Superintendent Brennan Asplen accepts upcoming departure from Sarasota School district

Sarasota Herald-Tribune | By Steven Walker | November 28, 2022

Brennan Asplen, superintendent for Sarasota County Schools since August 2020, released a statement Monday evening in which he said he has “accepted the fact that (he) will soon be separated by the School Board” and a collaborative relationship “does not appear to be attainable.”

In his statement, Asplen said he plans to work constructively with the board to finalize his departure. The statement comes as Asplen faces a special meeting of the School Board on Tuesday at 5 p.m., where the board could vote to fire him. Separation negotiations between the board’s legal counsel and Asplen’s attorney started last Wednesday, the day after the board voted to schedule the meeting.

The terms of separation remained fluid as of Monday night. Under his contract, the superintendent could be entitled to upwards of $90,000 for termination without cause.

He acknowledged being caught off guard by the move by most of the board last week to terminate his contract, saying he and his wife “were highly disappointed and plummeted into emotional turmoil by last Tuesday’s motion….”

But he added, “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.”

Asplen said he was humbled by the outpouring of support he received from parents, teachers and district staff.

“I wish Sarasota County Schools only the brightest future and healing,” he said. “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.”

The superintendent said he had confidence in the district’s staff and teachers, and that the district’s Strategic Plan would continue to strengthen outcomes for students “despite the outside noise.”

Asplen said he wants the district to do better by it’s next superintendent and keep them out of the “quagmire of the political arena.”

“With all due respect, please do not allow that to be Sarasota’s legacy,” he wrote.

Sarasota School Board shifts right

None of the School Board members who voted to schedule Tuesday’s have offered a rationale for firing Asplen, though newly named chairwoman Bridget Ziegler said the community had indicated its desire for change through the election held in August, when she and fellow Republicans Tim Enos and Robyn Marinelli were elected. 

Sitting board member Karen Rose made the motion to schedule a special meeting to discuss Asplen’s termination, and it was approved in a 4-1 vote with only Tom Edwards in dissent. The meeting had been set for Dec. 2 but was moved to Nov. 29 because of reported scheduling conflicts.

No discussion took place and no explanation was given for the move. Rose declined to comment following the meeting and hasn’t returned requests for comment since.

Negotiated exits between publicly employed administrators and the elected boards that oversee them are not uncommon once it becomes clear that the administrator has lost the support of a majority of the board.

“I seek not to be a distraction from the passionately steadfast commitment of our SCS teachers, administrators, employees, and the greater parent/student community,” Asplen said in indicating that his departure was imminent and that he didn’t plan to seek to sway the board members’ minds.

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