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Collier schools’ Kamela Patton is named superintendent of the year by The Consortium of Florida Education Foundation in Tampa Friday, Nov. 30. Annika Hammerschlag/ Naples Daily News

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TAMPA - Kamela Patton of Collier County Public Schools has been named the 2017 superintendent of the year by a Florida education group.

The Consortium of Florida Education Foundation evaluated nominees based on their involvement with local education foundations.

Patton was honored Thursday at a ceremony in Tampa for her dedication to Future Ready Collier, an association of more than 50 organizations that try to help prepare children for kindergarten and high school students for college and careers.

The team effort is credited for increasing Free Application for Federal Student Aid completion rates, which are up 5 percent among Collier students compared to this time last year.

Throughout her seven-year tenure, Patton’s administration — in partnership with Future Ready Collier — has hosted numerous financial aid nights to help students and families navigate the complex FAFSA application process.

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She also has helped organize college and vocational fairs and increased the district’s educational focus on science, technology, engineering and math.

Patton said the award was especially meaningful because it represents the collective efforts of dozens of organizations that have rallied behind the district’s goals.

“It benefits more kids quicker and faster when we’re able to lift up together,” she said. “You can’t do things by yourself, and this is just really an award representing all those partners.”

Susan McManus, president of Champions for Learning, the education foundation that serves as the backbone for Future Ready Collier, said Patton’s work with the collection of organizations highlighted her strengths as a leader.

“It’s taken dedication, trust and hard work on her part to build those relationships and support all of us as we're trying to work together,” McManus said.

It’s the reason McManus nominated Patton for the award.

“Community organizations can do some great work alone,” McManus said, “but when we’re doing it in alignment with the district and leveraging all of our resources, we know we are going to achieve much greater results.”

Patton also was honored for her leadership during Hurricane Irma, which hit Collier County on Sept. 10. The district opened 28 schools to serve as shelters to some 17,000 people, despite being prepared to open only 10 choices.

After the hurricane, Future Ready Collier  joined with the district to devise a relief strategy and revamp FAFSA completion efforts, which had stalled due to the disaster.

“I’ve never seen that kind of leadership and dedication on the part of this community,” McManus said, tearing up. “I’m not sure everyone knows how incredibly important that is.”

Patton is the first superintendent from Collier County or Lee County to win the award, which is in its 11th year. John Ruis from Nassau County and Walt Griffin from Seminole County won in 2016 and 2015, respectively.

The award was presented at the 72nd annual Joint Conference of the Florida School Boards Association and the Florida Association of District School Superintendents in Tampa.

“The level of work that’s happening in concert with this collective-impact group and the fact that she’s embraced it is a really big deal,” said Mary Chance, president of The Consortium of Florida Education Foundation.

The national superintendent of the year award for Florida was given to Pinellas County Superintendent Mike Grego by a separate group, the American Association of School Administrators. 

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