Collier School Board Selects Superintendent Semi-Finalists

Collier Superintendent Semi-Finalists Chosen

Dr. Jerry E. Gibson, Dr. Leslie C. Ricciardelli, Dr. Marianne P. Simon, and Mr. Charles E. Van Zant, Jr. were invited for first-round interviews for the open Collier County Superintendent of Schools position. They were chosen by the School Board at a meeting on Apr. 5 from a group of more than 40 applicants for the job.

Three local sources have published about the superintendent search. (See Background, below). So in this post, I will share some additional things I learned from watching the 2-hour video recording of the Apr. 5 meeting, including how the four semi-finalists were selected.


When former Collier County Superintendent Kamela Patton resigned in December, the Board unanimously chose Deputy Superintendent Leslie Ricciardelli to serve as Interim Superintendent, a decision Patton supported. (See Local Government News for May–December 2022, 12/26/22.)

Previously, the Board selected Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates (HYA) to conduct its search for Patton’s replacement.

After a presentation by HYA at a special meeting in December, the Board approved a salary for the position ($285,000) and agreed on desired candidate experience, qualifications, negotiations, and a timeline. (Agenda Items and meeting minutes here.)

On Feb. 6, working with HYA, the Board adopted a “leadership profile” and desired characteristics to be used to develop a comprehensive job profile and job posting for the superintendent search. The profile was based on input from over 7,500 residents who completed a survey and almost 500 residents who provided input in person. (Agenda Items and meeting minutes here.)

The 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 on Feb. 13 (Agenda Items here.)

For more, see CCPS Superintendent Search website and my posts Collier County School Board Update – January 2023 and Collier County School Board Update — February 2023.

In addition, three local sources have published about the superintendent process:

The Applicants

HYA received 45 applications during the national recruitment process that ended on Mar. 25. One of the applications subsequently withdrew. See the 45 applications here.

The applicant pool was geographically diverse. Thirteen came from Florida; the rest came from 14 other states. Twenty-five applicants hold doctorate degrees (PhD/EdD/JD), two hold Ed Specialist degrees (the same course work as a doctorate but without a dissertation), and the rest (18) hold master’s degrees.

Application Materials

The materials submitted by the applicants include a cover letter, a resume, a completed online application form, and a list of references.

The interview packets available for public review include the application materials as well as summaries prepared by HYA of “What References Say” in response to several questions:

  • How would you describe the candidate’s leadership style and ability to work with diverse stakeholder groups that have different priorities?
  • When I Google the candidate, what am I going to find that people are saying about the candidate?
  • What do you consider the candidate’s greatest strengths?
  • What do you consider the candidate’s greatest challenges or areas for improvement?
  • How will the candidate react in a crisis?
  • Would you describe the candidate as an educational leader or manager or both?
  • Is there anything else you would like to share about the candidate or who else might be able to provide an assessment on the candidate’s leadership skills?

The Slate

Collier Superintendent slate candidates
Slated Candidate Demographics

HYA reviewed the 44 remaining applications and references submitted and at the Apr. 5 board meeting, recommended a slate of ten candidates for the Board to review and rank. Five of the slated candidates are from Florida. Seven hold doctorate degrees and three hold master’s degrees.

HYA verbally gave the Board “thumbnail summaries” of each of the ten candidates’ backgrounds and the comments provided by their references. They then asked if any board member wanted to add any other applicants to the slate for consideration.

Tim Moshier

Tim Moshier is the only one who wanted additions, saying he “liked Mitchell and Thompson.” Ms. Nissa Mitchell is the Assistant Principal of Mason Classical Academy charter school. Dr. Stephen L. Thompson is the Chief Operations Officer of Akron (OH) Public Schools.

HYA VP Dr. William Adams said their firm had Googled Thompson and that some things came up that caused them to conclude he did not meet the Board’s criteria, including a prior DUI. Kelly Lichter said she, too, had Googled Thompson and agreed with Adams. With that, Moshier agreed not to add Thompson to the slate.

Regarding Mitchell, “while she has a stellar resume,” Adams said, “her highest level of administration was assistant principal.” Stephanie Lucarelli and Erick Carter concurred that Mitchell didn’t merit inclusion in the slate due to her relative lack of experience.

Lichter initially said she would not weigh in since her position as chair of the board of Mason Classical Academy created a conflict of interest. But when, despite her lack of experience, Moshier still wanted Mitchell included in the slate, Lichter agreed, “in deference to our fellow board member.”

Ranking the Slate

HYA explained the “Delphi Technique” that would be used to narrow the field from the slate of 11 candidates to a smaller number to bring in for in-person interviews. “Essentially the technique requires each governing body member to independently make a forced choice by head-to-head comparison of each candidate.” The highest score a candidate could receive was 50 (i.e. ranked 10 by all five board members).

The ranking, below, shows that Interim Superintendent Leslie Ricciardelli received the highest score, 46. She was ranked highest by all board members except Moshier, who ranked her sixth.

Collier Superintendent semi-finalist candidate ranking
Semi-Finalist Candidate Ranking

Adams pointed out that based on the Delphi rankings, the four candidates with scores of 30 or above clearly rose to the top. Agreeing, the board voted unanimously to invite the four for first-round interviews on Apr. 19.

The Semi-Finalists

These are the four semi-finalists who have been invited to interview:

Dr. Jerry E. Gibson

Dr. Jerry Gibson
Dr. Jerry Gibson
  • Current: Superintendent of the Galveston Independent School District in Texas.
  • 2016-2021: Superintendent of the Marshall Independent School District in Texas
  • 2013-2016: Superintendent of the Coldspring-Oakhurst Consolidated Independent School District in Texas.
  • 2011-2013: Executive Director of Secondary Education for the Waco Independent School District in Texas.
  • 2010-2011: Principal of Whitney High School in Texas.
  • 2007-2010: Principal of Deweyville High School in Texas.
  • He has also been an Assistant Principal, Teacher, and Coach.

Full application packet

Dr. Leslie C. Ricciardelli

Dr. Leslie Ricciardelli
Dr. Leslie Ricciardelli
  • Current: Interim Superintendent of the Collier County School District.
  • March 2022-December 2022: Deputy Superintendent of the Collier County School District.
  • 2021-2022: School Leadership and Performance Officer for the Collier County School District.
  • 2020-2021: Assistant Superintendent of School Leadership for the Collier County School District.
  • 2015-2020: Executive Director of Teacher and Learning for the Collier County School District.
  • She has also been a Principal, Assistant Principal, Dean of Attendance and Discipline, and ESE Specialist in Collier County Public Schools.

Full application packet

Dr. Marianne P. Simon

Dr. Marianne Simon
Dr. Marianne Simon
  • Current: Elementary Region Superintendent for Duval County Public Schools in Florida.
  • 2007-2019: Principal, Duval County Public Schools in Florida.
    • 2018-2019: Principal of Arlington Heights Elementary.
    • 2014-2018: Principal of Reynolds Land Elementary.
    • 2011-2014: Principal of Waterleaf Elementary.
    • 2007-2011: Principal of Woodland Acres Elementary.
  • She has also been an Assistant Principal, ESE Reading Specialist, and ESE Teacher in Duval County Public Schools.

Full application packet

Charles E. Van Zant, Jr.

Mr. Charles Van Zant
Mr. Charles Van Zant

HYA described Mr. Van Zant as a “nontraditional hybrid candidate” whose experience includes positions in teaching, as an elected school board member, in the private sector, military leadership, and governance.

  • 2020-2022: Human Resource Officer for the United States Army, Florida National Guard.
  • 2017-2019: Executive Director of Business Development for Meteor Education in Gainesville, FL.
  • 1998-2016: Clay County School District in Florida.
    • 2012-2016: Superintendent of the Clay County School District in Green Cove Springs, Florida.
    • 1998-2012: School Board Member for the Clay County School Board.
  • He has also held many positions from 1989 through 2022 for the United States Army and Florida National Guard.

Full application packet

The Apr. 19 Interview Process

The four semifinalists will be invited to interview in a public School Board meeting on Apr. 19 beginning at 8:00 am. HYA suggested a one-hour interview for each candidate including an opening statement by the candidate, 45 minutes of Q&A, followed by each candidate’s closing statement.

Board members agreed that each would choose three questions to be asked on the 19th based on the desired characteristics previously identified by the Board. The questions will either come from the sample questions provided by HYA (from Appendix A of the presentation) or from the Board member themself).

  • Carter will choose questions about “Finance and Facilities” and “Human Resources and Personnel.”
  • Lichter will choose questions about “Vision, Values, and Personal (Who are you?)” and “Board & Superintendent, Relationships, and Responsibilities.”
  • Lucarelli will choose questions about “Community Engagement/ Involvement” and “Student Voice/Student Life.”
  • Moshier will choose questions about “Leadership and Management.
  • Rutherford will choose questions about “Teaching and Learning.”

What Will Come Next

HYA will engage executive due-diligence firm Baker-Eubanks to conduct background checks on the two finalists immediately following their selection on Apr. 19, at a cost of $1,950 each. For details on the background check process, see ”Services”, here and ”Process”, here.

On Apr. 26 beginning at 8:00 am, the Board will conduct second interviews with the two finalists, and on Apr. 27, each board member will have the opportunity to meet with each finalist one-on-one.

The appointment of the new superintendent will take place at the Board’s regular meeting on May 9.

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