About Us

The award-winning Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA) provides a creative, challenging, and nurturing environment that offers bright and talented students unparalleled preparation for higher education and a profession in the arts.

Founded in 1987 by visionary educator Dr. Ralph Opacic, OCSA has grown from a small after-school arts program into one of the premier arts schools in the nation. This innovative public charter school embraces and encourages artistic creativity and academic excellence, and produces lifelong learners who matriculate to top tier colleges, universities, and conservatory programs.

Orange County School of the Arts serves a diverse student body and is accessible to all students, regardless of their socioeconomic standing. The school is tuition free and donation dependent, and no student is admitted or denied based on financial capacity. OCSA is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

Core Values

Core Values

  • Student growth and education comes first.
  • Commitment to excellence, innovation, professionalism, and integrity.
  • Foster a nurturing environment of creativity, respect, and collaboration.
  • Commitment to life-long artistic and scholarly development.

Awards

Orange County School of the Arts has received honors and recognition for innovation and excellence in both arts and academic education. Since its origin in 1987, the charter school has been recognized as:

  • The second best charter high school in California and seventh in the nation by Niche Rankings (2017).
  • A model arts education program by the Kennedy Center, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the US Department of Education.
  • A National Blue Ribbon School.
  • A California Distinguished School three times.
  • One of the top ten charter schools in California by the University of Southern California (USC).
  • One of the top high schools in America by Newsweek magazine.
Awards

Leadership

Ralph S. Opacic, Ed.D.

Ralph S. Opacic, Ed.D.

Founder & Executive Director

ralph.opacic@ocsarts.net

Dr. Ralph Opacic founded the award-winning Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA) in 1987 and currently serves as its President and Executive Director. Dr. Opacic is credited for assembling the finest arts and academic instructors in Southern California and for creating opportunities for young artists to develop their talents to their greatest potential.

Widely awarded for his achievements in arts education, Dr. Opacic has been named a recipient of the prestigious Arts Schools Network Jeffrey Lawrence Award and Orange County Department of Education Outstanding Contribution to Education Award. Additionally, he has been named one of the top three executives in Orange County by the Orange County Register and Artistic Visionary by Arts Orange County. While under the leadership of Dr. Opacic, OCSA has received top honors and recognition for excellence in both arts and academic education. In the 2017 Niche Rankings for “Best Charter High Schools,” OCSA was ranked number two in the state of California and number seven in the nation.

Dr. Opacic earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in music from California State University, Long Beach in 1981, a Master of Science degree in educational administration from National University in 1990, and a Doctoral Degree in education from University of Southern California in 1994.

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Steve Wagner

Steve Wagner

Chief Operating Officer

steven.wagner@ocsarts.net

Steve Wagner joined Orange County School of the Arts in 2001 and currently serves as chief operations officer and vice president of business. Bringing more than 20 years of experience in education to Orange County School of the Arts, Mr. Wagner is responsible for the management and supervision of the school’s award-winning academic and arts instructional programs.

Additionally, he oversees the school’s non-instructional support services including facility, food, technology, finance, and budget. Mr. Wagner has been awarded the prestigious Non-Profit CFO of the Year award by the Orange County Business Journal for his work in support of arts education. He has also served as a teacher and administrator for schools throughout Orange County. Prior to joining Orange County School of the Arts, Mr. Wagner served as principal at Serrano Intermediate School in Saddleback Unified School District.

Mr. Wagner’s experience with Orange County School of the Arts began more than 20 years ago when he taught alongside Ralph Opacic, Ed.D. at Los Alamitos High School from 1987 to 1990. He holds a bachelor’s degree in marine biology from California State University, Long Beach and a master’s degree in educational administration from California State University, Fullerton.

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Teren Shaffer

Teren Shaffer

Executive Vice President

teren.shaffer@ocsarts.net

Teren Shaffer is a highly lauded arts manager, music educator, and conductor, winning prestigious awards, such as The Kennedy Center’s Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Award and Arts Schools Network Dr. Denise Davis-Cotton Emerging Leader Award, Stanford University's Exceptional Teaching Award, and Orange County Department of Education’s Outstanding Arts Educator.

He currently serves as Executive Vice President of the Orange County School of the Arts Foundation, overseeing a team of development, marketing, public relations, special events, and graphic design personnel. Shaffer is also involved in strategic management of OCSA’s arts conservatory programs, CSArts Academy summer, weekend, and adult classes, and special projects. Launched in OCSA’s 30th Anniversary Season, Shaffer assists in facilitating a Master Artist Series of collaborative performances, masterclasses, and residencies with internationally-acclaimed artists, such as: Wynton Marsalis, Deborah Voigt, Joshua Bell, Lythgoe Family Productions, Ali Stroker, and Matthew Morrison.

Prior to his appointment as Executive Vice President, Shaffer served as OCSA’s Dean of Arts and Music Director of the internationally-acclaimed Frederick Fennell Wind Ensemble. Shaffer led the ensemble to become a finalist in The American Prize for Wind Ensemble Performance and to present a concert at the Music for All National Concert Band Festival. In 2014, the ensemble was the first band from Southern California to perform at the Midwest Clinic. This is the largest annual music conference of its kind, hosting nearly 20,000 educators and performers from more than 30 countries.

Shaffer serves on the national board of directors for Arts Schools Network, and he held the role of General Manager for the Orange County Youth Symphony Orchestra for ten years. Shaffer earned a master’s degree in orchestral conducting from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and bachelor’s degrees in instrumental conducting, bassoon performance, and music education from Chapman University’s Conservatory of Music.

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Deans

Michael Ciecek

Michael Ciecek

Dean of Facilities & Supervision

michael.ciecek@ocsarts.net

Michael Ciecek rejoins the Orange County School of the Arts to serve as the Dean of Facilities and Supervision after serving as an assistant principal in the Saddleback Valley Unified School District. Mike has been involved in public education for 17 years as a teacher, activities director, and school administrator. After beginning his career at University High School in Irvine, Mike joined the Orange County School of the Arts in 2000, where he taught eighth grade US History, eleventh Grade US History, and Advanced Placement United States History.

From 2003 to 2013, he served in administrative capacities for OCSA, first as the Director of Student Activities, then as an assistant principal from 2006 – 2013, before departing to become an assistant principal at El Toro and Mission Viejo High Schools. As an assistant principal, Mike has overseen master scheduling, college advising, student intervention and support, behavior management, facilities, emergency procedures, assisted with WASC visits in 2004 and 2010 that resulted in full six-year clear accreditations, three California Distinguished School Awards in 2005, 2009, and 2013, and a National Blue Ribbon Award in 2006. Mike has worked as a guest lecturer in the University of California, Irvine Masters in Teaching program, working with credential candidates on creating effective learning environments in the classroom. Mr. Cicek also participates in the Orange County Department of Education’s Institute on Leadership Development Advisory Council.

Mr. Cicek holds a bachelor’s degree in history and minor degrees in theater and teacher education from the University of California, San Diego. After UCSD, he received his teaching credential from University of California, Irvine. Mike also possesses a master’s degree in educational administration from Pepperdine University.

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Becca Freeland

Becca Freeland

Dean of Student Services

becca.freeland@ocsarts.net

Becca Freeland joined the Orange County School of the Arts in 2002 and currently serves as the Dean of Student Services. For her first five years at OCSA, she taught seventh and eighth grade Literature and Composition. Following that, with her position as Learning Specialist, Ms. Freeland took on a new role as the state testing coordinator for the CAHSEE and STAR, student intervention support coordinator, technology liaison, and Lead Mentor with the state BTSA Program for new teachers. She also served as the WASC coordinator for OCSA’s accreditation visit in fall 2010.

Ms. Freeland then moved into an Interim Assistant Principal roll in the fall of 2013 overseeing Student Services. When OCSA moved to a blended leadership model in 2015, she became the Dean of Student Services and she works collaboratively with the other three deans to support the students and staff at OCSA.

Prior to joining OCSA, Ms. Freeland was a Humanities teacher in Paramount Unified for two years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in broadcast communications and a minor degree in business management from University of the Pacific. She completed her teaching credential at San Diego State University, her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from California State, Dominguez Hills, and her administrative services credential through Orange County Department of Education’s Tier 1 credential program.

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Sally Lopez

Sally Lopez

Dean of Instruction

sally.lopez@ocsarts.net

Sally Lopez joined the Orange County School of the Arts in 2006 and serves as Dean of Instruction. For her first seven years at OCSA, she taught seventh grade science and Pre-Algebra. She then spent two years as the Learning Specialist, where she was the state testing coordinator for the CELDT, CAHSEE, and CAASPP tests, Student Success Team (SST) coordinator, and Lead Mentor with the state BTSA Program for new teachers.

Ms. Lopez holds a master’s degree in educational administration from California State University, Dominguez Hills and a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies from California State University, Long Beach. She holds a multiple subject credential, single subject credential in mathematics and an administrative services credential.

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Maria Lazarova

Maria Lazarova

Dean of Arts

maria.lazarova@ocsarts.net

Dr. Maria Lazarova currently serves as the Dean of Arts at the Orange County School of the Arts and has been named an Outstanding Arts Educator by the Orange County Department of Education. Prior to her appointment of Dean of Arts, Dr. Lazarova served as OCSA’s Director of the Classical Voice Conservatory. Dr. Lazarova holds a Doctorate of Musical Arts and a Master of Music degree and degree with a concentration in vocal performance, music education, stage directing, and jazz studies from the University of Southern California, and a Bachelor of Music degree with a concentration in opera performance from Cal State University, Long Beach.

 

In addition to her work in education, Dr. Lazarova has over twenty years of performance experience as a soloist in opera, recitals, as well as chamber and choral works.   She has performed as a soloist at numerous venues, including the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Barclay Theatre, Carpenter Performing Arts Center, Ahmanson Theatre, Soka Performing Arts Center, Musco Center for the Arts and the Hollywood Bowl. Awards in competitions and scholarships include the Marilyn Horn Scholarship, International Liszt Competition, Long Beach Mozart Festival Vocal Competition, the Brentwood/Westwood Symphony Orchestra Competition, and the Young Musicians Foundation Solo Competition.

During her tenure as Director of the Classical Voice Conservatory, Dr. Lazarova was also a member of the Voice Faculty at the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music on the campus of Cal State University, Long Beach. As part of her continuing interest and pursuit of excellence in the field of education, Dr. Lazarova has been invited to lecture at the International Society of Music Educators World Conferences in Malaysia, Italy, China, Greece, Brazil and most recently, Scotland.

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Admissions Requirements

It is recommended that interested applicants have a minimum GPA of 2.0 and satisfactory citizenship. All applicants must audition and provide grade reports. OCSA is a tuition-free, donation-dependent public charter school; no student is admitted or denied based on financial capacity.

Board of Trustees

  • Maria Newkirk Fong, JD, Chair
    Appointed by SAUSD
  • Paul Satkin, Secretary
    Appointed by SAUSD
  • Carolyn Breeden, Ed.D.
    Appointed by the OCSA Foundation
  • Vince Foley
    Appointed by the OCSA Foundation
  • Gary Humphreys
    Appointed by SAUSD

FAQs

What is the admissions process?

Please visit the Admissions Overview page to learn more about our admissions process.

Is the school "accredited" like other public schools?

Yes, OCSA is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), which is recognized as one of six regional associations that accredit public and private schools, colleges, and universities in the United States.

Is on/off campus housing available?

OCSA does not offer campus housing at this time.

My children are homeschooled. May they attend your school?

Yes. Homeschooled students follow the same application procedures as any other student.

My child needs to "make up" a class; do you offer a traditional "Summer School" as do most public schools?

No, OCSA does not offer summer school; however, to make up a class, students may attend summer school at any accredited high school or community college and have those credits apply towards OCSA graduation requirements. Also, students are free to attend their home school's summer school sessions as desired or needed. During the summer, OCSA offers a variety of fee-based, non-accredited summer classes. Summer classes are open to the general public for students ages 8 through 15.

What are the school's hours?

Monday - Thursday:
8:05 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. (Grades 7-8)
8:05 a.m. - 4:50 p.m. (Grades 9-12)

Friday:
8:05 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. (All Grades)

Are there any tuition requirements?

Orange County School of the Arts is a tuition free, donation dependent public charter school. No student is admitted or denied based upon financial capacity. However, each school year, the OCSA Foundation must raise approximately $8.5 million to fund the arts programs, and the school relies on parents and the community-at-large to help reach this goal.

Do we have to live in the Santa Ana area?

No, residency in the city of Santa Ana is not a requirement of attendance or admittance. OCSA currently serves students from more than 125 cities throughout California. Bus, train, and carpool transportation options are available to assist with your commute.

May I attend part-time/after-school only?

OCSA is a full-time school offering dual arts and academic programs. Students must participate in both programs. For part-time enrichment learning opportunities, please visit the CSArts Academy page.

Are you a year-round school? What about school holidays?

OCSA follows a traditional two-semester school year, which is August through January and January through June. The school also honors traditional school holidays, including a one-week Spring break and a two-week Winter break.