SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Sarasota County School Board members heard hours of public comment Tuesday night as they weighed the fate of the district’s top leader, Superintendent Dr. Brennan Asplen.

During a board meeting last week where the two new board members were sworn in, existing school board member Karen Rose made a motion to hold a special meeting to discuss terminating the superintendent. The motion, according to the local union, came as a surprise to educators across the county. Dr. Asplen has received high marks on his performance evaluations and is seemingly well-liked among staff and parents in Sarasota County. He joined the district in August 2020.

In the end, the school board voted to give Dr. Asplen the option to resign from his position.

Following fiery remarks from Dr. Asplen Tuesday night, Board Chair Bridget Ziegler indicated she doesn’t believe the relationship between the superintendent and the school board can be mended.

“I honestly was very hopeful going in today,” Ziegler said. “Unfortunately and I understand there’s a lot of stress, lot of frustration but the unfortunate display makes it very hard for any board to move forward and that’s the professionalism and being able to work together.”

After some board members criticized his leadership abilities during the COVID-19 pandemic and blamed him for a lack of academic growth, Dr. Asplen fired back.

“That achievement gap we talked about, yeah, it hasn’t changed in the past two years, but you know what, it hasn’t changed in 25 years,” said the superintendent.

He also called out board member Karen Rose’s sudden change in communication following the August election.

“It seemed like after the election it became very solemn, and just really quick answers and then all of a sudden you’re calling me instead of coming in and seeing me and so all of the one-on-ones were on the phone for two minutes instead of face-to-face for an hour like we used to do, it just doesn’t make any sense,” the superintendent said.

In regards to criticism of how he handled mask mandates in schools after Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order banning them, the superintendent pointed out he followed the board’s policy as he was hired to do but also took steps to get it rescinded.

“We all took our oath, it is against the law, but if the board still approves a mask mandate, my job is to follow through on the policy. I enact the policy, that is what my job is, and then three weeks later, I was able to get it out on the agenda again to be voted, to be repealed, and guess what, it was,” Dr. Asplen said.

A number of educators and parents spoke in support of the superintendent Tuesday night. The teachers union president told 8 On Your Side he feels the board is choosing politics over education.

“We have been moving in this direction over the last few years. I am a republican, Dr. Asplen is a Republican, but this is not my Republican Party that I had signed up for and was used to in my life,” said union president Rex Ingerick. “If you are not far left or far right, you are not in the game, which is really sad. I think the majority of our community probably is someplace in the middle, but they are not the ones coming to the board meetings, they are not the ones that are posting on social media, they are probably at home with the kids or working, and trusting in the system that you used to be able to trust in. I don’t think that is the case anymore. I think within one week, our new school board has set a new low for representing and doing things that represent our community at large,” he continued.

Dr. Asplen concluded his remarks by saying change must take place when it comes to the politics.

“We’ve got to get the politics out of the school system,” he said. “This is school district could be number one, but we shoot ourselves in the foot every single time. We are getting in our own way all the time and I’m telling you because I came from a district that was number one for 12 years. If you don’t wanna listen to it, then don’t listen to it, get rid of me, whatever, but I’m telling you right now that has to happen no matter who steps in this position,” said Dr. Asplen. “I spend more time on politics and nonsense than anything else. I can’t even spend time on a lot of the instructional, because we are dealing with this kind of nonsense. I don’t even know why we are here, because I thought I was doing fine, everyone was doing great, we are moving along, we are on a good trajectory,” he continued.

We asked the superintendent’s attorney if a decision has been made on whether or not he will resign. He told us he had no update Wednesday afternoon.