Collier County School Board Update – Part 1

Collier County School Board Update

In my last several Collier Schools posts, I wrote extensively about the School Board’s search and ultimate 3 – 2 vote to hire Dr. Leslie Ricciardelli as its next superintendent.

The hiring of a superintendent is one of the School Board’s most important responsibilities, and the current need to do so is a direct result of the 2022 school board elections. If you are not familiar with the history to date, I urge you to take a look at some of my prior posts.

In this post, I report on Alfie Oakes’ lawsuit to stop the School Board from hiring Ricciardelli. She has been interim superintendent since December and a contract for her to become the new superintendent has not yet been signed. Despite the lawsuit, the Board intends to finalize the contract at its regular meeting on Jun. 13, as explained below.

I also write about another important matter to be considered by the Board in the coming week, the Guardian Program; provide an update on the School Board attorney search; and close with information about the CCPS Summer Reading Program.

Collier County School Board
The Collier County School Board

The Oakes Lawsuit

On May 17, Naples grocer Francis Alfred “Alfie” Oakes filed a lawsuit to stop the School Board from entering into a contract with Dr. Ricciardelli, claiming the process the Board used in the selection process violated the state’s Sunshine Law. (Lawsuit Case # 11-2023-CA-002009-0001-XX here)

Who is Alfie Oakes? What to know about the Naples businessman suing the Collier County School Board, The News-Press, 5/23/23

“Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine law provides a right of access to governmental proceedings at both the state and local levels,” according to Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s website. “It applies to any gathering of two or more members of the same board to discuss some matter which will foreseeably come before that board for action.”

Violations of the Sunshine Law can result in removal from office, noncriminal infractions, and criminal penalties.

Oakes’s Complaint

Oakes, represented by his attorney Steven J. Bracci, claims that the School Board delegated to a search firm Hazard Young Atea Associates (“HYA”) the “decision-making” function of screening candidates, conducting reference checks, identifying the best-qualified candidates, and presenting a recommended slate of candidates to the School Board.

According to his Complaint:
“By delegation, HYA became the alter-ego of the School Board for purposes of deciding on the recommended slate of candidates. That decision-making process occurred privately, without public notice, without the right of public observation, and without minutes taken. By that process, Oakes and the public was [sic] denied the right of first-hand access to the decision-making process whereby ten (10) candidates were selected from a field of 45.

Therefore, he asks the Court to temporarily stop the Board from entering into a contract with Ricciardelli, “thereby preserving the status quo,” and rule that the Board violated the Sunshine Law in its process of selecting a new superintendent.

The School Board’s Response

On May 30, the School Board, represented by its outside attorney Sam Zeskind, with the law firm of Weiss Serota Hellman Cole + Bierman, P.L., filed a Motion to Dismiss the case.

According to their Motion:
“HYA is a private contractor that was delegated only fact-finding responsibilities…. Florida law is clear that HYA is, therefore, not subject to the requirements of the Sunshine Law.”

Even if there was a Sunshine Law violation, they continue in the Motion:
“it was cured through three subsequent public meetings during which the School Board considered the applicants, narrowed the list of candidates, and took final action in the sunshine by selecting a new superintendent. Importantly, during three critical public meetings, the School Board actually added a candidate to the list of finalists, used a ranking matrix to narrow the field, further narrowed the field to two candidates, and then ultimately selected the next superintendent.”

Therefore, they say, there was no Sunshine Law violation and the Complaint should be dismissed.

The Court Hearing

The case was heard via Zoom on June 8 before Collier County Circuit Court Judge Joseph G. Foster. Each party presented its case, after which Foster said he would give his decision “as soon as I can.”

In the News

Read local news coverage about the Oakes’ lawsuit here:

Support local journalism!

Superintendent Contract

Despite the lawsuit, according to its posted agendas, the Board plans to review, discuss, and finalize its contract with Dr. Ricciardelli this week.

June 12 Work Session

At a School Board Work Session on Jun. 12 (Agenda), the board intends to “review and discuss the Employment Agreement, the final proposed Employment Agreement, and the Revised Proposed Employment Agreement” dated Jun. 6, 2023. (Agenda Item F4)

Dr. Leslie Ricciardelli
Dr. Leslie Ricciardelli

The term of the Revised Proposed Employment Agreement is three years, beginning Jul. 1, 2023. “The Board will not extend this Agreement during the term hereof. At the January 2026 board meeting prior to the end of the term of this Agreement, the Board will meet to discuss the renewal of this Agreement; including the length of the term for such renewal upon its conclusion.”

The annual base salary in the Revised Proposed Employment Agreement is $305,000.

The Jun. 12 meeting will begin at 9 a.m. (Time Certain) at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Administrative Center, 5775 Osceola Trail, Naples, and streamed live on and The Education Channel (Cable Channel 99).

June 13 Board Meeting

At a Regular School Board Meeting on Jun. 13 (Agenda), the Board intends to finalize the superintendent’s Employment Agreement that will have been reviewed and discussed at the Jun. 12 Work Session. (Consent Agenda Item D2)

The Jun. 13 meeting will begin at 4:30 p.m. (Time Certain) at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Administrative Center, 5775 Osceola Trail, Naples, and streamed live on and The Education Channel (Cable Channel 99).

School Guardian Program

Also on the consent agenda for the Jun. 13 board meeting is a proposed job description for the new position of School Guardian.


Florida Department of Education - Establishing the Guardian Program

At its meeting on May 9, School Board Vice-Chair Tim Moshier recommended that the Board discuss and implement a Guardian Program.

According to the Florida Department of Education website:

”The Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program was established in 2018 through the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. In its initial report, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission found that having Guardians in schools is the best way to ensure highly trained personnel are in place to respond immediately in the event of a school shooting.

“Guardians are armed personnel who aid in the prevention or abatement of active assailant incidents on school premises. They are either school employees who volunteer to serve in addition to official job duties or personnel hired for the specific purpose of serving as a school guardian. Guardians must pass psychological and drug screenings, and successfully complete a minimum of 144 hours of training.

“The 2019 Legislature expanded the Guardian program to include Class D and G licensed security guards as well as certain school district or charter school employees who volunteer to participate in the program.

It’s Controversial

It is a controversial program, to say the least:

Currently, 46 of Florida’s 67 counties are participating in the Guardian Program.

Proposed Job Description

The School District’s proposed job description is here. It clearly states that “this is not a law enforcement position.”


Among the listed education/experience requirements to be a CCPS School Guardian are the following:

  • High school diploma or General Education Development (GED) certificate and a minimum of two years of military, law enforcement or security experience. Military experience should be documented as an honorable discharge or retirement.
  • A license to carry a concealed weapon or firearm, issued in accordance with Section 790.06, Florida Statutes.
  • Must be at least 21 years of age.
  • Experience with safe use of firearms.
  • Experience with safe use of tasers, pepper spray and/or batons.
  • Successful completion of initial and ongoing training and instruction as required by Florida Statute, Title V, Chapter 30, Section 15, as a condition of employment.
  • Must successfully complete annual ongoing trainings in weapons inspection and firearm qualifications.
  • Must pass a psychological evaluation.
  • Must complete at least 12 hours of a certified nationally recognized diversity training program.
  • Must submit to and pass an initial drug test and subsequent random screenings.

License Requirements

Among the listed certificate/license requirements are the following:

  • A State of Florida (F.S.S. 790.06, Florida State Statutes) concealed weapons or firearms permit at the applicant’s expense prior to employment and must maintain the permit throughout employment in this position.
  • Successful completion of a minimum of 144-hour training from Sheriff’s Office and to obtain and maintain a School Guardian Certificate and training for concealed carry weapon permit as a condition of employment and ongoing certification and training.
  • Active Red Cross First Aid and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) certification throughout duration of employment in this position.


Among the 19 listed responsibilities are the following:

  • Assists school administration and law enforcement as needed.
  • Conducts perimeter and internal school checks to ensure premises are secure.
  • Reports confrontations between students, parents, visitors, community members and others to the Youth Relations Bureau Duty and school administration.
  • Manage school access by monitoring gates and other entry points throughout the school.
  • Monitors students within a variety of school environments on a continuous basis (before, during, and after-school/evening events) to maintain a high level of visibility during the school day and events across the campus … for the purpose of ensuring the safety and welfare of students.
  • Provides security and surveillance to school campuses, parking lots and grounds.
  • Provides support in school and district emergency situations and participates in all school emergency drills (fire, lockdown, active shooter, hostage etc.) under the direction of the administration.

School Board Attorney

The board’s use of an outside law firm to represent them in the Oake’s case reminded me that the last I’d written about the school board’s search to fill a newly-created school board attorney position was in February.

If you are unfamiliar with the history, see my prior posts of Jan. 21, Jan. 29, and Feb. 17.

At its Mar. 7 meeting, the board unanimously approved a revised school board attorney job description but also agreed to consider hiring an outside law firm to provide those services.

It subsequently interviewed and voted to retain the one law firm that expressed interest in the position, Weiss Serota Hellman Cole + Bierman, P.L., on Apr. 24. The vote was 4 – 1, with Board member Jerry Rutherford in opposition.

CCPS Classics

While visiting the CCPS website in preparation for writing this post, I noticed a section I hadn’t seen before, CCPS Summer Learning:

”Summer is here! As students enjoy a little bit of rest and relaxation, Collier County Public School also wants to make sure they have learning activities that help them get ready for the next school [year]! Enjoy the CCPS Classics reading list below along with virtual field trips you can explore and information about the Collier County Public Library Summer Reading Program.”

Watch the Video

In a brief video, Board Chair Kelly Lichter and Interim Superintendent Leslie Ricciardelli introduce CCPS Classics. “In the end, you will learn the ultimate lesson,” Lichter says about the first featured book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter. “There are consequences to our actions.’”

Check out the CCPS Classics Reading Lists here:

In Part 2 of this post, I’ll share what happens at this week’s upcoming School Board meetings. Stay tuned.

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