The Sarasota County School Board in Florida will resume an expensive “cultural sensitivity teaching” program for teachers, which it canceled two years ago after a facilitator told teachers to publicly disgrace each other for apparent racial intolerance.
The split school board this month approved a $ 362,446 agreement to re-hire Solution Tree Executive Director Sharoki Holly, whose previous contract to teach educators “culturally and linguistically responsive teaching and learning” expired when his first video seminar outraged teachers and community .
Under pressure, superintendent Brennan Asplen dismissed him in August for being a “BLM activist”.
The Sarasota County School Board voted 3-2 to approve the new contract with Solution Tree Inc. after hearing Mr. Asplen and his staff. The new contract is more than three times the original contract of $ 115,000.
Controversy erupted after a live presentation in August 2020 in which Mr. Holly told faculty and staff to treat racially insensitive teachers like Amy Cooper, a white woman who was widely ridiculed and astrologized after a viral video in social media has shown it. call police on a black man who ran into her over her released dog in a New York City park.
“Look for Amy Coopers in Sarasota, and I want you to call them to the carpet,” Mr. Holly said. “We won’t get to the cultural sensitivity label that we need if you don’t want to be called Amy Coopers. These are people who walk around and say, “I’m not a racist, I love all people,” but when the time comes, they practice insensitivity. “
Four days after the seminar, Florida Sen. Joe Gruters, a Republican from Sarasota, posted on Facebook a note about the seminar from an anonymous teacher who attended.
“The speaker spent 30 minutes explaining BLM (Black Lives Matter) and the fact that all whites are racists,” the teacher said in a note.
The school overseer in response terminated the $ 115,000 contract and canceled the remaining six workshops.
At a school board meeting on February 15, Mr. Asplen persuaded a sufficient number of school board members to re-hire Mr. Holly for a larger contract.
“Apart from the controversy, you need it in the area,” Mr Asplen said. “Whether you fire me tonight or not, or what you want to do, you need it in this area to move forward, and I strongly encourage you to move forward.”
Tom Edwards, vice chairman of the school board, said he called it a controversy, “adding disagreement”.
“I will support,” Mr Edwards said, adding of Mr Asplen that the rest of the board should trust him.
Not everyone present at the meeting agreed.
Melissa Laconte, a father from the county, said Mr Holly is a “BLM activist”.
“To remind everyone, this school board made teachers listen to Dr. Holly tell them they were born racists,” Ms. Laconte said in public comments. “The parents were outraged.”
Noticing that Holly’s tuition has tripled, she told the board, “It adds distrust and the view that you are irresponsible financially.”
Board member Karen Rose, who voted against the new contract, said she was trained as a teacher and principal to avoid hot-button materials that raise “trust issues” among her target audience.
“In the long run, I can’t say I will not support it at all,” said Mrs. Rose. “But as of now, it’s not something I can support and don’t want because of the immediate controversy she initiated.”
Sarasota County schools declined to comment on the vote for the report, saying the meeting speaks for itself.
Solution Tree did not respond to a request for comment.
Defenders of parental rights said they would encourage families in the school district to continue to resist learning.
“Parents and community members have every right to ask questions about funding sources and the rationale for services,” said Virginia Gentles, a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum. “Parents should also demand accountability measures to ensure that such contracts support student learning and do not promote ideological division.”
Gray Fue, president of the American Organization of Parents Involved in Education, said federal funding to combat COVID-19 is putting pressure on school districts such as Sarasota to promote equality and inclusion in line with the Biden administration’s policies in the field. education.
“I am not surprised to see that the Sarasota County School is doubling its commitment to culture-based teaching, which is a common tool for teaching the principles of critical race theory,” Ms. Fow said. “Parents in Sarasota County need to cancel their school board and select members who will protect children from this garbage and fire the principal.”
The nonprofit Parents Defending Education, a parenting group that posted Holly and school board documents online, said it would continue to inform parents.
“What exactly is this money going to? At a time when teachers are popping into their own pockets for classroom supplies, and students across the country are suffering serious losses in tuition, spending $ 362,000 on controversial “cultural sensitivity” teaching makes absolutely no sense, ”said Erica Sanzi. , Director of Advocacy.