In this post, I share what I learned about the Collier County School Board candidates running in District 3: Jana Greer, Kelly Lichter, and incumbent Jen Mitchell. For each, I summarize their education and work experience, campaign platform, and campaign contributions, as well as what they say they would look for in choosing the Collier County School District’s next superintendent. I also provide many opportunities for you to learn more.
If you are a Collier voter, you may vote in this election, regardless of where you live or your party affiliation. Election Day is August 23.
Most of what I learned came from two School Board candidate forums and the candidates’ responses to my School Board candidate questionnaires. I encourage you to draw your own conclusions by watching and/or reading them yourself:
- Christian Conservative Coalition (CCC) Candidate Forum, May 21, 2022
- NABOR/Naples Better Government Candidate Forum, Jun. 21, 2022
- Sparker’s Soapbox Candidate Questionnaires
See also my previous post, The Collier County School Board Elections: Setting the Stage, where I reviewed the role of the School Board, why you should care, and information about the Collier County School Board and its Superintendent, Kamela Patton, and How I Research Candidates.
After graduating from high school and studying massage therapy, Greer, 39, became a doula. She has worked in customer service, management, ministry, technology, operations, and training. She also homeschooled her six children, although her children now go to Collier County schools. Currently, she is a consultant in the flexible workspace industry.
“Faith in God is what brought me to Southwest Florida,” she says on her website, “and now I feel that God is calling me to serve on the School Board. When BLM [Black Lives Matter] and Pride flags are allowed in classrooms, but the Bible isn’t, something’s very wrong.”
“I am running because it is time to restore American values back to America’s classrooms. For too long now, the sick and twisted socialists have gone after our children,” she says in a campaign video, speaking as a photo of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez appears onscreen, “while the School Board has done nothing to stop it. It has to end. And I will make sure it does.”
Her website lists these as her Issues:
“Conservative Values: In today’s classrooms, conservative values are rare. Students are taught a revisionist history of America that’s twisted to fit a dangerous left-wing worldview. It’s time to fix that.”
“Parents Know Best: Why are big-government bureaucrats deciding what our kids need to learn? It’s not the government’s job to raise the next generation — it’s ours. Keep the government out of classrooms, and give the power back to parents.”
“End Leftist Theories: Our children are being taught Critical Race Theory and that gender is a made-up concept, yet the Bible is considered inappropriate. We need to re-align the goal of Collier County education: to teach students HOW to think, not WHAT to think.”
“American Exceptionalism: Make no mistake: the USA is the greatest nation on Earth. Nevertheless, our students are being taught that the Founding Fathers were the bad guys, American troops are villains, and the Pledge of Allegiance is racist. When I’m on the School Board, we’ll put America First once again.”
“Affordable housing is not a direct responsibility of the district,” Greer said in response to my Candidate Questionnaire. “What is the responsibility of the district is to pay a wage that is relative to the cost of living in the county as well as the experience that the person has.”
Greer said she would look for these qualities in the next District Superintendent: has been or is currently a parent; honesty; integrity; understands and has a passion for education. Has competency to manage and run a billion-dollar budget, but “through the board’s authority because they are to be under the board.” (NABOR Forum at 00:57:32)
- Website — www.votegreer.com
- Facebook — Jana Greer for Collier County School Board
- Twitter — @jana_greer
- YouTube — Jana Greer
- LinkedIn – Jana Greer
- Endorsed by Florida State Reps. Anthony Sabatini and Spencer Roach, Collier County Patriot Lois Bolin, United Christians for America, Liberty Pro-Life and the Abolish Abortion PAC, via Jana Greer Facebook Post, 6/20/22
- Campaign Contributions through 7/8/22
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)
While on the board, Lichter battled with the district over operations of MCA. More recently, she is a party to several lawsuits involving the charter school that are still pending. For more on the battles and litigation, see Collier School Board District 3 features incumbent, former member and a newcomer, Naples Daily News, 7/9/22
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: Lichter wants to “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: Lichter wants the School Board to “develop a five-year budget plan that includes a 5% shift each year from administrative expenses to teacher salaries and student-related expenses.” She also wants to “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 if we want to improve the District’s outcomes,” Lichter says. She also says, “mandating masks and COVID-19 vaccines is intolerable.”
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)
- Website — kellylichter.com
- Facebook — Kelly Lichter for Collier County School Board
- LinkedIn — Kelly Lichter
- Video — “A message for [CCPS Legal Counsel] Jon Fishbane” via Unofficial: Iron Lady Facebook Page, 11/12/20
- Endorsements — 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; DC Draino: Rogan O’Handley — via kellylichter.com/endorsements
- Campaign Contributions through 7/8/22
- In the news:
- “Southwest Florida speakers include … Collier County Commissioner candidate Chris Hall, Collier County School Board candidate Kelly Lichter … and conservative Naples grocer Alfie Oakes.” Conservative and far-right speakers to headline third Patriot Fest this weekend in Naples, Naples Daily News, 3/15/22
- “Lichter, who has served on the board since 2014, said she was dismayed by the ‘hatred and vitriol’ she said she has been subjected to as a board member.” Kelly Lichter won’t run for re-election to Collier County School Board, Naples Daily News, 2/19/18
- “[School Board] Member Kelly Lichter voted for bringing back the prayer [before each School Board meeting].” Man wants prayer at school board meetings, FOX News, 5/11/16
Jen Mitchell, Incumbent
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. “My role as a local businesswoman, combined with my years as a CCPS parent, volunteer, and school board member, have heightened my understanding of the importance of great public schools,” she says.
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.”
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)
- Website — www.votejenmitchell.com
- Facebook — Jen Mitchell
- Twitter — Jen Mitchell CCPS
- Endorsements — Naples Better Government; Collier TIGER
- Video — Clip from School Board meeting posted by Patriot Project, 5/9/21
- Campaign Contributions through 7/8/22
- In the news:
- “I think it speaks to the fact that we have the hardest working administrators, teachers in the state of Florida,” said Mitchell. Collier County schools get top marks in state assessment, WINK News. 7/7/22
- “Mitchell said picking the next superintendent will be a joint effort between the community and the board.” Collier County public school to search for new superintendent soon, WINK News, 6/14/22
Here are the monetary contributions and expenditures reported by each candidate according to their most recent campaign treasurer’s reports:
For details, download files at the above “Campaign Contribution” links.
I reviewed all the campaign contribution reports online on Jul. 9, 2022. Of interest:
- Greer received a $1,000 contribution from Friends of Spencer Roach PAC. Contributions also include personal loans totaling $2,500 to the campaign. Her expenditures include payments of $1,000 to Jana CCT Greer Productions for campaign videos and $260 to John CTT Greer for signage.
- Lichter received a $1,000 contribution from local business owner and Collier County Republican Party State Committeeman Alfie Oakes. She also received $500 each from Collier County Republican Party Chair Frank Schwerin, 2016 CCPS School Board candidate Louise Penta, former Collier County Commissioner Tom Henning, and attorney Steven Bracci. She loaned the campaign $5,000 and she and her husband contributed a total of $520.
- Mitchell received $1,000 contributions from the Collier TIGER PAC, local land-use attorney Richard Yovanovich, and Joe Trachtenberg, volunteer chairman of the Collier County Affordable Housing Advisory Committee. She also received contributions from former CCPS School Board members Barbara Berry and Kathleen Curatolo, and made a personal contribution to the campaign of $2,500.
Each of the three candidates has different skills, abilities, work and life experience, values, and views of the role of government.
If a candidate receives more than 50 percent of the votes cast, she/he will be the winner. If not, the top two vote getters will face off in the general election in November.
I urge all Collier voters to register and vote in this important election. If you have questions about any of the candidates, I urge you to contact them directly. If you have questions or need additional information about the election itself, visit the Collier County Supervisor of Elections website or call 239-252-8683.