Allison Foster named interim superintendent of Sarasota County Schools

Former principal of Phillippi Shores Elementary, she headed the district’s Human Relations and Labor Relations office

During its regular meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 7, the Sarasota County School Board members voted unanimously to appoint the district’s executive director of human resources and labor relations, Allison Foster, as interim superintendent.

Board member Tom Edwards initially proposed Ron DiPillo, executive director of career and technical education at Suncoast Technical College, as the interim superintendent. His motion died for lack of a second.

Then board member Karen Rose nominated Foster.

Rose’s focus, she explained, is on “quality in academic excellence.” She added, “Our greatest challenge is in the primary years,” from kindergarten through third grade.”

The district should put an emphasis on improving students’ reading capabilities in those grades, she pointed out, adding that she believes Foster “has the experience and background to help us in the upcoming months.”

Both Foster and DiPillo have applied to succeed Brennan Asplen III as superintendent, Chair Bridget Ziegler pointed out during the board’s regular meeting on Jan. 17.

Following Rose’s Feb. 7 remarks, Edwards announced that he would be supporting Foster “100%%,” as it was clear no other School Board member would join him in an effort to place DiPillo in the interim role.

Ziegler noted that a nationwide search is planned, with the assistance of an independent firm, to settle on the new superintendent.

Rose’s motion passed unanimously.

Then Ziegler reminded her colleagues that, during their Jan. 17 School Board meeting, she proposed that the interim superintendent’s salary could be as high as the maximum allowed by state law: $225,000.

She asked for a motion to direct the board’s general counsel to work with the chair on drafting the contract for Foster, with a salary cap of $225,000.

Rose made that motion, and Edwards seconded it; it also passed unanimously.

The draft contract will be ready for a board decision during the regular meeting on Feb. 21, Ziegler said.

As a result of a unanimous School Board vote on Dec. 13, 2022, Chris Renouf, the school district’s assistant superintendent and chief academic officer, had been serving as acting superintendent.
Renouf’s appointment came after four of the five School Board members voted last year to terminate the employment of Asplen. Formerly deputy superintendent of the St. Johns County School District, Asplen began his tenure in Sarasota County on Aug. 10, 2020.

The effort to remove Asplen began in November 2022. Two new School Board members who joined Ziegler in winning the support of Gov. Ron DeSantis — Robyn A. Marinelli and Timothy Enos — were elected during the 2022 Primary Election in the county. Ziegler, an incumbent, was re-elected. DeSantis came to Sarasota for an Aug. 21 rally — two days before the Primary — during which he endorsed Ziegler, Marinelli and Enos, even though the School Board races are nonpartisan.

However, even with voters having settled the School Board races in August 2022,  School Board practice called for the winners to be sworn in after the November 2022 General Election.

Rose, who, like Edwards, was elected in 2020, was the first to call for Asplen’s removal last year.

Only Edwards offered support for Asplen’s continued employment.

Prior to the start of her service on the School Board, Rose served in a number of district positions over 28 years. She was executive director of the middle schools prior to leaving employment with the Sarasota County Schools.

In a school district news release issued on Feb. 8, Foster said, “It is an honor and privilege to be appointed as the interim superintendent of Sarasota County Schools. As a lifelong resident of Sarasota, I have been involved in the school system in nearly every capacity: as a student, teacher, administrator, and parent. I look forward to working collaboratively with our School Board members, teachers, staff, families, and community partners to further the success of our students. The district is poised to end this school year on a strong note — we greatly appreciate the community’s continued support of our students, teachers, and staff members.”

Foster has spent her 26-year career in education working exclusively for the Sarasota County Schools, the release noted.

A Riverview High School graduate, Foster told the School Board members and the audience during the Feb. 7 meeting that she is “a homegrown Sarasota native.” After she completed college, she said, she returned to the county to work in the school district.

She taught seventh grade math at Laurel Nokomis School, Foster continued, and then transferred to Ashton Elementary, where she taught third and fifth grade classes.

She served as assistant principal of Toledo Blade Elementary School for three years, Foster added, and then served in the same capacity at Gulf Gate Elementary School before she was appointed the principal of Phillippi Shores Elementary School. She held that position for 13 years, she said

She became executive director of human resources and labor relations in April 2021, she pointed out.