartheid.”
In Trustee Area 4, which includes all or part of Buena Park, Fullerton, Garden Grove, La Habra, La Palma, Stanton and Westminster, Incumbent Trustee Tim Shaw faces three candidates: Paulette Chaffee, David M. Choi and Elisa Kim.
Shaw, in his candidate statement, wrote that “parents should have choices in their children’s education.”
Chaffee is a former teacher, speech therapist, and attorney who shares a law office with her husband, Don Chaffee, Chairman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors. She competed against Shaw in 2020 and finished in third place. In her candidate statement, she criticized the board for spending $3 million “of taxpayer money on frivolous lawsuits instead of resources for struggling schools and families.”
Candidate Choi is an accountant. He has yet to file a statement with the Orange County Registrar of Voters or post available information about himself online.
Kim, a self-described business owner and mother, said in her candidate statement that as the first-generation daughter of poor immigrants and the first in her family to graduate from college, she wants to be “a strong advocate for of diversity, equity and inclusion.”
In Trustee Area 5, which covers much of southern Orange County, current Trustee Lisa Sparks will face off against Sherine Smith, former superintendent of the Laguna Beach Unified School District.
Sparks, dean of the Chapman University School of Communication, wrote that she “has been fighting for parental rights.” Sparks touted her support for public education, including charter schools, and her opposition to “government guidelines that impede learning outcomes.”
Smith, who previously worked as a teacher, principal and assistant superintendent in the Capistrano Unified School District, wrote in her statement that she will focus on expanding career technical training for high school students and “redirecting tax money wasted on lawsuits to programs , training, and small class sizes so teachers can reach all students.”
Unlike other elections on the June 7 ballot, which lead to a November runoff, the winners of the Orange County Board of Education seats and the Superintendent position will be decided in the primary.