Naples News | By Nikki Ross | December 13, 2022
Kamela Patton is no longer the superintendent of the Collier County School District.
A mutual transition agreement was signed by both the Collier County School Board and Patton late Tuesday night, which allowed Patton to step down immediately from the role she’s held since 2011.
“Now is the ideal time for me to depart as I welcome a brand new year filled with opportunities that will allow me to build and support other leaders and districts across this nation, including our own school district,” Patton said during the meeting. “I have 14 different job offers…I have my own company that I’m ready to be starting. I’m ready for the next chapter in my life.”
The decision to approve the agreement, which was added at the last minute to the school board agenda at the start of Tuesday’s meeting, was unanimous.
Leslie Ricciardelli, the district’s deputy superintendent, was unanimously chosen as interim superintendent, a decision Patton supported.
“I just don’t have the adequate words to express my gratitude,” Ricciardelli said. “I’m both humbled and honored to serve in this capacity.”
Ricciardelli will make $1,000 a day, according to the interim agreement. As of 2021, Patton was making$308,154 a year.
Patton’s agreement allows her to provide transitional assistance to Ricciardelli as needed. Patton will give this assistance and will continue to receive her regular salary and benefits through Jan. 10.
On Jan. 11, Patton will be able to get her accrued vacation and sick leave pay in addition to severance pay worth 20 weeks of regular pay, according to the agreement.
Patton announced in June that she would be leaving the district at the end of the 2022-23 school year.
Board Chair Kelly Lichter said the experience with Patton since her appointment in November has been nothing but positive.
“I just wanted the public to hear that because some of the comments tonight just painted a picture that’s just not so,” she said. “I think both parties agree that this is the best way for us to move forward.”
During a Dec. 7 special board meeting, Lichter said she felt like the board was in limbo and was not confident working with Patton after she announced her plans to depart a year in advance.
Many community members who spoke Tuesday night referred back to those comments Lichter made in that meeting. While no one spoke in favor of releasing Patton from her role, many were against the decision.
The school district attorney Jon Fishbane said Patton’s attorney reached out to him on Saturday regarding a separation from the district.
While Patton said she did have her attorney reach out to the district, she was told the district also had some type of agreement for her. After she made that comment, Fishbane said that never happened.
“To be honest, I want to end on a high note with this district, with this community,” Patton said. “I don’t really care who talked about it first.”
Board member Erick Carter said he was concerned with how the agreement came about. But after a conversation with Fishbane, he was confident moving forward.
“Dr. Patton has done an unbelievable job in very difficult times,” Carter said, listing the Parkland shooting, Hurricane’s Ian and Irma and COVID-19 as issues she tackled at the helm.
Board member Stephanie Lucarelli said she wanted to assure everyone that the agreement is mutual.
“I do think that this is going to be good for our district,” she said.