SARASOTA — To require recordings or not, was one of the major items on the Sarasota County School Board workshop on Tuesday afternoon.

The board shared various opinions on whether individual education plans, known as IEPs, should be recorded or not.

Several Sarasota County School Board members believed it would be a good idea, but they weren’t totally comfortable on making a decision Tuesday.

“The state requires dual consent on recordings,” Board Chair Shirley Brown said. “If we make a policy of this magnitude — we need to get input from the community. We need a meeting on just this policy. Let’s see what other district’s are doing.”

Board member Tom Edwards said he believes automatically recording every meeting is a bad idea.

“I would encourage it when there is a situation when a parent cannot attend an ESE meeting due to work — then yes — it’s a tool we can use.”

Superintendent Brennan Asplen agreed.

“Let’s keep doing what we’re doing,” Asplen said in regards to recording all IEP sessions. “One parent wrote in an email to me that IEP meetings are nerve-wracking. We need to help people feel comfortable and explain that we are all here to help their child. We don’t want to record 800 meetings if we don’t have to.”

The board unanimously passed 5-0 to adopt a contract/agreement with “Unite Us,” a software platform that will help connect students and staff with mental health resources in the community.

“This software could very much change the way mental health issues are handled within the district,” said School Board attorney Patrick Duggan. “Unite Us serves as a middle point to connect students with resources in an effective way. The software will make it easier on social workers and will free up time so they can focus on their jobs and not get overwhelmed with administrative tasks.”

Public comments were made on whether the mask policy should be re-addressed as well as critical race theory.

Some addressed the board about recent CDC guidelines advising that vaccinated people wear masks indoors.

Board members plan to discuss the mask policy at the next workshop planned for Aug. 3.

“We will have health experts on the line with us at that time,” Brown said. “The numbers in the hospitals have grown tremendously recently, and we will be looking at those numbers moving ahead. I just want to encouraged everyone eligible to get vaccinated now.”

There is a vaccination clinic planned to be held at Laurel/Nokomis School from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 on Saturday.

At a special hearing on Tuesday evening, the board voted 5-0 to the approve the school district’s proposed 2021-22 millage rate and budget as it moves into a summer of tweaking and finalizing the spending plan.

The millage rate for Sarasota County Schools is set at 3.461 mills by the state of Florida. The proposed millage rate required by state law is 1.91%, less than last year’s roll-back millage rate.

The total appropriated expenditures, transfers and fund/net balances on the tentative budget are $1,087 billion. That’s more than the district’s final budget that board members passed last September, which was $899.8 million.


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