Collier County School Board Update — February 2023

Collier County School Board Update

In February, the Collier County school board adopted new CCPS vision and mission statements and agreed upon five priorities to serve as the basis for the district’s next multi-year strategic plan.

In addition, the board discussed the possible use of a 35-acre parcel of district property for workforce housing and the results of an employee engagement and culture survey.

The board also adopted a 2024-25 academic calendar and scheduled a workshop to discuss the district’s internal audit process and the role to be played by a to-be-formed Audit Committee.

Finally, on Feb. 21, the board held the first of several work sessions to review existing school board policies.

Collier County School Board

Vision, Mission, Priorities

The vision and mission statements and school board priorities were developed collaboratively at a Jan. 30 work session led by Sandra Eaton, CCPS Chief of Staff, and modified after further discussion at the subsequent Feb. 13 school board meeting. Watch the recording of the work session here and the board meeting here.


The board fairly quickly agreed on the new vision statement:


Of note during the development of the mission was whether and how to include the word American.

The mission statement drafted by the board at the work session included the phrase American citizen. But Ms. Eaton told the board at the Feb. 13 meeting that subsequent public and staff comments on the draft noted that the district has a large population of students and workforce who are not American citizens. As a result, she said staff suggested dropping the word. (Recording at 3:23:08)

Lichter acknowledged the diversity of the district but said that she “firmly believe[s] this is an important part of our mission. We are, in a sense, creating American citizens, and we should be proud of our country,” she said. (Recording at 3:23:58)

Board member Stephanie Lucarelli said she wants “all students and staff to feel that they are a part of our mission and vision and not have anyone feel excluded.”

Ultimately, the board reached a compromise that retained the word American concerning members of culture instead of citizens:


Five priorities to serve as the basis of the district’s future work and strategic plan were also adopted unanimously on Feb. 13.

As with the vision and mission statements, the priorities were developed collaboratively during a work session on Jan. 30 and further discussed and modified before adoption on Feb. 13.

Of particular note during the discussion was whether to specify Exceptional Student Education (ESE) as one of the priorities. While board members agreed that ESE was important, they ultimately decided that a statement about programming options for all students was more appropriate than singling out one group. They instructed staff to include specific attention to ESE in the detailed strategic plan.

The agreed-upon school board priorities are:


  • Implement a knowledge-based curriculum aligned with state standards
  • Improve math and literacy learning outcomes
  • Refine academic programming options for all students
  • Expand and enhance post-secondary options
  • Cultivate civic literacy and critical thinking

Culture and Climate

  • Broaden collaboration with community stakeholders for student-centered decision-making
  • Support and motivate all employees by refocusing resources and ensuring consistent leadership

Fiscal Responsibility

  • Maximize return on investment
  • Examine cost-saving opportunities

Human Resources

  • Differentiate staffing
  • Differentiate total compensation package


  • Implement consistent enforcement of the Code of Student Conduct
  • Examine student safety and implement enhancements

Next Steps

District staff will use the vision statement, mission statement, and board priorities to draft objectives and metrics for the board to consider in developing the next district strategic plan.

Essential Housing

Associate General Counsel Brian Wilson updated the board about the potential usage of district property for housing for district teachers and staff (and possibly first responders) until the land is needed to develop a new school in the future. (View presentation here.)

The “Manatee Property” is a 35-acre site adjacent to Manatee Elementary School located off Manatee Road that is not currently in the district’s 20-year plan. It is currently zoned for single-family use (four units per acre) so it would require an amendment to the county’s Growth Management Plan and rezoning to a Planned Unit Development.

The district received six responses from developers to its Request for Information about the potential construction of essential housing complexes on its property.

Mr. Wilson concluded by discussing several things for the board to consider:

  • Zoning (9–23 months to rezone)
  • Return on investment for the developer
  • Fair Housing Laws (limitations on restrictions for use)
  • Other county initiatives
  • Fiscal impact

Regarding other county initiatives, Wilson specifically mentioned the county’s recent Allura development in North Naples. That 350-apartment complex includes 55 units designated for “workforce” housing and 31 units for people making about $47,000 or less. He said that fewer than three teachers had salaries low enough to meet the income requirements. (See also Affordable housing crisis looking for help from Collier County officials, WINK News, 6/7/22)

While Stephanie Lucarelli spoke in favor of using the Manatee Property to provide temporary assistance to district employees, no others voiced their support. Erick Carter then said that Sen. Kathleen Passidomo’s Affordable Housing bill might provide opportunities.

After discussion, the board decided to defer further consideration of the Manatee Property until after the legislative session ends in May.

Employee Engagement and Culture Survey

At the request of the board, district staff surveyed employees in January about the climate and culture of the district pre-December, i.e., before hiring a new superintendent.

Assistant Superintendent Valerie Wenrich presented the results of the survey and an overview of how the district will use the survey platform (Culture Amp) to develop action plans with the survey results. (See presentation slides here.)

The survey specifically sought to learn how engaged staff members are with the district because engagement is a measure of people’s connection and commitment to the organization and its goals. By lifting engagement, the district believes it can impact performance, innovation, retention, and attraction of talent.

The district received 3,534 responses from 7,216 employees surveyed, a 50 percent response rate. This is well below the desired response rate between 75–90 percent, but to be expected since this is the first time the district conducted such a survey.

That said, the district’s engagement score was 70 percent. The survey asked participants to rate these statements: I would recommend Collier County Schools as a great place to work; I am proud to work for Collier County Schools; I rarely think about looking for a job at another company; and I see myself still working at Collier County Schools in two years’ time.

The district’s highest ratings were in response to: I know what I need to do to be successful in my role; the work I am doing makes good use of my strengths; and I know how my work contributes to the goals of Collier County Schools.

The lowest ratings were in response to: When it is clear that someone is not delivering in their role, we do something about it; I believe action will take place as a result of this survey; and the executive leaders at Collier County Schools have communicated a vision that motivates me.

Wenrich told board members that companies that choose a single focus are most successful at driving change. She asked which identified improvement opportunities they would like the district to focus on first. The board’s consensus was to show that action is taken as a result of the survey.

2024-25 Academic Calendar

Ms. Wenrich made a presentation to board members about the process by which the district develops its academic calendar. (View presentation here.)

She explained that a Calendar Workgroup drafts a proposal for board consideration that meets state requirements and, to the extent possible, eight district priorities. For example, the first district priority is to always focus on student learning and ensure there is an appropriate amount of time for instruction.

The Calendar Workgroup is made up of:

  • district administrators,
  • representatives of the collective bargaining units that represent teachers, non-instructional staff, and transportation, maintenance, and nutrition services,
  • a representative for summer school,
  • a representative from the community, and
  • two parent representatives, one from a Title one school and one from a non-Title one school, from each level (elementary, middle, high).

After considerable discussion, the board unanimously agreed to a series of changes to the proposal. A revised calendar will be brought back for final approval at the next board meeting.

Audit Committee

The board unanimously agreed to create a CCPS Audit Committee and scheduled a work session for Mar. 20 at 9 am to learn about the district’s many audits and develop a policy to govern the new committee.

Review of Policies

On Feb. 21, the board held the first of several work sessions to review existing school board policies. (See the 21 policies reviewed at the meeting and the staff’s proposed changes to each of them here.)

Board members had no comments on 19 of the 21 policies. The two policies they did discuss were Policy 0169.1 – Public Participation at Board Meetings and Policy 3362 – Nondiscrimination, Equal Opportunity, and Zero Tolerance for Discriminatory and Harassing Misconduct by Staff.

Public Participation at Board Meetings

Staff proposed changes to Policy 0169.1 – Public Participation at Board Meetings to address the inefficiency of having a public speaker come to the podium multiple times to address multiple consent agenda items.

Lucarelli and Carter expressed concern about limiting the public’s ability to be heard, especially since consent agenda items frequently involve the expenditure of district funds.

Lichter, Moshier, and Rutherford felt there were other ways for the public to ask questions or express their input.

The board unanimously reached a compromise to limit each speaker to one trip to the podium to address the board about any number of consent agenda items per meeting. Acknowledging the need for more than three minutes to address multiple items, they will allow four minutes for a speaker to address two items and five minutes to address three or more items.

The revised policy will come forward for a second reading.

Nondiscrimination, Equal Opportunity, and Zero Tolerance for Discriminatory and Harassing Misconduct by Staff

Staff proposed changes to Policy 3362 – Nondiscrimination, Equal Opportunity, and Zero Tolerance for Discriminatory and Harassing Misconduct by Staff to align the policy with Florida statute and a recommendation from the Department of Justice. See the proposal here.

Jerry Rutherford disagreed with the proposed change. He asked to have reference to sexual orientation, gender identity, and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) removed from the policy. (Recording at 52:27.)

Ms. Wenrich and School Board General Counsel Jonathan Fishbane explained the specifics of the federal and state laws requiring the change, and the proposal remained as presented. (Recording at 53:39.)

The policy will come forward for a second reading with no changes.

The next School Board meeting will be on Mar. 7 at Immokalee Technical College (iTech) in Immokalee. See the agenda for that meeting here.

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