Collier County School Board down to 2 finalists for superintendent

Reporter: Michelle Alvarez Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:

And then there were two. The Collier County School Board is coming close to making a decision on who will be the next superintendent: Interim Superintendent Dr. Leslie Ricciardelli or Charles Van Zant Jr.

Charles Van Zant Jr. served as superintendent for Clay County Schools from 2012 to 2016. In his application, he wrote, “I am encouraged to see traditional and conservative values returning to Florida schools.”

Van Zant told the school board Wednesday that he believes in loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. Those are the U.S. Army’s leadership values, and Van Zant spent 32 years in uniform, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel.

“They need caring leadership,” Van Zant said. “That doesn’t mean we coddle people, that doesn’t mean we lower standards, but that means they have to understand that somebody cares about them, and somebody is going to take the big picture view, prioritize what you, this elected school board, is charged with doing.”

Dr. Leslie Ricciardelli has led the Collier County School District since former Superintendent Dr. Kamela Patton and the board mutually agreed to part ways in December. Ricciardelli has 23 years of experience in the district.

Ricciardelli wrote in her application that she has worked to ensure all students receive the support and resources needed to succeed, regardless of their background or ability.

“One of my passions has always been the high school graduation rate,” Ricciardelli said. “So, I have taken time in the past to go meet with students who… finally passed that ELA assessment, when I knew they’ve tried so many times and they’ve worked so hard because I knew about it from either their principal or someone else. Or, I take the time to go meet with students because I’m worried about them or concerned for them.”

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