SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Sarasota School Board will begin searching for a new superintendent after approving the separation agreement with Dr. Brennan Asplen during Tuesday night’s meeting.

During public comment, many parents, teachers and community members criticized the school board’s decision to get rid of Asplen.

“This board isn’t looking for competency,” one speaker said. “This board is looking for a lap dog.”

Other speakers pointed out elections have consequences and they encouraged the board to move forward with a change in leadership.

“Let’s review again the facts why Dr. Asplen needs (to be) terminated,” one speaker said. “Number one, under his leadership third-grade FSAs, reading FSA scores are the lowest in 8 years.”

Parent Curtis Craig said the tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars in Asplen’s separation agreement would be better spent in schools.

“I think it’s a mistake,” Craig said. “Fiscally, I don’t think it makes sense. They’re better uses for that money, school supplies, safety.”

Asplen started his job during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. He faced the challenge of balancing public health advice with pushback from parents upset about mask policies.

In August of this year, the election of two new board members backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis created a 4-1 conservative majority.

“And we trust that you will stand your ground and do what’s right for our kids,” a speaker told the board.

At the same November meeting, Tim Enos and Robyn Marinelli were sworn in. The board voted 4-1 in favor of Karen Rose’s motion to consider terminating the superintendent.

During a nearly five-hour meeting two weeks ago, many parents and teachers showed up in support of Asplen.

But on Tuesday night, the board voted to move on.

“We must stay the course, focus on the goals,” Asplen said after the board’s vote Tuesday night. “Block out the noise and the false narratives. Hold fast to the vision and continue working as one for the success of all.”

Asplen said he believes this whole situation was politically motivated. He defended his wife against accusations of nepotism. She too is leaving her job with the district after the school board approved her separation agreement.

Some parents like Craig said they are worried about what’s next for their children’s school district.

“We don’t know who they’re going to try to select as the next superintendent,” he said. “We don’t know what else they’re going to do, fire more administrators, more principals.”

School Board Chair Bridget Ziegler said the assistant superintendent Chris Renouf will lead the district until they select an interim superintendent.

The separation agreement for Asplen said he will remain employed during a “Consultation Transition” period until March 10.

He will be paid 20 weeks of severance pay, which amounts to more than $87,000. The school district will also pay Asplen up to $12,500 for attorney’s fees and up to $12,500 for moving expenses.