Personnel note: Bethany Swonson in permanently as Department of Education Chief of Staff
Florida Politics | By Renzo Downey | August 30, 2021
Swonson had been serving as Interim Chief of Staff since April.
The Department of Education and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran are making recent staffing changes permanent, headlined by Bethany Swonson remaining as full-time Chief of Staff.
Swonson had been serving as Interim Chief of Staff since April — when Corcoran’s previous Chief of Staff, Alex Kelly, left to become a Deputy Chief Staff in the Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ office. Corcoran made Swonson and others’ staffing positions permanent during a meeting Thursday.
“The Department of Education is very fortunate to have such an amazing leadership team,” DOE Communications Director Jared Ochs said in a statement to Florida Politics.
Florida Politics was the first to report the staffing realignment Friday.
“For the last few months, we’ve been working as an interim leadership team. This week, we made the interim status permanent,” Ochs said. “Bethany Swonson will be Chief of Staff instead of Interim Chief of Staff. Eric Hall will continue to be a Senior Chancellor, as he was during the interim, and Jacob Oliva will be Senior Chancellor and remain over all K-12 education as well as Early Learning.”
Swonson has served at DOE for more than three years. In that time, she’s risen the ranks from director of legislative affairs to the Florida Education Foundation’s executive director to Deputy Chief of Staff.
“Beyond honored to serve those on the (DOE) team and humbled each day by the impactful work that is done to set up our students for success,” Swonson tweeted.
Swonson’s predecessor, Kelly, left the department after DeSantis elevated his then-Deputy Chief of Staff Adrian Lukis to be his current Chief of Staff. Lukis succeeded Shane Strum, who left the Governor’s Office to serve a three-year contract as Broward Health’s CEO.
Education has been squarely in the public’s view over the last few months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
DeSantis has been steadfast in his decision to keep classrooms open amid the pandemic, a position he has taken since last school year. And with the rise of the delta variant this summer and talks of instituting mask mandates, DeSantis doubled down with an executive order banning mask mandates in public schools.
Parents of public school children took DeSantis, Corcoran and DOE to court over the mask mandate prohibition, which the judge said Friday he would invalidate. DOE is expected to receive an injunction from Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper next week, preventing the department from punishing schools that flout DeSantis’ school mask mandate ban.
However, the DeSantis administration plans to appeal that to the First District Court of Appeals, which could issue a ruling more sympathetic to the state.
Oliva was one of the state’s witnesses in favor of the mandate ban during the trial last week.