(NewsNation) — Newly elected school board leaders in Florida, backed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, have been removing school leaders over their handling of COVID-19 mandates.
Already in Florida this month, there have been three superintendents who enforced the mandates who were removed from their positions by their school boards. They are Superintendents Brennan Asplen of Sarasota, Mark Mullins of Brevard County and Vickie Cartwright of Broward County, Fox News reports.
This week, the newly elected school board in Sarasota County Schools voted to begin negotiations for Asplen’s severance, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Board members, according to Politico, criticized how Asplen handled masking students, students’ reading performance and a perceived lack of transparency.
But the real reason the board let the embattled superintendent go, he said, is because of politics and the pandemic.
“I have a feeling I’m gonna be fired after tonight because I just can’t hold this back,” Asplen said at the meeting.
Sarasota earned “A” grades from the state despite the coronavirus pandemic, Asplen says, and he only enacted a masking policy for students for three weeks.
“You have to get the politics out of this school district,” Asplen told the board, according to Politico. “This school district could be No. 1, but we shoot ourselves in the foot every single time.”
There were about four hours of public comment, with most who attended the meeting coming to support Asplen.
School board elections are nonpartisan. But Florida Republicans led by DeSantis poured thousands of dollars into school board races this year, Politico reported, and the governor endorsed candidates — an unusual move for someone in his position.
“We reject having our schools be a tool for ideology,” DeSantis has previously said.
Bridget Ziegler, the new chair of the Sarasota County School Board and a board member of Moms for Liberty, says she is incredibly encouraged by the new “conservative wave for parents.”
“I can’t tell you how many people across the country have reached out because they are hopeful to have that same kind of outcome in their state,” she said.