Nikki Ross Naples Daily News June 13, 2022
Collier County School District’s Superintendent Kamela Patton announced in a video Monday she will leave her position following the 2022-23 school year.
She expressed gratitude to the students, teachers, parents, administrators, alumni, community and board members for serving the district and said she looked forward to future opportunities within education.
“I am grateful for the School Board’s unwavering support which has provided a platform for student achievement and numerous initiatives,” Patton said in her video. “Their commitment to long-term stability has enabled us to be an A school district and a model throughout Florida and the nation.”
School board members said they weren’t surprised at the announcement. Four years ago Patton entered Florida’s Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP) — an alternative method of paying retirement benefits for a limited period of time — according to School Board Chairwoman Jen Mitchell.
In Patton’s case, she had five years to continue working with her current employer, the school district, before she had to retire. The end of those five years is in June 2023, which is why Mitchell and other board members were expecting her announcement.
“I suspected when she did not ask to renew (her contract),” said School Board member Stephanie Lucarelli. “Dr. Patton has had a really wonderful career here. She’s done amazing things for our district.”
Kamela Patton’s accomplishments
Patton, who was appointed in 2011, was the district’s first female superintendent in more than 80 years. She was named Florida’s Superintendent of the Year for 2022 and was a national finalist for superintendent of the year.
“When I was appointed superintendent in 2011, I was asked to prioritize communications and connecting the school district with this wonderful community. I am proud to have achieved this goal and more. Thank you to everyone that has made this collective work happen,” Patton said in her video. “I look forward to this next school year, the 99th year in our school district’s history, my 12th and final year as the superintendent, leading into our 100th anniversary, a new century for the CCPS family.”
During her time with the district, Patton has led the school district in a number of improvements including raising the district’s grade to one of seven A school districts in the state and raising the graduation rate.
“When I arrived in 2011, the graduation rate was 72.5%,” Patton said. “Collectively, we have moved 20.2 percentage points to a 92.7%, all progress that continued despite the direct hit of Hurricane Irma, sheltering 17,000 community members in the schools, and during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
School Board Vice Chairwoman Jory Westberry, who began working with Patton in 2011, said she could go on for “hours” about Patton.
“I was just blown away by her energy, her involvement, her communication and she had more vision and stamina than a collective group,” Westberry said. “I think it’s going to be a tough transition, but she has made such progress here and I wish her the absolute best.”
Patton said she is “forever grateful for the privilege to serve the CCPS family and this outstanding community.”
Who is Collier’s next superintendent?
There is not a plan in place or a timeline for hiring the next superintendent. Mitchell plans to bring up the topic during Tuesday’s school board meeting.
Lucarelli said she wants the process to be very transparent with a lot of community involvement.
School Board member Erick Carter said whoever takes Patton’s place will have “big shoes to fill.”