The Sarasota County Democratic Party called today on all local residents to oppose the current attempt to remove Sarasota Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Brennan Asplen without cause. The party believes that this is a non-partisan issue and that the well-being of the district’s students is paramount.
The party’s statement of support for Dr. Asplen followed a 4-1 vote by the Sarasota County School Board on November 22nd to hold a special session on December 2nd to consider terminating his contract. Voting with the majority were board members Bridget Ziegler, Tim Enos, Robin Marinelli, and Karen Rose – all recently elected with the support of rightwing conspiracy theorist Michael Flynn; the Proud Boys, a domestic terrorist organization indicted for its role in the Capitol insurrection; and the Moms for Liberty group.
“Sarasota’s public schools are second in the state thanks in no small part to Dr. Asplen, who came to us from St. John’s County, where he helped make their schools first in the state,” said JoAnne DeVries, chair of the Sarasota County Democratic Party. “How can this extremist board justify their disavowal of a highly effective leader? How will they explain that to school children and their parents? This is just about perpetuating the board’s culture war and making a political statement.”
Before Dr. Asplen was hired in 2020, after an extensive search by the school board, he had been deputy superintendent for the St. John’s County Schools and president of the Florida Association of School Administrators. He took office in August 2020, just as the district was preparing to reopen schools after being closed due to COVID-19. In his first annual evaluation in 2021, board members Rose and Ziegler joined the other members in voting unanimously that he be rated “highly effective.”
“A little more than one year later, board members Rose, Ziegler, Enos and Martinelli appear ready to sacrifice him to their extremist rightwing base, which is still seething over mask mandates,” DeVries said. “The loud minority blames the superintendent for the mandate, even though it was the 2020 school board that chose to protect children and their families.
“This is the first attempt of the new board to create chaos in our public schools,” she added. “What well-credentialed educator will want to take the job of superintendent in our schools after a fiasco like this? Make no mistake: The ultimate goal of the extremists pushing the board’s agenda is to defund public schools and replace them with for-profit charter schools.”
As in all Florida counties, test scores in the Sarasota school district dipped during the pandemic, but they have been recovering recently. Sarasota remains among the top performing school districts in the state.
Sarasota Democrats are calling on students, parents, and concerned citizens to join the special School Board meeting Tuesday, Nov 29th, 5:00 p.m. at the School Board Chambers, 1980 Landings Blvd.Sarasota, FL 34231 to express their opposition to firing Dr. Asplen, and their concern about chaos in public schools. Please maintain decorum and behave respectfully. If you can’t attend the meeting, write to the school board members: https://www.sarasotacountyschools.net/Page/2475.