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Professor comes under fire for Fayette school tech comments

A recent letter to The Citizen from Fayette County resident and Mercer University professor Mary Kay Bacallao throws a different light on the Fayette County School System’s move ...

to 21st Century Classroom Technology.

The issue she faced was not with the bid, but with how she was dealt with by some of the school system’s employees last year after questioning aspects of the technology being envisioned for the school system. [Her letter is here.]

Bacallao said she had been invited to attend a Superintendent’s Roundtable Discussion on 21st Century Technology in October 2009. During that meeting, Bacallao said she asked questions and made comments about the use of certain software and how it would interface with the software the school system was potentially expecting to use.

Bacallao said her comments appeared to trouble Technology Services Director Curt Cearley and Instructional Technology Specialist Robyn Miller, leading to them questioning if she was a teacher.

Beyond the meeting, Bacallao said her departmental supervisor at Mercer was contacted two days later by someone saying he was Robyn Miller’s husband and complaining about her “disagreeable behavior” at the meeting.

”It is also a good thing that I am a full professor with tenure,” Bacallao told The Citizen. “What do I have to gain from expressing my opinion? Nothing personally really, but I have something to suffer for if I don’t agree with the technology coordinator Curt Cearley or Robyn Miller, or in this case, Robyn Miller’s husband who took it upon himself to report me to my boss.”

Bacallao said she was told the man calling himself Miller’s husband told her supervisor that Bacallao had “brought shame on Mercer.”

Asked by The Citizen if either Cearley or Miller had any comments about Bacallao’s statements and if Miller’s husband is a school system employee, Communications Director Melinda Berry-Dreisbach said, “The only discussion that I can confirm is what is reflected in the minutes. (Superintendent John) DeCotis holds roundtable meetings about twice a year which involve members of the community, parents, school system staff and other stakeholders. There is a topic of discussion at each meeting. Attendees often ask questions of presenters. As reflected in the minutes, some questions were asked and Curt Cearly answered them. The comments you reference are not indicated in the minutes, which is the official record of the discussion at that meeting.”

Berry-Dreisbach said Miller’s husband was not employed by the school system.

The minutes of the meeting were general in nature and did not included specific back and forth comments between participants.

For her part, Bacallao said she was invited to the meeting and stands by her comments and questions pertaining to the various technologies referenced in the October 2009 meeting.

Bacallao ran against Post 2 school board member Terri Smith in 2008. Bacallao’s four children attend Fayette County schools.



Just another sad revelation about policy & procedures of both, with the added suggestion of inappropriate family member involvement. Why in the world would you invite an outside specialist and then discard her professional opinions because someone's feelings got hurt. Certainly suggests to me that not all the children in the system are actually students.

suggarfoot's picture

between these 'strong armed tactics' and the 'bar room brawl tactics' from the last BOE meeting?

It sounds like Ms Bacallao was invited as 'window dressing' but instead, took it seriously, and asked very intelligent questions no one was ready for.

Just like the BOE meeting, strong armed tactics prevailed, such as,OMG, reporting Dr Todd, to the ethics committe.!!??!! That is a joke! Like Darth Vader reporting the Pope!

The likeness, and smell, of calling Ms Bacallao's boss is overwhelming!

Guys, there is something so stinky about some's actions on the BOE, and then this computer deal...

not only are we are going to have to hire a pesidside company to spray for the large amount of blow is so bad, we are going to have to hire a dump truck to hawl them all off!!!

suggarfoot's picture

I do hope Ms Bacallao, pushes a lawsuit about that phone call. The spirit of the call seems to have been to get her fired for questioning things.

Anyway, I would love to see her meet them in a court of law over this! Just as I would like to see the faces of the 3 stooges after Dr Todd and Mr Tolbert kick butt in the elections!

The school spokesperson said Miller wasn't employed by the school system. Where does he work? Does he work for or have some interest in one of companies that bid for the project? Why was he at a work event of his spouse? This doesn't make sense.

Just Asking

flwrgrl's picture

Perhaps I can shed some light on this subject for the readers. I was present at the meeting under discussion, having received an invitation as the result of my positition with the PTO of my son's school. Professor Bacallao did indeed ask many, many questions about the selection of the software for the 21st Century Project. Unfortunately for her, and for those of us who were at the meeting and wanted to hear about the technology and how it would impact the operation of our schools, she kept asking questions about decisions that had already been made. She questioned the choice of software and kept debating with the instructors the superiority of her choice (which as I recall may have been rejected by the county on the basis of cost), after repeatedly being told, as nicely as possible by both instructors and the technology director, that although she might have different opinions of which products were superior THE DECISION WAS MADE. It seemed to several of us in the audience that the good professor just wanted to show how much more she knew about the subject than the county teachers (after all, she was a college professor, as she pointed out several times.) Prof B. kept berating the choices made until Dr. DeCotis finally stepped in and reiterated very nicely that we were not there to debate the choice of software, as the county had already purchased both the software and hardware to operate the program. I recall that Prof. B. introduced both herself and the students she brought with her from the beginning, so I don't think there was any doubt as to her identity.

I am not a teacher, or a professor, only a parent who is active in my school. The professor's arguments may well have been correct as to substance, but they were very distracting and time consuming to some busy parents who were trying to educate ourselves about the coming technology being bought with our tax dollars.

Perhaps her questions were based on knowledge of the industry that exceeded that of the community or even the school system employees. By definition, a rountable is a place for people to have constructive dialogue versus to have a one-way conversation. Could it be that the important point of the article is that a spouse of a school system administrator verbally attacked her in public then threatened her livihood by calling her boss? The questions that need to be answered here are why did this man feel so empowered that he was at the meeting in the first place and why was he acting in such an inappropriate and unethical manner?

Just Asking

flwrgrl's picture

I am curious as to the timeline of this complaint from the professor. Am I to understand that she is just now airing her allegations, although the exchange happened 6 months ago?

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