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Mijares Will Head Santa Ana Schools : Education: The new superintendent from Bakersfield vows to tackle gangs, the dropout rate and teen-age pregnancy.


SANTA ANA — Ending months of speculation, trustees of the Santa Ana Unified School District on Friday chose Al Mijares of Bakersfield as the new schools superintendent.

Board President Sal Mendoza, announcing the unanimous decision, said: "Dr. Mijares is an outstanding educator and leader. He has many strong points that all form a total package that is just what this district needs. . . . I think we have made an outstanding choice."

Mijares, 41, currently the schools superintendent in Bakersfield, said his first priority will be to establish working relationships with parents, businesses and staff.

"I'd be extremely naive to believe that this is a one-person job," he told the overflow audience in the school board room.

Mijares said his long-term goals include helping solve district problems such as gangs, dropout rate and teen-age pregnancy. He said he hopes to involve the community, parents and police in programs to aid students.

Mijares was born in Pasadena and spent his early years in an East Los Angles housing project, one of the middle of eight children. The family later moved to Santa Clara County, where his father found seasonal employment as a migrant farm worker. Mijares and his siblings also often worked in fields picking strawberries, tomatoes and green beans.

Mijares became superintendent at Coachella in 1990 and is credited with bringing the financially ailing district back to financial health, said Diane Thomas, spokeswoman for the Santa Ana Unified School District.

He became schools superintendent in Bakersfield in January, 1993.

Mijares replaces Rudy M. Castruita, who left in July to head the San Diego County Department of Education. The new superintendent will oversee Orange County's largest school district, with nearly 50,000 students.

Board members said Mijares was an ideal candidate, with a solid background in education and management who is bilingual and sensitive to the community.

"He's someone who has a heart big enough to care for students, parents, teachers, right on up through our management team," said Trustee Audrey Yamagata-Noji.

Trustee Tom Chaffee said: "I just saw no negatives in him. I believe we've got the right man for the job."

Mijares and his wife, Jackie, have five sons, ranging from toddlers to teen-agers.

The board has offered Mijares a three-year contract but has not yet negotiated a salary and benefits package. Castruita's salary was $124,000 a year, Thomas said.

Mijares is expected to assume his new position around Jan. 1, she said.

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