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  • Writer's pictureChad Oliver

Raised in Naples

Dr. Leslie Ricciardelli ready to lead and refine academic programming

4th Quarter Celebration at Lake Park Elementary


Even though she is now the Superintendent who—as Chief Executive Officer of the District—is charged with, among many duties, operating 60 school and support sites, recommending personnel to the School Board to fill positions for the County’s largest employer, and overseeing academic instruction for nearly 50,000 students, there is one area Dr. Leslie Ricciardelli is not willing to delegate: the granular process of forecasting graduation rates. “I look at every single student, and I know how they are graduating,” Dr. Ricciardelli said this spring while monitoring the Class of 2023. “Are they graduating by passing the State Assessment or will they graduate because of their SAT/ACT scores?” She developed—and still monitors with colleagues—strategies for schools to assist students who need extra support to earn a diploma.

When students return August 10, they will reunite with and make new friends, swap summer stories, and see the smiling faces of staff ready to work and make memories. Specifically at the elementary and middle school levels, programming for gifted and academically talented students is one key area getting a refresh to better meet student needs. This summer, district staff members have been developing our own CCPS advanced curriculum, based on Florida’s B.E.S.T. Standards. In alignment with our local School Board’s Academic Priorities to improve math and literacy learning outcomes for all students, we are enhancing the rigor in our curriculum for gifted and advanced students.

L to R: Dr. Ricciardelli reconnects with former student

CCPS night at the ballpark

CCPS Chief of Staff Sandy Eaton, Superintendent Dr. Leslie Ricciardelli, and Naples High teacher Paul Garrah during JROTC summer camp


Additionally, schools will have greater flexibility to schedule students based on their unique needs. An example of refining options would be some students may be eligible for advanced math or advanced English language arts, or both. Students in grades three through eight who score level four or five in English Language Arts (ELA) on the Florida Assessment of Student Thinking (FAST) and/or meet gifted eligibility will be scheduled into advanced ELA for School Year 2023-24. Students who score level four or five on the FAST and/or meet eligibility in grades three through seven in mathematics will be scheduled into advanced mathematics. Eligibility requirements for Algebra I in eighth grade will remain the same. Additionally, current advanced course offerings remain at the high school level, including AICE Cambridge.

“Everything comes back to what is best for kids and how we can help them achieve,” Dr. Ricciardelli often says. She prioritizes customer service for our CCPS families and empowers employees to engage and ultimately enact positive outcomes. She credits her parents, who moved to Naples when she was two years old, for instilling hard work values and treating people the way you would want to be treated. A young Leslie pitched in to help her parents run the Anchorage Motel, formerly located in Old Naples at the corner of Third Street and Eighth Avenue South. From answering phones, making beds, and cleaning toilets, she did it all! She fondly remembers families who would come back—year after year—because they had great, hospitable experiences.

Jessica and Leslie Ricciardelli at graduation

When deciding where to raise a family, Dr. Ricciardelli and her husband of 28 years, Rob Ricciardelli, chose Naples in large part because of the quality of our schools. “When I was appointed the principal at Lely High, our daughter, Jessica, was zoned for a different high school,” Dr. Ricciardelli remembered. “[Jessica] said, ‘Mom, I’m going to go wherever you are because wherever you go is where the best teachers will be.’” Now, following the School Board’s appointment, Dr. Ricciardelli has the chance to positively impact education across Collier County. “You really impact kids’ lives,” Dr. Ricciardelli explained. “You change the trajectory of their lives by what you offer to them.” When you see her around town, be sure to say "hi" and you might mention a little-known fact. Our Superintendent really enjoys the solitude of doing yard work around the house. “No one talks to you because if they do, they might have to help,” Dr. Ricciardelli said while laughing. And we all know even when she’s gardening, she’ll be thinking grad rates.


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