Sarasota school board selects Terrence Connor as new superintendent following previous leadership removal

by | Jun 15, 2023

  • The Sarasota County School Board has appointed Terrence Connor as the new Superintendent of Schools, replacing former Superintendent Brennan Asplen.
  • Connor, currently the Deputy Superintendent and Chief Academic Officer of Hillsborough County Public Schools, was chosen with a 3-2 vote against three other finalists.
  • Dr. Allison Foster, the interim Superintendent, will continue in the role until contract negotiations and a start date are finalized with Connor.
  • The decision to terminate Asplen’s contract was driven by concerns over academic achievement, lack of transparency with data, and allegations of violating policies regarding COVID mask policies and equity committees.

Less than a year after voting to terminate former Superintendent Brennan Asplen, the Sarasota County School Board voted to appoint Terrence Connor – the current Deputy Superintendent and Chief Academic Officer of Hillsborough County Public Schools – as the county’s new Superintendent of Schools.

Up against three other finalists, the school board voted 3-2 to appoint Connor. He will take over for Dr. Allison Foster, who has served as the interim while the district underwent a candidate search. According to board members following last night’s meeting, Foster will remain interim Superintendent while the district, its attorneys, and Connor sort out contract negotiations and set a start date.

Before operating in his current role, Connor served as the Chief Academic Officer and Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, as well as the Chief of Secondary Education for Clay County District Schools.

He has also served as the Principal of Samuel W. Wolfson High School, the Principal of Oceanway School, the Assistant Principal of Curriculum at Oceanway School, and as a science teacher at Oceanway School, all within Duval County Public Schools.

“I am grateful to the board for choosing me to lead the schools in this wonderful community,” said Connor. “I share the district’s vision for keeping learning at the center of everything we do and have seen the great things that can happen when educators and families are committed to doing that. Together, I know we will work to help all of our students succeed and can make Sarasota County Schools number one in the state.”

Last November, Sarasota’s school board signaled its intention to break Asplen’s contract following bouts of disagreement over the direction of the county’s schools. The removal drew similarities to the expulsion of superintendents seen in Broward and Brevard counties, which saw school boards comprised of newly-elected, conservative-leaning members move to reestablish the leadership formation.

When given the opportunity to weigh in on the decision, school board members expressed sharp concern about the trajectory of academic achievement within the district.

“Steering away from politics and distrust requires engaging and working with all families regardless of how quiet or loud they are in sharing their experiences or needs. More importantly … the best practice for vetting all decisions and actions in vetting that they are controversy free is what makes a good public school,” said board member Karen Rose. “Our overall reading, science, and math achievements have not shown even minimal growth. That’s my focus area. Academic achievement. Lack of transparency with data in reading and monitoring progress is an issue for me.”

Rose further criticized that the school district was marketing itself as the second-highest achieving school district in the state at the time, which she claimed is false, and that public notices should better reflect Sarasota Public Schools’ standing as the fifth-highest achieving district, according to state education metrics.

“It’s okay that we’re number five, but I want to own that we’re number five,” continued Rose. “I want the public to know what are our strengths and what are our weaknesses, and I don’t feel that the transparency has been there.”

An additional cohort of parents and teachers called for Asplen to be fired over COVID mask policies, operating an equity committee in violation of Sunshine Law, and refusing to allow parents to walk their children to class.

Asplen, who took on the role of superintendent in 2020 and received consecutive high marks in evaluations, shot back at his dissenters, questioning why he was put in a position to be removed from his post.

“One thing I do want to say, and I don’t know if people just forget, but if you go back for the last year and a half and you look at a lot of our workshops, a lot of your questions will be answered and you’re going to remember what we’ve talked about,” said Asplen. “We’ve been very transparent, we’ve had our principals come in, we’ve had teachers come in, we’ve had students. We have all kinds of data … We provide data constantly.”


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