NAPLES, Fla. — Collier County Schools have a new, permanent, leader at the top.
Wednesday night, the School Board voted 3 to 2 to appoint interim Superintendent Dr. Leslie Ricciardelli to the full-time position.
The marathon meeting, which took more than five hours, featured comments from more than 100 members of the public.
“I’ve been here for 23 years, and I’ve been at many schools in different roles. You start to know parents and family members,” said Ricciardelli.
Dr. Ricciardelli was born and raised in Naples. She’s worked in the district for more than two decades, with many of those years specializing in working with students with special needs.
After former Superintendent Dr. Kamela Patton was removed from the role in December, Ricciardelli was put in the interim role.
“We are now getting ready to begin writing a new strategic plan,” said Ricciardelli. “So really, we’re starting from scratch.”
This school year saw major changes to education in the Sunshine State.
A swath of new laws that ban certain history lessons, limit classroom discussions on LGBTQ issues, and even remove some books from school libraries were passed by the legislature.
In November, a conservative majority was elected to the school board.
“I’m an educator, I’m not a politician. I don’t engage in the negativity,” Ricciardelli said, describing how she has navigated the new laws and school board.
“In the past there were a lot more guardrails up for board members to speak with staff members. Those guardrails came down the day I stepped into the role on December 14.”
The School Board will discuss the contract terms and an official start date during its next meeting on May 9.