Promise-breaker Richard Corcoran tells the kids and community of Jefferson County to suck it
The charter school we imposed failed miserably? Left you far worse off than it found you? Squandered $20M-plus in state taxpayer money? Not my problem; and don't audit the grift, says Corcoran.
A few days ago Jefferson County school officials sent a letter asking for help from Education Commissioner Richard and his corrupt Florida Department of Education in cleaning up the terrible, corrupt mess Corcoran and Manny Diaz and Somerset/Academica Charter are leaving behind in Jefferson County.
That Jefferson letter had eight key points/requests. Richard Corcoran has now answered each of them on behalf of the Florida DoE and Gov. Ron DeSantis’s state government.
I can summarize Corcoran’s answer — dressed up in pleasant bureaucratic language — like this:
No state help for Jefferson comparable to the resources Somerset failed with; no forensic audit of how and where Somerset/Academica spent the money it squandered; and DoE will still use federal ESSER funds (DoE claims these ESSER funds as its own) to impose a useless outside consultant on Jefferson, even though Jefferson doesn’t want one and doing this has already triggered a massive bid-rigging and public corruption scandal at DoE.
What are you gonna do about it, Sen. Broxson and Rep. Shoaf?
It’s worth reading the letter in the context of what Republican Sen. Doug Broxson of west Florida said on the floor of the senate this week about the DoE/Jefferson scandal and situation. Note the part in bold:
This is something that I think all of you have read about, members. Jefferson County schools are in a little bit of freefall. As you know, the charter school that was established by the Department of Education has decided to vacate that county, leaving a great vacuum.
We are not going to leave them abandoned, and we are setting aside $5M to ensure their success. And as we broadcast today, this message will go the the superintendent and the good people of Jefferson County to know that at least the Senate is going to be there for them as they get through this transition.
Corcoran’s letter laughs at Broxson and Rep. Jason Shoaf, the Republican House member who represents Trump-voting Jefferson County. I am very curious about how they will respond — because Corcoran’s DoE most certainly plans to leave the people of Jefferson County abandoned.
If you scroll down a bit, you’ll find that I’ve merged the Jefferson request letter with Corcoran’s answers in a Q-and-A format. You can judge for yourself if I’ve summarized Corcoran’s response accurately. If you want to skip ahead to that, feel free.
But it’s also important to put Corcoran’s Jefferson behavior in the context of an empty “promise” he made in 2017; his long-standing personal approach to “governing;” and the empty dark lord mythology he’s cultivated with help from Florida’s weird media ecosystem.
So I’m spending a moment there, first.
And if you’re a Jefferson County resident and taxpayer — or a Floridian — who finds Corcoran’s behavior abhorrent, here’s his email address at the Florida Department of Education. You should express your position to him directly at Richard.Corcoran@fldoe.org
“I promise you, … Jefferson County will turn around with this program.”
As Florida Speaker of the House, Richard Corcoran made a promise to the people of Jefferson County and Florida when he took away control of their public schools in 2017 — and threatened to take away more local public schools in other communities. Note the parts in bold.
“One of the high-performing charters [Somerset] came in [to Jefferson County], made the bid, knowing that we’re working towards this ‘school of hope’ program, knowing that there’s going to be an opportunity to draw down additional funds so that they can succeed, they can bring in the best and brightest teachers. And those things cost more.
“So … [Somerset] came in, they took the bid. Jefferson County awarded it to them,” he said. “And I promise you, … Jefferson County will turn around with this program.” — April 2017 interview with The Florida Channel, cited in Jessica Bakeman’s “Chartered” reporting on Jefferson County.
Five years later, Corcoran is Florida Commissioner of Education; and Somerset/Academica has failed miserably in Trump-voting Jefferson County while pocketing at least $20M in “additional funds” it was able to “draw down” for the sake of Miami/Hialeah grifters.
Somerset cannot run away fast enough from Jefferson County with its ill-earned extra $20M in taxpayer money, while blaming the geography and people of Jefferson themselves for the disaster the it leaves behind.
“Those things cost more…”
Adding insult to injury, Corcoran now refuses to make any “additional funds” available for Jefferson to “draw down” to pay for rebuilding what Somerset/Academica destroyed. Corcoran no longer pretends to care that Jefferson’s kids deserve “the best and brightest teachers” and that “those things cost more.” He doesn’t even acknowledge state responsibility to repair the damage left by Somerset/Academica.
Somerset’s failure and abandonment of Jefferson County also directly caused the bid-rigging and official corruption scandal consuming Corcoran’s DoE. Corcoran himself should be preparing under oath testimony for Florida Inspector General Melinda Miguel’s investigation, of which he should be a subject, along with his too-racist-for-Ron DeSantis convicted criminal witness tamperer buddy Ralph Arza of the Florida Charter School Alliance.
However, it certainly now looks to me like Gov. DeSantis and his IG Melinda Miguel lied when they promised the people of Florida an “all of the above” investigation into all aspects of DoE/Jefferson bid-rigging.
As of today, Miguel has done none of the above.
Understanding Corcoran’s passive aggressive dominance ritual letter telling Jefferson to drop dead
Richard Corcoran knows only one trick for governing — or any human relation that I can see: project personal dominance in the moment and bluff people into submission. It’s worked for him — if by “worked” you mean maintained his position of “power” in Florida’s fake state government without ever actually doing or accomplishing anything, even to advance his supposed ideology.
This fake dominance projection is how he’s been able to turn the Florida DoE into the grifter free-for-all it’s become without suffering any personal consequence for it. That petty impunity is a type of power; but it leaves behind nothing but wreckage and messes for other people to clean.
Sometimes Corcoran projects personal dominance overtly, just through raw bluster and assholery that certain friendly reporters like to amplify with nicknames like “Lord Vader.”
Sometimes, Corcoran attempts to project empty dominance through passive aggressive use of the official levers of power available to him to try to inflict pain while washing his hands of it in pleasant public language.
His Jefferson response letter is an example of the latter type of dominance projection and condescension.
“Dear Superintendent Eydie”
It actually starts even before the letter, in the transmittal email Corcoran sent with letter attached.
The elected superintendent of Jefferson County is named Eydie Tricquet. In his email note to her, Corcoran calls her “Superintendent Eydie” before calling her “Superintendent Tricquet” in the actual letter.
So either this is very sloppy official communication, in which DoE has confused itself with Eydie Tricquet’s name; or it’s some kind of weird personal greeting tic.
Attaching the superintendent title to the first name — “Superintendent Eydie” — is pat-on-the-head diminutive condescension to Tricquet and the people she represents. I highly doubt it’s an error. Knowing how Corcoran behaves, it’s almost certainly a way of telling her she’s at the kiddie table with all the other little girls.
The letter itself begins and ends with platitudes. The question responses are what matters. And what follows is a Q and A pulled from the two letters, arranged by topic. I start with the Jefferson request; follow with Corcoran’s answer; and then finish with a bottom line take on what the answer means for Jefferson and Florida. In some of those takeaways, I explain what’s up. In others, I just translate the edcucrat speak into what Corcoran is really saying.
Because you have agreed to transition Jefferson County School District to a fully autonomous highly effective school district we request removal from financial oversight, a necessary action that enables us to begin this process. We currently have a 17% reserve which is approximately 5 times more than the 3.5% reserve threshold required by the State.
As stated previously, our mutual goals are to provide students with a first-class education and transition the District into a fully autonomous, highly effective school district. In order for this to occur, we must finalize the exit plan to transition full financial oversight to the District. I am pleased that the cooperative efforts of the school district staff, the district school board, and the financial emergency board have resulted in financial stability for the District. The District's 2020-21 Annual Financial Report submitted to the Department on October 1, 2021, indicates that the District has an assigned and unassigned fund balance of $1,213,477 and a financial condition ratio of 15.24 percent. This, with the information you have provided in your letter, provides confidence that the cessation of the financial emergency, pursuant to section (s.) 218.504, Florida Statutes (F.S.), is on the horizon. Our team will continue to work with you to confirm the District has established and is operating an effective accounting and reporting system and that it meets the other requirements for cessation of the financial emergency as provided in s. 218.504, F.S.
Bottom line takeaway: Fifteen percent is an absurdly large reserve. State law only requires 3 percent or more. State officials have often ripped local districts for carrying large reserves and used those very reserves as an excuse to not provide adequate funding. The state should immediately end the Jefferson “oversight” — not point to some “horizon.” But DoE likes having its claws in Jefferson’s money.
As you review our TFR, you will note we request the same level of funding Somerset received upon entering their contract and taking control of Jefferson County schools. Without same-level funding, we would be at a deficit of $5 million per year which will severely hinder a successful transition. In Jefferson County, nearly 140 school employees and their families depend on us; significant job loss due to such disabling elimination of funds would be a crisis for our community.
The Department fully supports the District's right to present financial needs before the Florida Legislature for any additional resources needed.
Bottom line takeaway: Lol, suckers, go beg Jason Shoaf and Doug Broxson for the same money Somerset/Academica pocketed to grift and fail you. HAHAHAHAHAHA.
Bureau of School Improvement (BSI) Support [instead of state-imposed useless consultant like politically-connected MGT]
We request that BSI be the Transitional Educational Leader for our District. The Bureau, run by the Florida Department of Education and funded with tax dollars, has already made effective suggestions and established rapport with school staff and administrators. As Principal Pons stated, “This school improvement team is the best in the state.” For this reason, BSI involvement is key to academic improvement in Jefferson County and to that end, we request that Dr. Heide’s team be the District’s designated partner in our school improvement process.
The Bureau of School Improvement (BSI) is committed to continuing the collaborative partnership with the District to support improved outcomes for all students through strategic problem solving, capacity building, and the implementation of sustainable systems. Although the District does not have schools in school turnaround as determined by Rule 6A-1.099811, Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.), in good faith, the Department continues to stand committed to providing appropriate support. To be clear, BSI cannot serve as a contractor or an Outside Entity/External Operator as described in s. 1008.33, F.S. To reiterate what we agreed to previously in the beginning of the year, we will continue to provide you with the BSI services that turnaround schools have access to for the rest of the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 school years.
Bottom line takeaway: This relates directly to the DoE/Jefferson bid-rigging scandal, which erupted around DoE’s solicitation for a “Transitional Educational Leader” to consult on the transition back to School Board control of Jefferson schools. Former Vice Chancellor Melissa Ramsey told DoE investigators Corcoran had sole control over awarding that contract. The Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald reported that Corcoran’s DoE sought to steer the $2M-plus contract to politically connected MGT consulting, which is owned by former legislator and Corcoran business partner Trey Traviesa. DoE and DeSantis’s Inspector General Melinda Miguel have refused to investigate the MGT part of the bid-rigging scandal or Corcoran’s role — despite telling the public they would.
Jefferson, understandably, does not want a useless, tax-money skimming consultant. It prefers to work with the professional educators of the DoE’s BSI. Jefferson considers them competent and public-minded and far less expensive than whatever outsdie consultant Corcoran chooses.
Corcoran says: Sorry, you’ll get out grifter consultants and our corrupt bid process and you’ll like it. No BSI for you.
Grants and programs [specifically “community partnership school” support]
We request FLDOE assistance with grant applications and access to key programs that Jefferson K-12 and the BSI deem beneficial for our students. We are especially interested in the Community Schools initiative that Commissioner Corcoran has championed and that would benefit the entire Jefferson County community.
We are happy to provide technical assistance and work collaboratively with you, as we provide to all Florida districts, to increase the effectiveness of federal grant programs to ensure a positive impact on student outcomes, including any related to the Community Schools initiative. These supports include direction on the application process, amendment and monitoring guidance and reviews, technical assistance webinars and guidance documents. If the District and the school board of Jefferson County are interested in the Community Schools, we encourage your staff to continue to explore this option with the University of Central Florida (UCF).
Bottom line takeaway: LOL, call UCF yourself. Just because we grifted your “community” within an inch if its life doesn’t mean we owe your “community” anything, including brokering a meeting with “community” school people. HAHAHAHAHA.
Accountability [aka school grade requirement for Jefferson school performance]
We fully embrace the Commissioner’s directive that Jefferson County will have a District rating of C or higher within one year of the release of official statewide school grades, which shall include learning gains information. Principal Jackie Pons is a former Blue Ribbon Principal who, in the year he was chosen, was 1 of just 14 in the United States. As Superintendent of Leon County Schools, he led the District Turnaround Office and under his direction, nearly all Title I schools in Leon County School District improved to a grade of C or better.
I commend you for embracing the goal of attaining a District grade of C or higher. Our shared goal is to provide all students with a first-class education, which should result in student outcomes improving within one year. That said, we are obligated to comply with current state assessment and accountability statutes, which require the annual calculation of school and district grades. Rather than focus on how statewide assessments and accountability may change, we are confident that you share our position that the focus should be on improving the academic progress of all students in Jefferson County as quickly as possible.
Bottom line takeaway: LOL. We can’t legally do what we’re imposing on you with the school grade requirement. But who cares? We all know my DoE — myself included — is too incompetent to actually overhaul the testing and accountability and school grade system. It’s a gonna be a total shit show that makes a liar out of Gov. DeSantis right in time for the election. You’re not special; and I doubt we’ll pay any attention to you amid the coming mess. So yeah, sure, Manny’s company killed your grade while pocketing at last $20M in extra money to fail. And yeah sure, we’re gonna try to use that against you next year; but who knows if we can? One day all of ya’ll will learn that school grades are just a malignant scam to get us paid. But you haven’t learned it yet. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
ESSER III funds
During our meeting regarding the possibility of securing an external operator, we were very concerned with this significant cost coming from our ESSER III resources. We request that all ESSER III dollars be held harmless and given to the Jefferson County School District for educational purposes.
The District always had and continues to have full flexibility under federal law to use its allocation of the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER III) funds for educational purposes to help sustain the safe operation of schools. We are pleased the District has already submitted its ARP ESSER III plan, which you approved, outlining that $4 million will be spent locally to cover supplies and 182 full-time positions to provide services such as mental health counseling, summer school, extended day instruction, as well as literacy and math coaching. As stated in our meeting last month, the Department made the decision on November 4, 2021, to use our portion of federal Coronavirus Relief Funding - not the District’s allocation – to secure a Transitional Educational Leader to support the Jefferson community through September 30, 2022.
Bottom line takeaway: This is interesting. And it’s clearly designed to fend off the federal Inspector General investigation of misuse of ESSER (federal emergency relief funds), which seems much more likely to happen than Melinda Miguel’s phantom state investigation. Note the precision of dates. This is legal ass-covering.
Corcoran is taking the position that Jefferson has control over some Jefferson ESSER funds and DoE has control over others. Thus, whatever stupid, corrupt use of ESSER funds Florida DoE imposes on Jefferson isn’t legal misuse of Jefferson’s ESSER funds; it’s just stupid corrupt use of the state’s ESSER funds imposed on Jefferson.
If Corcoran wants to hire his buddies with ESSER money to scam Jefferson County — against Jefferson County’s will — he’s entitled to do that because the ESSER money he’s spending belongs to Florida’s DoE. That’s what this position means. Note the “our portion” in bold:
As stated in our meeting last month, the Department made the decision on November 4, 2021, to use our portion of federal Coronavirus Relief Funding - not the District’s allocation – to secure a Transitional Educational Leader to support the Jefferson community through September 30, 2022.
FL DoE Contracts and agreements
We respectfully request that FLDOE not enter into any educational contracts for which Jefferson County School District would be financially responsible. We are very proud of our 17% reserve and do not want to enter any long-term agreements that would negatively impact the District or jeopardize this status.
Of course, the Department would never enter into a contract on behalf of the District.
Bottom line takeaway: The is next-level trolling. LOL. We don’t enter into contracts on your behalf. Neither Somerset nor MGT nor whoever becomes “Transitional Educational Leader” are contracts on your behalf. DoE just enters into contracts with your money — using corrupt bid processes — and imposes our contracts with your money on your kids. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
We request a complete and independent Fiscal & Property Assets Audit of all items that are currently and have been managed by Somerset Academy since their Jefferson County tenure began.
The District’s contract with Somerset already requires an independent final audit and provides a means to pay for the audit. The contract also requires Somerset to provide the District with a property inventory and financial audit annually.
Bottom line takeaway: LOL. You will never, ever, ever see how Somerset/Academica spent that $20M-plus. You will never know if or how many positions meant for Jefferson got transferred to other Somerset/Academica schools across the country. Forget Manny Diaz and Arza and Corcoran, Fernando Zulueta will never ever let the public in Academica’s books.
A remarkably confrontational letter from a guy who is quite vulnerable to scrutiny
All in all, this letter is classic Corcoran: when cornered, blow himself up like some kind of toad and expect people to give him a wide berth.
Again, it’s all he knows. And the strategy is reasonably sound as long as Melinda Miguel refuses to do her job and continues to make a liar out of DeSantis. But announce that MGT-focused interview with Corcoran or Chancellor Jacob Oliva, OIG Miguel, and everything starts to change.
For now, Corcoran is washing his hands of Jefferson, leaving the community abandoned in the hope everybody forgets. He’s banking that Shoaf and Broxson are all talk and won’t aggressively protect their constituents. He seems to already have Jefferson’s Democratic state senator, Loranne Ausley, totally under control.
I haven’t heard a peep from her, which is really embarrassing. I shouldn’t care more about the human and educational well-being of Jefferson County than its Democratic state senator does.
And yet … the confrontational nature of Corcoran’s response to Jefferson — even cloaked in passive-aggressive pleasantness — is begging for more scrutiny. He’s all but daring stakeholders across government and the media to come scrutinize him.
And this scandal cannot stand any scrutiny with official actions attached to it.
Does this letter make it more or less likely that Melinda Miguel is actually forced to do her job? I don’t know; but let’s see how it works out for him.