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Sarasota Thursday, Jul. 15, 2021 4 months ago

Sarasota superintendent receives top marks

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Sarasota schools superintendent was ranked as "highly effective" after his first year on the job, triggering performance-based pay increases.
by: Brynn Mechem Staff Writer

The grades for Superintendent Brennan Asplen’s performance over the past year are in, and his report card shows he’s at the top of the class.

School board members unanimously voted to rank Asplen as “highly effective” for his past year of work, which helps determine how much performance-based bonuses he will be awarded. It’s the highest possible ranking.

Asplen, who started Aug. 10, 2020, had many obstacles to overcome in his first year, including COVID-19 protocols and rebuilding trust with the community. 

Board members graded Asplen on 10 criteria: relationship with the board; culture and climate; community and district relations; health, safety and security plans; student achievement data; recruitment and retention; finance; technology; reactive leadership; and proactive leadership.

Board members awarded Asplen up to three points in each criteria for a possible 30-point total. Each board member scored Asplen with a 90% or higher, rating him as “highly effective.” This year, the school board also had a unique criteria to measure Asplen on: the pandemic.

Board members on Tuesday said Asplen performed exceptionally well in his first year given the unprecedented circumstances.

“I think he’s developing that trust that we, as board members, look for,” board member Jane Goodwin said. “I think he was what we really needed over this year with such a disastrous situation.”

The high ranking in future years would mean Asplen is eligible for additional performance-based pay. Asplen’s original contract extends through June 30, 2023, at a base salary of $215,000. 

Beginning in July, Asplen became available to earn up to $15,000 in performance-based pay based on goals set forth by the board. Should he be ranked as highly effective for the 2021-22 school year, he could receive up to $15,000 in the next financial year.

When Asplen was hired, he created a document containing eight goals that he would like to accomplish within his first 90 days and continue throughout the school year.

Among those goals were building strong relations with the school board and community stakeholders, elevating the district’s academic standards, and learning and evaluating the district’s climate.

Throughout his first year, Asplen held town halls throughout the district to get to know the community, and he visited each school as part of a video series titled “Dr. Asplen: On the Move!” He also helped lead the district through COVID-19 protocols, helping to create procedures for contact tracing, remote learning and enhanced safety measures for students and staff.

Despite having about 10,200, or 28% of the district’s population, as remote learners, the district still performed well in the 2020-21 school year when compared statewide. The first round of the Florida Standards Assessments, which is for third grade English Language Arts, show that although districtwide proficiency took a 4% dip, it is still performing well when compared with other schools.

The statewide average also dropped 4 percentage points. Sarasota is fifth in the state for performance behind Sumter, Nassau, Baker and St. Johns. The remaining test scores will be released in late July and will be used to determine school grade calculations.

Board member Tom Edwards said Asplen did a good job promoting student achievement during a challenging year, but he’s looking forward to seeing the student scores for this year and crafting a plan alongside Asplen that addresses student achievement for the new school year.

“I want to see what your goals and what your thoughts are about where the district can be, and then we can evaluate that to the test scores of our of our students,” Edwards said. “But as far as I’m concerned, you did a bang-up job this year.”

Asplen said he couldn’t have succeeded without the support of the district and was thankful to the district staff and community who made him feel welcome in his first year on the job. He said he looks forward to another year of service with the district.

“I know this was a challenging year,” Asplen said. “I think we’ve done as good of a job as we could possibly do, and I know things can only get better. As we move forward, there’s always room for improvement, and we will continue to improve every year.”

Board members will meet in September to determine which goals Asplen should strive to meet during the 2021-22 school year.

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