Spotlight Schools Newsletter Dec. 22, 2023

🗳️ Election 2024 Preview: Changes coming to Los Al USD Board of Education? // ✅ California School Dashboard is back // 🏆 O.C. student named 'SportsKid of the Year' // Westminster teacher surprises students with classroom makeover

Happy holidays from Spotlight Schools! As we close out this year, the 2024 election season is coming into focus. In this final newsletter of 2023, we look at some of the races voters will decide related to education in Orange County next year. Spotlight Schools is committed to delivering nonpartisan, independent, and informative election coverage of all school board races across O.C. in 2024.

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Three seats on the Orange County Board of Education are on the March 2024 ballot

Orange Unified recall election also to be decided in 2024


We haven’t officially said goodbye to 2023 yet but the campaign season has already begun for 2024. 

Voters across Orange County can vote in at least two elections next year. The first election of 2024 is the Presidential Primary Election and will take place on March 5. We’ll head back to the polls on November 5, 2024 for the General Election. 

What offices related to education are on the March ballot?

Three seats on the five-member Orange County Board of Education will be on the March ballot. The board acts as an appeals board for students seeking to transfer schools as well as for charter schools trying to establish campuses in Orange County's 28 public school districts. 

December 8 was the deadline for candidates to declare their candidacy for the OCBE races which are nonpartisan. All three incumbents are running for re-election and each one is facing just one opponent. Here's a brief look at who is running:

OCBE Trustee Area 1 covers parts of Anaheim, Garden Grove, Santa Ana, Stanton, and Tustin.

Incumbent Jorge Valdes will run to continue as the representative for Trustee Area 1 on the OCBE. Valdes, an attorney and father of two, was appointed to the seat in 2022. In a video on the OCBE website, Valdes pointed to a lack of information for parents as a top concern. “It concerns me that, particularly in some of the areas that I represent, that parents don't know that they have the option of picking another school inside the district or picking a school that's outside the district where that may not be granted, in which case it would come up for an appeal to us (OCBE), or sending their child to a charter school.”

Beatriz “Bea” Mendoza is challenging Valdes on the March ballot. Mendoza is a mother of three and describes herself as a “non-profit executive, longtime community volunteer, education policy expert” on her campaign website. Mendoza writes on the website that if she’s elected she will reduce class sizes, cut wasteful spending, and focus on student mental health “so no children get left behind.” 

OCBE Trustee Area 3 covers Yorba Linda, Brea, Villa Park and portions of Placentia, Irvine, Anaheim, and Tustin. 

Having served on the OCBE since 1996, Ken Williams, Jr., is running again to represent Trustee Area 3. Williams is a father of three, a primary care physician, and “promotes parental rights, charter schools and educational choice, greater personal responsibility, limited government, public safety and safe schools, high academic standards, educational accountability, and a ‘back to basics’ and traditional approach to education,” according to his profile on the OCBE website

Nancy Watkins, Ed.D., a longtime teacher and head of the Educational Doctoral Program at California State University Fullerton, is running against Williams. According to her website, Watkins has 30 years of experience in K-12 schools, is a mother of three and is “fighting for fiscal responsibility, rigorous academic programs, and quality education for all students.”

OCBE Trustee Area 4 covers parts of La Habra, Westminster, Buena Park, Fullerton, La Palma, and Stanton. 

Tim Shaw is running for re-election to represent Trustee Area 4 on the OCBE. According to his profile on the OCBE website, the father of six and political science professor said he sees the biggest challenge in education as the learning loss students experienced during the pandemic. His suggestion is to focus on “reading, writing and arithmetic and this … ‘back to basics’ approach” in the curriculum.

David Johnson, a member of the Westminster School District Board of Trustees, is challenging Shaw in 2024. Johnson is a father of two, a management consultant, and serves on the Orange County Committee for School Board Organization, according to his campaign website. Johnson writes that he’s running to bring “a parents’ voice” to the OCBE. He adds: "We need to reverse its reckless partisan agenda that harms our students and schools."

Don't forget– students can now petition to serve on the OCBE due to a new law that took effect this year. Read more on

Orange Unified recall election on the March 5 ballot 

Voters in the Orange Unified School District will consider whether to recall two members of their board of education in 2024.

Trustees Rick Ledesma and Madison Miner could be removed from office if the recall passes on March 5. If they are ousted by voters, one of three things could happen, reports The Orange County Register

A special election could be scheduled following the release of the official results of the recall election; the district could wait until the November 5 election to fill the seats; or the board could immediately appoint new trustees to fill out Miner and Ledesma’s terms which end in 2026.

About 26,000 students attend OUSD schools and its boundaries encompass the cities of Orange, Villa Park, Anaheim, Garden Grove, Santa Ana, and unincorporated county areas, according to the district’s website.

Don’t forget: The last day to register to vote in the March 5 primary is February 20, 2024. You can register to vote here.

District school board elections are on the November ballot

School boards governing the individual 28 public school districts in Orange County will have elections on November 5, 2024.

There’s still time to run for your local school board. Candidates wishing to run can file the necessary paperwork between July 15, 2024 through August 9, 2024. To qualify for the ballot you need to be at least 18 years old and a registered voter living in the area you want to represent. For more information on how to become a candidate for your local school board, visit


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Changes Possible on Los Alamitos USD Board of Education in 2024

2024 could be a year of changes on the Los Alamitos Unified School District Board of Education. 

Three of the five trustee positions will be on the November 5, 2024 ballot. That includes the seats to represent Trustee Area 2, Trustee Area 4, and Trustee Area 5.

While there is still more than seven months remaining until candidates must file paperwork to run, two of the incumbents on the Los Alamitos USD board recently told Spotlight Schools that they have not decided if they will seek re-election next year. 

Read the entire story on

Los Alamitos USD Board of Education selects Pres. and V.P. for 2024

Celebrates outgoing President Chris 'Papa' Forehan

Members of the Los Alamitos USD Board of Education celebrate outgoing President Chris 'Papa' Forehan at the Dec. 12 meeting. Pictured from left to right: Student board member Joelle Kaiser, board members Diana Hill, Marlys Davidson, Forehan, Meg Cutuli, Scott Fayette and Supt. Andrew Pulver, Ed.D. Courtesy photo.

California School Dashboard Returns for first time since 2019

A screenshot from the California School Dashboard website from the California Department of Education shows metrics for the Cypress School District.

A tool from the California Department of Education that can help you track how your school and district are faring in key metrics was recently updated for the first time since before the Covid-19 pandemic.

The California School Dashboard tracks a school's chronic absenteeism rate, suspension rate, standardized test scores, and other items in a color-coded format ranging from red (lowest performance) to blue (highest performance.) "State officials say that anything below green indicates the need for attention and improvement," reports EdSource.

Wondering how your school or district is doing? Search here.

Read more about the Dashboard: EdSource // OCDE Newsroom

  • Tustin Unified Schools closed by hangar fire reopened this week // LAist
  • Charter high school seeks to open in Costa Mesa but is meeting with resistance from Newport-Mesa USD // L.A. Times
  • Placentia-Yorba Linda USD to convert middle school into district's first charter school // The Orange County Register // OCDE Newsroom
  • Your opinion is wanted: The Orange County Department of Education is surveying preschool and kindergarten parents // OCDE Newsroom
  • OCVarsity names O.C.'s top high school football players of 2023 // The O.C. Register (subscriber only)
  • Orange County 11-year-old student-athlete named SportsKid of 2023 // Sports Illustrated Kids
Fifi Garcia, a student at Sts. Simon and Jude Catholic School in Huntington Beach, was named SportsKid of 2023 by Sports Illustrated Kids.
  • Teachers have until Jan. 4 to apply to spend the summer in Finland, Thailand, or Colombia through the Fullbright-Hays Seminar Aboard program // U.S. Dept. of Education

Westminster educator surprises students after contest win

Kids are wowed after teacher at Fryberger Elementary School reveals her newly refurnished classroom.


The students at Fryberger Elementary School in Westminster couldn’t believe their eyes when they walked into reading specialist Lauren Vu-Tran’s classroom on a recent Monday morning. 

The first graders’ mouths dropped open and their eyes grew bigger when they saw their transformed learning space for the first time. 

“Wow!” one boy gasped. “Cool!” said another student. “So pretty,” one girl gushed.

Gone were the wooden and metal desks the students had been using all school year. In their place, the kids found a U-shaped dry erase table paired with wobbly stools, made for wiggly little ones. Students jumped onto the newly installed colorful oversized lounge chairs and tested out a large couch perfect for cuddling up with a book. 

The makeover was all because Vu-Tran had entered and won the “Transform Your Classroom” competition put on by furniture manufacturer The HON Company in partnership with OES Office Furniture, a Rancho Cucamonga-based furniture provider.

“It’s really a dream come true,” Vu-Tran said before the unveiling on Dec. 4, marveling at the new learning environment she was able to create.

Read the full story on

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