DeSantis-backed school boards begin ousting Florida educators

Republican Governor Ron DeSantis supported dozens of conservative school board candidates in Florida during the midterms. They are now in office and have resigned some of the Covid-19-enforcement leaders.

Two GOP-leaning counties elected new board members that essentially fired their school superintendents in a matter of days. The superintendents’ actions in implementing local policies, such as efforts to protect parents’ rights, was what prompted the ousters. This issue was exacerbated by the schools that imposed student mask mandates last year in disobedience of DeSantis.

While not directly tied to the 2022 elections, the Broward County school board fired its superintendent earlier this month through an effort by five DeSantis-appointed members. In November, three superintendents were elected by school boards that had ties to DeSantis. Each of these superintendents served in districts that have implemented student mask mandates.

“We had an epidemic in school districts that spit on parents’ faces,” stated Randy Fine, a state representative from Palm Bay. Fine earlier this year tried to penalize schools with mask mandates. “And now, the people who did this are gone.”


The new board members in Sarasota and Brevard counties have put pressure on school leaders. They offered to resign voluntarily, rather than take the chance of losing a vote.

Both counties have conservative majority on their boards. They sought to change the leadership of both these boards immediately after the midterms. While school boards are not partisan, many counties saw the lines drawn between Republican and Democratic candidates through endorsements from both parties as well as groups outside. These newly elected board members support parental rights, but oppose critical race theory and teach gender orientation in schools.

DeSantis used his influence to endorse more than 20 school board candidates in the 2022 election cycle. This was a rare feat for a Florida governor who received $1,000 cash contributions from DeSantis or other GOP lawmakers. DeSantis supported most of the candidates who won their elections. They are now changing the composition of school districts leadership and will have a huge impact on policies that affect hundreds of thousands of students across the state.

Both Sarasota’s and Brevard school boards placed the superintendents on the cutting block simultaneously with the swearing-in of new members supported by DeSantis as well as conservative organizations such Moms for Liberty.

At a Tuesday night meeting, Sarasota board members questioned Superintendent Brennan Asplen’s job. The meeting was specifically called to discuss Asplen’s contract. The superintendent received nearly four hours of public comments, most of which were in support. Board members voiced their disapproval over Asplen’s handling of students reading and how he managed to conceal student identities.

Asplen, realizing he might not be able to hold on to his job for much longer, offered his resignation Monday night. This was the day before the board met in order to decide his ouster. The superintendent tried to make the board members’ criticisms more constructive, but he also tried to fight for his job.

As a preface, Asplan stated to the board that “I have a feeling that I’m going be fired after tonight”

Asplan stated that some comments made by the board were “ridiculous”, given that Asplan had been with the school since 2020. This included the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet, Sarasota received “A” grades from both the state and federal despite the coronavirus destroying education. He also claimed that he was being excluded by the board since the election. He noted that he had enacted a mandate student masking policy that was in effect for three weeks. This was due to Sarasota’s board voting 3-2 against the mandate.

Asplan stated to the board, “You have get the politics out this school district.” This school district could be No. We are constantly shooting ourselves in the foot. We get in our own way every single day.”

After Asplan’s address to the board, it was obvious that Asplan would soon be leaving. The board members felt that the relationship with Asplan was “adversarial” as well as beyond repair. Bridget Ziegler, the new chair of the board, said that many claims made by Asplan were “not true.”

Zeigler, who was supported by DeSantis as well as co-founded Moms for Liberty, said that “I am very worried.” “I don’t know how respectfully and mutual respect we can build a relationship that allows us to work together for the right purposes.”

Thomas Edwards, a Sarasota board member noted similarities between pushes to dismiss school leaders in Florida, and other parts of the country. He also pointed out the similarities in Berkley County in South Carolina where a newly elected school board fired a superintendent. Edwards suggested that there was a political motive for the move and asked that Asplen be allowed to address the issues identified by the board.

“Whatever rationales you might hear tonight, I have to toss them out the window.” Edwards stated that we all have to — as a community — take a look at the tealeaves.

Edwards was unable to reach the majority of board members, which included DeSantis’s endorsed conservatives. They voted 4-1 in favor of moving forward with negotiations for a separation agreement.

A rally was planned by the local teachers union in Sarasota to support Asplen before Tuesday’s meeting. Hundreds lined up to speak for him. However, local organizers in Brevard County did not demonstrate last week when Mark Mullins was fired as its superintendent.

The Brevard Federation of Teachers was content that Mullins’ departure could bring about positive changes in local schools. Union leaders argue that the district officials failed to address student discipline and teacher vacancies.

Union leaders released a statement on Monday via social media, stating that students verbally and physically abuse teachers as well as staff. They are not likely to stop until meaningful systemic changes in the workplace are made.

Like Sarasota’s leadership shift, Brevard’s was helped by new board members. Megan Wright suggested that the board split with Mullins. She was supported in her race by DeSantis, and was elected vice chair of the board just four hours before the change took effect.

DeSantis has also endorsed new members to the board of directors in Florida. According to the Fort Myers News-Press, Armor Persons (new board member) and Sam Fisher (vice chair) were elected in Lee County.

These new school boards will now have to find new leaders with at least three vacant superintendent positions in Florida.

Teachers union leaders remain optimistic about the future of these boards