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School board's final vote ends Asplen's Sarasota tenure

Board member Tom Edwards was again the sole vote in support of the superintendent. Renouf will serve in the interim role until at least Jan. 17.


Brennan Asplen came to Sarasota County Schools in 2020.
Brennan Asplen came to Sarasota County Schools in 2020.
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As expected, the Sarasota County School Board on Tuesday night voted to accept a deal with Superintendent Brennan Asplen to bring about his resignation after two and half years on the job.

For the third time since the new School Board was seated after election of newcomers Timothy Enos and Robyn Marinelli and the reelection of now-chair Bridget Ziegler, the board voted 4-1 to move ahead with the removal of Asplen — this time for the final occasion.

Tom Edwards cast all three dissenting votes, beginning with the original vote during the board’s reorganizational meeting on Nov. 22  that set in motion negotiations leading to Asplen’s resignation.


On Tuesday, Edwards attempted to solicit a vote on retaining Asplen, though it was not supported.

“We tried,’’ Edwards said.

Ziegler, named the board chair at the Nov. 22 meeting, made the motion Tuesday to vote on accepting the terms of Asplen’s removal.

“I’ve had a lot of hard meetings or weeks  as a board member for a variety of reasons, and this is no exception,’’ she said. “And I think I’m oftentimes very, and I do, I pride myself on being transparent in communicating in this, but I take this very seriously. If there was one thing I could change, I do agree that at the reorganizational meeting being able to provide more discussion.’’

Asplen, who read a letter into the record before leaving the meeting, told the board the Nov. 22 meeting and the vote initiated by member Karen Rose caught him by surprise.

“After everyone was sworn in, seven minutes later, you’re voting to terminate me,’’ he said of the meeting held at Venice High School.

Marinelli said she seconded Rose’s Nov. 22 motion because she “listened to the comments in this room, the positives and the negatives, and I leaned over and apologized to Dr. Asplen.”

Rose earlier cited communication problems with Asplen and an atmosphere of tumult surrounding board meetings as her motivation to begin the process, which continued on Nov. 29, when the board took the first formal action to enter into separation negotiations. 


After the vote that ended Asplen’s tenure in Sarasota County, the School Board unanimously approved the appointment of Chris Renouf, the chief academic officer of the school district, to serve as interim superintendent until at least Jan. 17.

Among the key points of the separation agreement between Asplen and the school board are that his departure will be considered a resignation and that his pay will continue for 32 weeks, along with pay from unused vacation time and sick leave.

The school district also would pay Asplen’s legal fees and moving expenses.

Additionally, the agreement calls for a period of consultancy for three months to whomever the school board chooses as an interim superintendent, during which time Asplen would agree to be available for questions or counsel.

The financial cost of the agreement totals about $170,000.

 

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Eric Garwood

Eric Garwood is the managing editor of the Longboat Observer and the Sarasota Observer. Since graduating from University of South Florida in 1984, he's been a reporter and editor at newspapers in Florida and North Carolina.

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