Six candidates vying to be appointed Orange County's Interim Supt. of Schools

Applicants include Stefan Bean, who lost the 2022 election for the position, and current O.C. Deputy Supt. Ramon Miramontes

This Wednesday, the Orange County Board of Education (OCBE) is set to interview six candidates competing to become Orange County’s Interim Superintendent of Schools. The interviews will take place May 22 during a special board meeting scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. at 200 Kalmus Drive in Costa Mesa.

The board is tasked with appointing a person to serve out the remainder of the term of Al Mijares, Ph.D., who is retiring at the end of June due to medical issues after leading the O.C. Department of Education for more than a decade.  Dr. Mijares' term expires in January 2027. His appointed replacement could run as the incumbent for the position and seek a four-year term in the 2026 election.

Six people submitted applications for the job, according to the Orange County Department of Education. You can see the full application materials, resumés and letters of reference, for each candidate as part of the May 22 meeting agenda.

Here’s a brief look at the applicants.

Stefan Bean, Ed.D. 

Stefan Bean, Ed.D., unsuccessfully ran for O.C. Supt. of Schools in 2022 when he was endorsed by four of the current OCBE trustees who are now tasked with filling the position. Photo from

Dr. Bean is a longtime administrator at charter schools across Southern California. He is currently the executive director of Irvine International Academy, a Mandarin/English immersion charter school. He also served as the superintendent of Aspire Public Schools Los Angeles and was on the board of Orange County Classical Academy, a charter school started by the spouse of Mari Barke, a current trustee on the OCBE. In 2022, Barke and three of the other current OCBE trustees endorsed Dr. Bean when he ran for O.C. Superintendent of Schools and lost to Dr. Mijares.

Dennis Cole

Cole is the current director of district partnerships and operations for the O.C. Department of Education’s Alternative Education division (ACCESS). He’s also an elected board trustee for the Fountain Valley School District. Prior to that, he was a principal in the Santa Ana Unified School District. In his application, Cole received a letter of reference from Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes. In his letter, Barnes praised Cole’s work assisting the Sheriff’s Department in safety initiatives, including an effort to educate families about the dangers of fentanyl. Sheriff Barnes called Cole “a man of honor, conviction, and deep faith.”

Charles D. Hinman, Ed.D.

Dr. Hinman came out of retirement in 2022 to serve as interim superintendent for the Fountain Valley School District, followed by the Westminster School District, and then for Oxford Preparatory Academy, a charter school in Orange County. He was superintendent for the West Covina USD from 2015-2021 and before that served as an assistant superintendent for the Newport-Mesa USD. In a letter accompanying his application, Dr. Hinman wrote that if selected for the position, he intends to “work closely with the Board of Trustees to execute its vision through the development of positive relationships with key staff and community members to maintain confidence until the next election cycle.”

Maria Martinez-Poulin, Ed.D.

Dr. Martinez-Poulin was most recently the interim superintendent for the Culver City Unified School District. Prior to that she worked as deputy superintendent for the Los Angeles County Office of Education, superintendent of the Whittier City School District, and a deputy superintendent for the Centralia School District. In her resumé submitted in her application, Dr. Martinez-Poulin wrote that her objective is: “To serve where my educational experience and background can contribute to building a thriving educational community in alignment with values of collaboration, equity, inclusion and success.”

Ramon Miramontes, Ed.D.  

Ramon Miramontes, Ed.D., is Deputy Superintendent at the O.C. Department of Education. As Dr. Mijares was on extended medical leave, Dr. Miramontes fulfilled many of the duties of the O.C. Superintendent's office. Screenshot from OCDE Newsroom.

Dr. Miramontes is the Deputy Superintendent of the O.C. Department of Education, a newly-created position he took on in March 2023. Since then, Dr. Miramontes has fulfilled many of the duties of the O.C. superintendent while Dr. Mijares was on extended medical leave. That included attending OCBE meetings, delivering awards to the 2025 Teachers of the Year, and being featured in numerous OCDE videos and articles highlighting students and programs in Orange County. Prior to coming to the OCDE, Dr. Miramontes served as the superintendent of the Buena Park School District, which has about 4,100 students. In a letter of reference for Dr. Miramontes, Centralia School District Supt. Norma Martinez wrote: “Dr. Miramontes has already been doing the work of leading and investing in our OCDE programs. He attends our county meetings with regularity and demonstrates a commitment to collaborate and support our OC districts.” 

Kirsten Vital Brulte 

From 2014 until 2022, Brulte was the superintendent of the Capistrano Unified School District, O.C.’s largest with 47,000 students. In 2022, a newly elected board majority voted to terminate her contract without cause. In a letter of reference for Brulte, CUSD board trustee Lisa Davis wrote that she voted to keep Brulte as superintendent. “It is unfortunate that partisan politics and the resulting swing in control of the CUSD Board following the 2022 election led to the buy-out of Kirsten's contract. That said, the innovative programs that were instituted during Kirsten's 8 ½ year tenure are still providing CUSD students with an education that will serve them well after they leave our school system,” Davis wrote. Brulte also previously served as superintendent for the Alameda USD. 

Appointment could mark shift for OCBE and O.C. Supt. of Schools

The OCBE’s selection of an interim superintendent for Orange County could mark a significant shift in the relationship between the office and the board. Dr. Mijares and the board have been on opposite ends of several legal battles in recent years, including one lawsuit seeking to determine who has the final authority over the OCDE's $300 million budget.

In an email, OCBE trustee Ken Williams, D.O., described Dr. Mijares as "a graceful human being." He added, "It is no secret that we did not share the same governance positions and policies on how to best serve the children and families of Orange County." 

According to the OCDE Newsroom, the O.C. superintendent's job includes leading “an organization that serves the county’s most vulnerable student populations and provides support and mandated fiscal oversight to 28 school districts serving more than 600 schools and approximately 450,000 students.” Dr. Mijares was earning $300,000 in base salary after the board majority voted to cut his pay in 2022. 

The May 22 meeting is open to the public and will also be streamed live on YouTube at this link. You can find the meeting agenda at

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