Sarasota County schools superintendent will work with board to negotiate end to contract

(WWSB-TV)
Published: Nov. 29, 2022 at 11:15 AM EST
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - The superintendent of the Sarasota County School District says he is working to negotiate a separation after two new school board members are leading a push to terminate his contract.

“It is with a heavy heart that I have accepted the fact that I will soon be separated by the School Board, as a collaborative relationship does not appear to be attainable,” Dr. Brennan Asplen said in a public statement released Monday.

Asplen said he would work with the school district to find an ‘acceptable resolution to his contract.”

The school board is holding a special meeting to discuss the issue at 5 p.m. Tuesday. No reason has been given by the board as to why Asplen is being removed from his position.

The new board now has a conservative majority of 4-1 with the two new members who were sworn in last week.

“It raises questions, how brand new school board members who hadn’t had a substantive conversation with the superintendent about the executive runnings of the school district could vote to terminate,” said board members Tom Edwards. “They would be basing their decisions purely on hearsay and political agendas.”

One parent told ABC7 that she didn’t think Asplen was a good fit for the position.

“I just think we need a clean slate and Dr. Asplen is not a good fit,” said Melissa Bakondy, a concerned parent. “He has not shown leadership skills that Sarasota County needs to be No. 1. “He may be a nice guy, but I do not believe he is what Sarasota County needs.”

Another organization, Support Our Schools, is planning a rally outside the building in support of Dr. Asplen.

“Support Our Schools believes that there is no basis, other than the blatant politics displayed by this new board, for terminating Dr. Asplen’s contract. This termination without cause will subject the district to the unnecessary chaos of an interim superintendent and the time and expense of a search for a new superintendent. This will also further impact our teachers in the Sarasota County school district, who have already been subjected to gross abuse fostered by these board members and their supporters, who have accused our educators of being “groomers” and “pedophiles”. These charges are often heard at board meetings from supporters of Ziegler, Rose, Enos, and Marinelli, who belong to groups like the Proud Boys Moms for Liberty, and Moms for America. The Proud Boys figured prominently in the recent campaign efforts of the Ziegler, Enos, and Marinelli campaign team,” reads a statement from the group.

Dr. Asplen released a press release in which he appears to accept the direction the board is taking and says he will work with the board. Here is that statement:

To our Sarasota County Schools employees, families, and community:

As has been reported in the media, I was contacted about working out a mutually agreeable separation from the School District shortly after last Tuesday’s board meeting at which the motion to terminate my contract was made. Though my wife and I were highly disappointed and plummeted into emotional turmoil by last Tuesday’s motion, after much reflection over the Thanksgiving holiday, it is with a heavy heart that I have accepted the fact that I will soon be separated by the School Board, as a collaborative relationship does not appear to be attainable. To that end, I seek not to be a distraction from the passionately steadfast commitment of our SCS teachers, administrators, employees, and the greater parent/student community. I want the Sarasota County School District to heal; I desire for our community to be at peace. There is a board meeting scheduled for tomorrow (Tuesday) evening at which the School Board will discuss its motion to terminate. I will work respectfully and constructively with the board to achieve an acceptable resolution to my employment separation. I ask that all attending the meeting do so with the same spirit in mind.

I have the utmost sincere confidence in the many talented and dedicated people who comprise our school district family. On the day I was sworn to your service, I entered Sarasota County Schools with the sole intention to work beyond the division and distrust that existed here and to restore a collaborative culture that would provide the best possible climate so that each student can reach his or her highest potential. My wife and I uprooted and invested our life here, both professionally and personally, with full intention to be part of this community into retirement. I wholeheartedly embraced SCS with high expectation and full commitment to its bright future, united to work as one for the success of all. I saw a district that was poised for growth and soaring achievement. I believe our Strategic Plan has focused us on an even stronger trajectory for the success of our students, despite the outside noise that often overshadows the vision. Division and hostility have never been part of my leadership fiber. This is why I have always held that our school district could collectively rise above the noise, and “do the work”. I still believe this. If I have one request, please do better by your next Superintendent; allow that individual to freely be the instructional leader focused on student achievement, not dragged into the quagmire of the political arena. With all due respect, please do not allow that to be Sarasota’s legacy.

In closing, in the aftermath of last Tuesday’s board meeting, I am completely humbled by the abundant outpouring of support from our past and present Sarasota County Schools teachers, administrators and support staff, our SC/TA Union, our business and community leaders, our committed foundations, the Herald Tribune and the good citizens of Sarasota. I wish Sarasota County Schools only the brightest future and healing. Please know that I leave you with the sincerest assurance that I have labored to faithfully serve our students, community, and SCS family of employees.

—Dr. Brennan W. Asplen, III