Collier County School Board Elections

Collier County School Board Elections

Three seats on the Collier County School Board are on the ballot of all Collier voters in elections that will determine the direction of public education in our community for years to come. The position pays a salary of $43,007 for the state’s 2021-22 fiscal year.

Incumbents Jory Westberry, Jen Mitchell, and Roy Terry, running in Districts 1, 3, and 5, respectively, are being challenged by Jerry Rutherford, Kelly Lichter, and Timothy Moshier.

I will begin this post with a discussion of the broader context within which these School Board elections are taking place. I will then summarize the candidates’ education, work experience, and campaign platforms, and provide links to their social media and other online presences, and to news articles found through Google searches. Because those elected this year will choose the District’s next Superintendent, I also share what they have said they would look for. At the end of the post, I provide links to recordings and transcripts of three School Board candidate forums.

For important and relevant facts about the Collier County School District, see my post The Collier County School Board Elections: Setting the Stage.

The Broader Context

Our local School Board elections are taking place within at least three broader, nation- and state-wide contexts: the politicization of School Board races; candidates’ unwillingness to participate in debates; and nascent antisemitism.

The Politicization of School Board Races

“What used to be small, local contests are now attracting outside money and attention from groups and political leaders. That’s especially the case in Florida, [where] Governor Ron DeSantis has taken an active role in reshaping the politics of Florida school boards.”

In a rare if not unprecedented move, DeSantis endorsed candidates in 30 Florida school board elections, including two races in neighboring Lee County but none in Collier County.

Here, writes the CEO and President of the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, “very partisan challengers” are “seeking to turn our public schools into a platform for their political beliefs. And to get there, they are playing fast and loose with politics versus facts.”

POLITICS: 40% of Collier Public School students cannot read or do math at grade level.
FACT: Our district is ranked #5 among all 67 districts in the state of Florida for fourth grade student performance. (Continue reading)

POLITICS: Collier County schools are teaching critical race theory.
FACT: They are not. (Continue reading)

POLITICS: CCPS allows sexually explicit and age inappropriate materials in school media centers.
FACT: Our school district continues to ensure that all students have access to a variety of learning resources and opportunities, not only to increase student achievement, but to promote career, and life readiness as well as college opportunities. (Continue reading)

Guest Opinion: Our Children and Our Community Above Politics, by Michael Dalby, president and CEO of the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, via Naples Daily News, 10/8/22

Unwillingness to Participate in Debates

Recently, “debate participation – or lack thereof – has become its own political weapon on the campaign trail, wielded by Democrats and Republicans alike.”

In Collier County, before the primary elections, the Christian Conservative Coalition, and Naples Area Board of Realtors (NABOR) and Naples Better Government hosted School Board Candidate Forums. All six candidates on the November ballot participated in both of them.

This week, though, only three of them participated in a candidate forum hosted by Temple Shalom of Naples, the Holocaust Museum & Cohen Education Center, the Jewish Federation of Greater Naples, the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, Naples United Church of Christ, and Saint Monica’s Episcopal Church.

The only other scheduled opportunity for voters to hear from the School Board candidates is an upcoming Oct. 20 candidate forum. That forum will be hosted by the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce, the Marco Island Civic Association, and the Coalition for Quality Public Education. Which candidates participate remains to be seen.

Similarly, only four of the six candidates submitted responses to my Sparker’s Soapbox Candidate Questionnaire. Two did not. (See Primary Sources, below.)

Nascent Antisemitism

Majorities of both American Jews and the U.S. general public agree that antisemitism is a problem in America, though to differing extents. And there are signs that antisemitism is on the rise.

Locally, Collier County’s District 5 School Board Primary campaign was rocked by statements made by an individual affiliated with the campaign of candidate Timothy Moshier.

There have been other recent incidents of antisemitism in our community, as well:

Representatives of the Jewish Federation of Greater Naples (the Federation) expressed concern about those incidents and others in an Oct. 12 email:

“What was particularly alarming, was that when questioned publicly, [candidate Timothy Moshier] not only declined to reject the antisemitic statements from someone on his campaign staff, but he declined to condemn antisemitism. Only after being subjected to adverse publicity, he subsequently disassociated himself from the offending individual’s statements….

“While it is inappropriate to condemn a candidate for another person’s actions, that School Board Candidate’s initial responses to the public and press about this incident is very troubling….

“We are also concerned about the … intent, express or implied, of some candidates to allow Christian doctrine in the public schools…. While candidates who are promoting this may not be doing so with antisemitic motives, we have learned repeatedly that when governments promote religious preferences, antisemitism follows….”

Jewish Federation of Greater Naples email, 10/12/22


Broadly speaking, the incumbents cite the Collier School District’s five-year streak of “A” ratings and a graduation rate that has improved to 92.7 percent in 2021 — among the highest in the state (District Fact Sheet). And they point out that the District is on track to be debt-free by 2026, even after construction of our newest high school (2022-23 Final Budget). And they say that by paying cash and not having to borrow to build the school, the District is saving taxpayers nearly $45 million in interest payments.

Broadly speaking, those challenging the incumbents are critical of the District and want to take it in a very different direction. A Collier County Republican Party campaign mailer says the opponents are “Fighting for the DeSantis Education Agenda.” They say this includes Keep Schools Open and Reject Lockdowns; Educate, Don’t Indoctrinate; Ensure Parental Rights in Education and Keep Woke Gender Ideology Out of Schools; and more.

District 1 – Jerry Rutherford


Jerry Rutherford

Jerry Rutherford, 85, moved to Southwest Florida from Orlando, FL, in 1982. After graduating from high school, he had a 20+ year career in life insurance sales and a 20+ year career as a painting contractor. Rutherford says on his website that he became politically active upon moving here, serving as Chairman of theChristian Coalition in Collier County in 1992 and 1993. He also founded and served as president for 10 years of World Changers of Florida, a local Christian organization that distributes free bibles to high school students, and served for 16 years in prison ministries.

Rutherford was a Collier County Public Schools (CCPS) substitute teacher for three years, and participated in the 2005-06 state textbook review committee. He attended School Board meetings for 35 years and addressed the Board more than 300 times during Public Comments.


“Rectitude. Reliability. Resilience.” proclaims Rutherford’s website. He pledges “to be a guardian to the children in regards to the literature and all material they are exposed to at Collier County Schools” and outlines eleven things he will do if elected. Among them are:

  • “…screening the books to ensure zero of these books break obscenity laws.”
  • “Bulletin boards, teaching plans, and student engagement need to be witnessed. Secular content will be balanced or removed. Bias and censorship will be eliminated….”
  • “…children are being chemically altered, then experiencing radiation from consistent over exposure from technology.” He “proposes ON SCHOOL GROUNDS, encouraging clean water consumption, physical exercise, and nutrient dense meals in placement of inactivity and pre-packed foods.”
  • “For years, LGBTQ programming books and educator propaganda has circulated within the Florida School System. Bi-products are suicide, depression, in addition to indoctrination and programming. [Jerry] will work to ensure this is not the persuasion of adults targeting vulnerable children with overt sexualization and exploitive posturing.”

Superintendent Search

Rutherford would look for these qualities in the next District Superintendent: honesty, integrity, ability to work with the school board. “They need to know what the problems are here before they get here so that they’ll know how to attack it.” A track record. “A good background check.” (NABOR Forum at 01:16:29)

Online Presence

In the News


Rutherford has been endorsed by Collier County Republicans and Alfie Oakes.

District 1 – Jory Westberry


Jory Westberry

Jory Westberry, 73, has a BA in Elementary Education, an M.Ed. in Educational Administration, and a Doctor of Education with Honors from the University of Miami. She is also a graduate of Leadership Marco, Leadership Collier and Leadership Florida.

A lifelong educator, Westberry taught in CCPS elementary and middle schools, winning the prestigious Golden Apple Teacher Award. She then served for 14 years as assistant principal and principal at Tommie Barfield Elementary School on Marco Island. After retiring in 2015, she became a mentor to new teachers and, in 2018, was elected to the School Board.


Westberry is running for reelection based on her experience as an educator. “I am ‘life-time’ committed to providing the best education I can for students,” she says on her website. “Excellent education is my mission and the reason I ran for the Collier County School Board.”

Addressing the current state of affairs in the District, she says, “Over the past months there has been a vocal minority that disrupts school board meetings, not only in Collier County, but coordinated across the US, ostensibly to make changes in policies and procedures. However, most of the policies and procedures they want to change are controlled by the State of Florida, the Florida Department of Education and the Federal Government. I will follow the laws.”

Superintendent Search

Westberry would look for these qualities in the next District Superintendent: experience at K-12, a background in education, integrity, and communicate fairly with all. (NABOR Forum at 01:19:20)

Online Presence

In the News


Westberry has been endorsed by Naples Better Government; Florida Education Association (FEA); and Collier TIGER, the political arm of CCEA-OCAP.

District 3 – Kelly Lichter


CCPS Kelly Lichter

Kelly Lichter, 43, holds a Bachelor’s Degree in History from Baldwin Wallace College and a Master’s Degree in Social Studies Education from Nova Southeastern University. She has worked with special needs children and taught US History, Economics, and Government at the high school level.

The mother of two is currently the board president of Mason Classical Academy (MCA), a Collier County public charter school she started with her husband in 2014. Lichter served on the Collier County School Board from 2014 to 2018. She says, “After watching what has gone on and what the current school board and school district have been doing [since I left the Board], it’s time to get back in the race and make some major changes.” (CCC Forum at 00:13:35)


Lichter told the Naples Daily News that her top three issues are academic achievement, the District’s “obscenely bloated” budget, and addressing political agendas by the current leadership. According to her website, she would address them as follows:

Academic Achievement: Implement the Core Knowledge Sequence, Singapore Math, and an Explicit Phonics program at CCPS to fundamentally transform our schools and correct the course of public education in Collier County.

District’s finances: Develop a five-year budget plan that includes a 5% shift each year from administrative expenses to teacher salaries and student-related expenses, and freeze the property tax millage rate to the current rollback rate for three years.

Political Agendas: Focusing on divisive political issues like social justice, transgender bathrooms, global warming, climate change, Critical Race Theory, and other socialist dogma must end. Mandating masks and COVID-19 vaccines is intolerable.


“As expressed by Members of the School Board at the Special Meeting/Hearing held on June 7, 2021, and reemphasized by the Superintendent at the School Board Meeting held on June 8, 2021, the School Board and the Superintendent do not support the teaching of Critical Race Theory (“CRT”) in its classrooms, and CRT is not and will not be part of the District curriculum and teaching and learning framework.”

Notice from the District School Board of Collier County and the Superintendent of Schools: Covid-19 Vaccinations & Critical Race Theory, CCPS District Announcement, 6/11/21

Superintendent Search

Lichter said she would look for these qualities in the next District Superintendent: honest; integrity; cares about accountability; transparency; supports charter schools; “isn’t interested in self-promotion — rather interested in acknowledging the issues that are going on and coming up with solutions with the Board.” (NABOR Forum at 00:56:11)

Online Presence

In the News


Lichter has been endorsed by Collier County Republicans; Patriot Parents; Christian Conservative Coalition; Stand for Health Freedom; Patriots for Florida; Lisa Stedman — Founder, CEO, and Director: Collier Citizens Against Sex Trafficking; Alfie Oakes; and DC Draino: Rogan O’Handley. (Via

District 3 – Jen Mitchell


CCPS Jen Mitchell

Jen Mitchell, 49, has a BA in elementary education from Purdue University. She taught for a year at Naples Park Elementary, then spent the next 18 years volunteering in her children’s classrooms and serving on their school PTOs and SACs. In  2011, she was one of several parents invited to serve on the Superintendent’s District Advisory Council. Three of her four children graduated from CCPS; her youngest is currently a junior in high school.

She returned to the workforce and became a Realtor in 2014, and in 2018 was elected to the School Board, where she now serves as Chair.

Mitchell currently also serves as the Essential Services Personnel representative on the Collier County Affordable Housing Advisory Committee.


“We have accomplished a lot since 2018, but there is still work to be done,” Mitchell says on her website. “We need a school board that will continue to set politics and personal agendas aside, collaborate, and focus on the nearly 48,000 students who are counting on us to get it right.”

Looking ahead, Mitchell wants to continue to:

  • improve student achievement, particularly in math and reading proficiency, and increase graduation rates;
  • attract and retain talented teachers;
  • maintain sound financial management practices;
  • develop the next Strategic Plan for the District alongside parents, educators, and other community stakeholders; and
  • expand Career and Technical education opportunities for students.

“I would love for the District to be part of the solution” to the problem of workforce housing, Mitchell said on her Candidate Questionnaire. “It would go a long way in helping with teacher retention. We [the District] currently have several parcels of land not slated for use in the next 20-30 years. Creating a community where we allow employees to lease either tiny homes or mobile homes for a reduced rate would allow us to make use of the land AND help our employees with housing.”

Regarding parental rights, Mitchell said, “I will always stand for a parent’s right to have a voice in their child’s education. CCPS works hard to foster open communication and involvement with parents and families.”

Superintendent Search

Mitchell said she would look for these qualities in the next District Superintendent: has a strategic vision for increasing student achievement; excellent communicator; community minded; fiscally responsible. (NABOR Forum at 00:58:11)

While she favors having an executive search firm on board before the election, Mitchell believes selecting a new superintendent should be up to the new Board. (Collier School Board District 3 Features Incumbent, Former Member and a Newcomer, Naples Daily News, 7/9/22)

Online Presence

In the News


Mitchell has been endorsed by Naples Better Government; Florida Education Association (FEA); and Collier TIGER, the political arm of CCEA-OCAP.

District 5 – Timothy Moshier


Timothy Moshier

Timothy Moshier is a graduate of Northwood University in Midland, Michigan, which he describes on his website as “a conservative free-enterprise college.” In 1994, he began a 27-year career with Ryder System, transferring from Ohio to Miami in 1997, where he worked in the transportation and logistics division until 2021.

The father of three and grandfather of four currently serves on the Ochopee Fire Board and the Town Compliance Board, and attends Everglades City Council and Special meetings.

According to his Facebook page, he is “a Son of the American Revolution” and is “pro life, pro police, conservative.” He stands against “CRT Critical Race Theory, Sexualization of our children, and Government Mandates over Parental Choice.”

Of his decision to run for School Board, Moshier says, “It all started with the mask mandate. I didn’t think we should be masking our children.” (NABOR Forum at 00:15:36)


Moshier’s platform is “to help develop a school system that teaches all children that achieving their goals will be backed by the Collier County School Board.”

He wants to address what he says is an out-of-balance ratio of non-teaching positions to teaching positions and the fact that “almost 40% of the students aren’t working on an at-level education.” (For background on this, click here.) And he says, “We need to get sexually explicit materials out of [the schools.]” (NABOR Forum at 00:15:36)

For the CCPS rebuttal of these myths, click here.

Superintendent Search

Moshier said he would look for these qualities in the next District Superintendent: someone who would “focus more on the almost 40% of the kids that are failing;” bring the community closer together; listen to what the parents have to say. (NABOR Forum at 00:36:39)

He also “would like to see the next superintendent be more like us, a faith-based person, has moral values, loves his country, with prayer and religion back in the school system. He also has some financial responsibility.” (CCC Forum, 01:00:46)

Online Presence

In the News

In addition to the articles linked above:


Moshier has been endorsed by The Collier County Republican Executive Committee (CCREC) and Alfie Oakes.

District 5 – Roy Terry


Roy Terry

Roy Terry, 80, has a B.S. from Western Maryland College (now McDaniel College) and a Master’s in Education from Colorado State University.

He has had a career in education, 44 years of which were in Collier County. He came to in Naples in 1978 as a teacher and coach at Naples High School, and subsequently served as athletic director, assistant principal, and principal. During that time, he supervised and designed Lely High School’s athletic field renovation and helped to plan, design, and supervise construction of Palmetto Ridge High School.

He was appointed by then-Gov. Charlie Crist to fill a vacancy on the School Board in 2010. After completing that term, he ran for election and is now seeking a third term.

Terry’s community involvement has included helping to plan, design, and supervise the construction of Cornerstone United Methodist Church, where he is now a member; Chairman of the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast; President of Naples Babe Ruth Baseball; Founder and President of Collier County Coaches Association; President of the Rotary Club of Immokalee; member of the Foundation for a Drug-Free Generation; and committee member for the Naples Hospice Larry Bird Golf Tournament. He has served on the board of the YMCA of Collier County, Collier County Education Foundation, South Florida Center for Educational Leadership, and as the District 6 Representative to the Florida School Boards Association.


Terry’s vision is “To provide a quality education for ALL students in Collier County so they can be successful In today’s ever changing world.”

Superintendent Search

Terry said he would look for these qualities in the next District Superintendent: works well with others; is trustworthy; knows the Florida law; is organized; works well with the community (NABOR Forum at 00:38:28); is morally sound (CCC Forum at 00:54:08)

Online Presence

In the News


Terry has been endorsed by Naples Better Government; The Hispanic Vote of SWFL; Florida Education Association (FEA); and Collier TIGER, the political arm of CCEA-OCAP.

Campaign Contributions

Here are the monetary contributions and expenditures reported by each candidate according to their most recent campaign treasurer’s reports:

I reviewed all the campaign contributions on 10/16/22. Of interest:

District 1

  • Rutherford received a $1,000 contribution from local business owner and Collier County Republican Party State Committeeman Francis “Alfie” Oakes, $518.59 from Collier County Republican Party Board Chairman Frank Schwerin, and $500 from former Collier County Commissioner Tom Henning. He also loaned his campaign $200. View contributions and expenditures here.
  • Westberry received contributions from former Collier County School Board members Julie Sprague and Barbara Berry. View contributions and expenditures here.

District 3

  • Lichter received a $1,000 contribution from Alfie Oakes, a total of $1,000 from attorney Steven Bracci, and a total of $1,300 from former Collier County Commissioner Tom Henning. She also received $500 from Collier County Republican Party Chairman Frank Schwerin. She loaned the campaign $5,000 and she and her husband contributed a total of $520. View contributions and expenditures here.
  • Mitchell received $1,000 contributions from the Collier TIGER PAC, Collier County Affordable Housing Advisory Committee Chairman Joe Trachtenberg, former Collier Republican Party Chairman and current CCCVPAC Director Michael Lyster, and First Florida Integrity Bank President & CEO Garrett Richter. She also received contributions from former CCPS School Board members Barbara Berry, Kathleen Curatolo, and Julie Sprague. She loaned her campaign $7,000 and made personal contributions to the campaign totaling $2,783. View contributions and expenditures here.

District 5

  • Moshier provided the vast majority of his contributions in the form of personal loans totaling $61,500. He also received $1,100 from Collier County Republican Party Chair Frank Schwerin. In addition, he received contributions from District 2 Collier Commission candidate Chris Hall, District 4 Collier Commissioner-elect Dan Kowal, District 4 Collier Commission “Write-In” candidate William Oppenheimer, District 3 School Board candidate Kelly Lichter, and Florida Citizens Alliance CEO and cofounder Keith Flaugh. View contributions and expenditures here.
  • Terry received a $1,000 contribution from the Collier TIGER PAC. He also received contributions from former CCPS School Board members Barbara Berry, Kathleen Curatolo, and Julie Sprague, and loaned his campaign $1,500. View contributions and expenditures here.

Primary Sources

Most of what I learned came from two School Board candidate forums held before the primaries and the candidates’ responses to my School Board candidate questionnaires.

I encourage you to draw your own conclusions by watching or reading them yourself:

Final Thoughts

Remember — all Collier voters may vote for one candidate in each of the three School Board races on the ballot, regardless of where you live or your party affiliation. Election Day is November 8.

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