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Ziegler Attempting to Impose Rightwing Consultant on Public Schools

The Sarasota County Democratic Party (SCDP) expressed deep concern today over School Board Chairwoman Bridget Ziegler’s plan to hire a three-month-old rightwing consultant with ties to conservative Christian Hillsdale College in Michigan.

Two draft contracts were posted for consideration at the school district’s next meeting on April 4th. The contracts call for Vermillion Education to provide consulting services to the board and to conduct a “district improvement study” that would include a review of textbooks, library books, lesson plans, assignments, professional development, collective bargaining agreements, strategic plan, discipline policies, transparency and parental policies and other matters.

“Sarasota County’s public schools are not struggling,” SCDP Chair Daniel Kuether noted. “On the contrary, they have been an “A” district since Florida began grading districts in 2004.

Student achievement has generally been ranked second in the state. “So why does Bridget Ziegler need to bring in Vermillion, which was incorporated only last December and run by a former staffer at Hillsdale College? The answer should be obvious and has nothing to do with improving our students’ education and teachers’ lives.”

Vermilion Education was incorporated in Hillsdale, Mich., last Dec. 22 by Jordan C. Adams, a graduate and former staffer of Hillsdale College and member of the Hillsdale curriculum team that Gov. DeSantis had reviewed Florida’s math textbooks for “prohibited topics.” Adams also worked on revising the state’s civics curriculum.

Kuether noted that the nonprofit Support Our Schools group also attacked Ziegler’s move, saying, “we are deeply concerned by Ms. Ziegler’s attempt to bring a Trojan Horse for Hillsdale College into Sarasota County schools through Vermillion Education. We do not believe there is a place in our Sarasota public schools for a Hillsdale-backed consulting group or their narrow curriculum.”

“Ziegler is completely within her rights to send her children, as she does, to a charter school that teaches the Hillsdale curriculum. But she has no right to force that curriculum upon Sarasota’s public schools,” Kuether added. “We urge all parents, teachers, and Sarasotans from across the political spectrum to protest this assault on public education, a pillar of American democracy.”

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