Jacob Oliva, a senior chancellor at the Florida Department of Education and a former Flagler County superintendent who maintains family ties locally, will be the next Arkansas secretary of education in incoming Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s administration.
“He is a leader who has proven himself in the fight to empower parents and implement bold education reforms under Governor @RonDeSantisFL and we are ready to transform Arkansas education,” Sanders wrote in a tweet Thursday. DeSantis is expected to be a candidate for president in the 2024 election.
Oliva, 48, a former principal at Flagler Palm Coast High School who had his first teaching job in the Flagler district, was appointed superintendent in Flagler in 2014. He launched the district’s flagship programs in almost every school, a program designed to give students hands-on knowledge of career paths such as health care, public safety and the law. He also instituted the program that resulted in a one-to-one ratio between students and their own, school-issued computers.
He replaced Mary Jane Tappen as the state Department of Education’s executive vice chancellor for K-12 public schools in 2017 when Rick Scott was governor, rising to chancellor under Gov. Ron DeSantis. But he was passed over for commissioner o education–the job went to Manny Diaz Jr.–and was a finalist for superintendent in the Miami Dade school district last January, but did not get the job.
All along Oliva championed and enforced the doctrinaire side of DeSantis’s education agenda, opposing mask mandates in schools, testifying in court on behalf of the administration’s case against some districts that were enforcing mask mandates, promulgating procedures that enforce book bans in public school libraries or the “don’t say gay” law restricting discussions of gender matters in lower grades and a separate law restricting discussions of race in all grades, and earlier this month warning some districts that their support policies for LGBTQ students were running afoul of “parental rights.”
The “parental rights” link is listed first on the Florida Department of Education’s website, ahead of student achievement, safety or mental health resources.
“For the last five years,” the department said in a statement on Thursday, “Senior Chancellor Oliva has been a dedicated member of the Florida Department of Education’s leadership team, including serving as interim education commissioner, and his work has helped launch Florida as the Education State.” Oliva’s replacement has not been named.