Responses for Dr. Mary Kay Bacallao, candidate for Board of Education Post 2

Tue, 07/01/2008 - 4:49pm
By: Mary Kay Bacallao

Responses for Dr. Mary Kay Bacallao, candidate for Board of Education Post 2

Question: 1. The school board is faced with the likelihood of having to increase the millage rate from 18.569 to 19.35, a rate just .65 mills under the maximum allowed. If negative conditions such as Fayette’s economic downturn have not improved significantly by mid-2009, the board might be faced with deciding to either cut programs or expenses, increase the millage again or all the above. How will you handle those decisions? Are you prepared to cut people and programs if necessary? Be specific. (And please explain — if you don’t have any definite position on this, why should anybody vote for you?)

Answer: Families from all over the country have moved to Fayette County because of the excellence in our public schools. This has strengthened our economy in the past. So far we have been able to maintain excellent schools without having to use the maximum millage rate. This is due to dedicated and motivated teachers and administrators, interested and hard working students, and committed families.

From my experience, I have seen that money alone is insufficient to improve schools. For example, I was recently hired to analyze the St. Lucie County School District expenditures and academic indicators. In my analysis, I noticed that drastic increases in funding were accompanied by noticeable decreases in student achievement (2008).

Increasing funding is not the only way to improve schools. On the other hand, I also had the experience of teaching in a school without enough textbooks or materials and had to be resourceful (1988). Funding is necessary. It is an important element in attracting and retaining the best teachers.

Our Fayette County economy is highly dependent on maintaining successful schools. In any organization, there are funding areas that may have become ineffective over the years. These areas need to be identified and eliminated from the budget first.

I would make sure that budget cuts would not adversely effect classroom instruction or the infrastructure that is put in place that is necessary to support teaching. Unnecessary spending needs to be cut in lieu of a tax increase. A millage increase would be my option of last resort.

In these challenging economic times, raising property taxes by increasing the millage rate is not in the best interest of the citizens of Fayette County. I don’t want to add to the already increasing pressure on families to make mortgage payments. I would vote for a millage increase only if it is absolutely necessary to maintain our county’s commitment to excellent schools, thereby continuing to strengthen our economy.

Question: 2. A number of students attending Fayette schools actually live out of county, yet not a single criminal case has been carried to trial or resulted in a plea of guilty in the past two years. Some allege that school authorities turn a blind eye to illegal students because those out-of-county students bulk up the attendance numbers, resulting in maintaining state funding even while actual Fayette student numbers decline. Why hasn’t more been done about this problem and what specifically will you do to get illegal students out of Fayette schools?

Answer: Fayette County schools have been successful, and news has spread. Certain parents, with the best interest of their children in mind, attempt to cross county boundaries to illegally attend our schools. As a school board member, I will be responsible for Fayette County students and work to ensure that all students are permanent residents of Fayette County.

To those who allege that school authorities turn a blind eye to illegal students to bulk attendance numbers, I would advise against this since these out of county students require increases in local funds as well. However, I would like to look at school attendance numbers from a different perspective. I would like to follow up on those students we have lost to private school, home education, and online education.

In light of the recent increase in home construction, a net loss of 280 students points to a greater problem. Certain families are making other educational choices for their children.

We need to make continuous improvement in our schools and reach out to all our Fayette County families in an attempt to win them back by providing the best that Fayette County can offer to all our students.

Question: 3. Recent CRCT results indicate that even when teachers teach the test, a lot of students still don’t do well. What local policies will you strive to change or to implement that will reverse this downward trend?

Answer: Testing and accountability are important to document the success of our students. As I answer this question, I do not intend to apply the examples I am about to give to all Fayette County teachers, but point out a general trend that tends to occur when testing pressures increase.

A problem arises when teachers abandon proven and successful teaching strategies to focus on the rote memorization of unrelated items that are going to be found on the test.

First of all, many of the students begin the school year with the knowledge to pass that test. They spend the rest of the school year, for the most part, learning about what they already know. Many of these students are not challenged and become bored.

Secondly, there are the students that need to learn the material that is on the test. These students are being taught at their level, but because of the testing pressure, there is not always a rich context of background information and the learning remains at the surface level. This type of learning is designed to prepare them for the test but is rarely fixed into long-term memory.

Third, there are the students who are challenged in learning the test material. These students, and their teachers for that matter, are often under tremendous pressure to learn all that they need to be able to pass the test. The fear and stress associated with these students can sometimes cause them to shut down and give up.

In the last four years, the number of students exceeding state standards in Fayette County has decreased for most of the elementary grade levels in many subjects. I think that this is happening in part because teachers are focusing on getting all their students to pass, and it is taking time away from challenging all students to achieve at higher levels.

What can be done to address the impact of testing on learning? Teachers can be given and encouraged to use teaching strategies to meet and exceed the testing standards through activities that are engaging, enriched, and based on higher level thinking. Teachers can get together to discuss effective teaching strategies and share their best practices. Teachers can work with each other and with parents to individualize instruction to challenge and encourage all learners.

I am sure this is already happening to a certain degree. I would like to see all schools focus on the joy of learning rather than on the stress of testing. When teachers are using effective teaching strategies and students are engaged and motivated to learn, students will look forward to the testing challenge and test scores will improve.

Question: 4. Why shouldn’t school board meetings be videotaped and uploaded to the BOE website or put on the dedicated cable TV channel in a timely manner for viewing by those who cannot attend the meetings? What will you do about that?

Answer: I support the videotaping of meetings so that those who cannot attend can watch the meetings at another time or location. The current arrangement of the room also needs to be changed so that the community members are able to see the speakers as they address the board of education as well as the members of the board of education.

Question: 5. The Fayette school budget is nearly $200 million a year. What experience do you have in either making payroll in a small business on a regular basis or in managing and overseeing budgets containing more than five zeroes in the expense line?

Answer: In 1999 I wrote a Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology Grant and was awarded $143,000. I had experience teaching math methods and I took a course in Excel where I learned how to manage the budget as I directed the project. In 2000, I was awarded a second grant for over $1.2 million. I contracted with over 40 college professors and K-12 teachers. I also hired and supervised two full time employees.

Each year I completed a budget report and was given continuations and in some cases additional funding from the United States Department of Education. In addition, I had to account for cost share in terms of in-kind contributions that had to equal or exceed the federal dollars.

Accounting for the federal dollars and the local cost share amounted to over $3 million over the four years of the duration of the grants. This gave me experience in creating and reading large budgets. All financial and evaluation reports were completed accurately and on time. All grant objectives were met and additional objectives were also included and met within the scope of the grant award. The evaluation report was given an award for effective evaluation of educational programs at an educational conference.

Question: 6. In a similar vein, what makes you competent to oversee a nearly $200 million budget?

Answer: My attention to detail, my experience in overseeing over $1.2 million of federal money, my knowledge of educational expenditure categories and grant regulations, and my awareness and training in school finance have prepared me to oversee a $200 million budget. Overseeing a $200 million budget is a big responsibility and I will take it very seriously.

Question: 7. It looks like we built too many classrooms for declining student numbers. That’s a lot of local tax dollars. Who should be held accountable for that miscalculation?

Answer: I clearly had nothing to do with the miscalculation. But rather than fixing blame, I would like to focus on what can be done to solve the current problems and avoid similar mistakes in the future. Assigning blame can take away time and energy that could be better used to find solutions to the problem. I believe in accountability, but I think it is time to move forward from here.

Question: 8. Few people like redrawing school district attendance lines. This year, several candidates seem to focus on that process. Give the current board a grade from A to F for the most recent redistricting plan adopted. And, by the way, should voters elect a single-issue candidate, even if that issue is redistricting?

Answer: I am not sure of the grade I would give the current board on the recent redistricting. It would have been more effective if there were objective criteria that would have been used when making the decisions. Community input was sought but not always utilized. The process was long and drawn out. As a result, families and students were left in an uncomfortable position of not knowing where they would be going to school.

Many parents choose where they will live based on what schools their children will attend. To leave those decisions up in the air for as long as they did caused needless anxiety in both parents and students.

I believe that we lost students to private schools, home education or online education because of the uncertainty that was generated through that process. I hope we can bring them back in the future.

Some families would give them an A and other families might give them an F, depending on the extent to which their voice was heard. As an educator, and in the absence of any objective criteria to use in assigning a grade, I find it hard to assign a grade. If someone feels strongly about a single issue, they may just vote for a candidate because of that issue. I think it is up to the voter to decide.

Question: 9. With respect, do you know what you are doing? Can we trust you with our money and our children?

Answer: The federal government trusted me with over $1.2 million and I was diligent in living up to that trust. There were times when I had to say no to those who wanted to use the money for other purposes. But more important than money, I believe, are our children. I want the best for all our children. I have spent countless hours reading about and participating in initiatives to improve education.

Because children are more impressionable, I believe that the people who work with children need to be even more accountable than those who work with adults. I am certified in early childhood education, middle grades math, middle grades science and educational leadership (K-12) in the state of Georgia. I obtained the educational leadership certification through taking graduate level courses and passing a comprehensive exam in educational leadership. My doctorate is in the field of educational leadership.

I would like to be able to use my expertise and experience to make sure that we select the best policies for the children of Fayette County.

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Hi There's picture
Submitted by Hi There on Wed, 07/02/2008 - 9:25pm.

Deleted & banned.

Submitted by Spyglass on Wed, 07/02/2008 - 8:43am.

for your answers.

Submitted by dorthea on Wed, 07/02/2008 - 7:28am.

It is my understanding that this forum is supposed to provide for questions posed to participants and for them to respond. Based on that I do have some questions I believe are relevant as to why people are running for school board and think the voters should have answers before they decide who to vote for. So Dr. Mary Kay, how many times have you applied for a job at the school system here in Fayette County.

sniffles5's picture
Submitted by sniffles5 on Wed, 07/02/2008 - 8:57am.

Dorthea, I've come to the conclusion that you are an FCBOE employee with an axe to grind and an agenda.

Whether or not Dr. MKB has applied for a job in Fayette county is absolutely immaterial to the fact that she is seeking election to the school board.

Submitted by buckstopshere on Wed, 07/02/2008 - 9:10am.

Dory and her friends have alot to lose this election.

Why did the current board members seeking relection decide not to answer any questions...maybe they have something to hide...


gelato's picture
Submitted by gelato on Wed, 07/02/2008 - 7:49am.

Dorthea, I could think of a hundred questions to ask...the one you asked is as important as "What is your shoe size?"

Submitted by dorthea on Wed, 07/02/2008 - 7:56am.

Let's say I as a voter find out she's applied for a job with the school system 3 times since moving here 3 years ago. Now I wonder, does she have an ax to grind? Is that why she drives 2 hours to work? Now her credibility changes for me, the voter. I think it's a fair question and I don't think she'll mind answering it. Do you? I also agree with other bloggers, let's keep candidates' kids out of this.

gelato's picture
Submitted by gelato on Wed, 07/02/2008 - 8:15am.

Dr. Mary K is smart, has the best interest of the children of the county at heart...that is something which poses a threat to those part of the good ole school board club which has the best interest of their purse strings at heart. They have "certain people" which begin a smear campaign in order to keep her out. I agree with the blogger who just said that you have a lot of school board information which is not accessible to the public. How is that? Do you have friends in high places? I smell something fishy!

Submitted by dorthea on Wed, 07/02/2008 - 8:22am.

It's a simple question. By implying that this constitutes a smear campaign means that you feel applying for a job with the school system is a bad thing? You think the answer is irrelevant. I don't. I think it should be out there, then everyone gets to make their own decision about whether or not it's irrelevant. I'm guessing by your reaction you don't think it's so irrelevant. No friends in high places either....I just know Mary Kay....and the answer to this question. I think you should too.

Submitted by buckstopshere on Wed, 07/02/2008 - 8:04am.

How would you know any of this if you? You just blew your cover and supported my theory that you or someone very close to you is on the inside of the FCBOE!!!!!!!! You are ignorant and arrogant, they go hand in hand. I guess when good honest people step up to serve the county, you have to attack them for fear that they will win. So Dorthea...what are you so afraid of losing?

Submitted by dorthea on Wed, 07/02/2008 - 8:14am.

Anyone who knows her, knows the answer to this question. I think it's no secret....except to you bloggers. Let her answer the question, then you decide if it relevant or not. Fact is, as an employee I think someone miffed at the school system would be a bad board member.

Submitted by buckstopshere on Wed, 07/02/2008 - 7:47am.

Dory, is this relevant? I believe Dr. Mary K is currently employed at Mercer University. Remember she is a college professor!! That is why she is called Dr.Mary K Bacallao!

Submitted by MYTMITE on Wed, 07/02/2008 - 8:08am.

She has a Ph.D. degree, not because she is a professor. I don't know if Mercer requires a professor to be a Ph.D. but some places do not. Also, if she chose to be a garbage collector, she would still be Dr. It is a higher degree earned---Bachelor, Master, Ph.D. Some people with Ph.D.'s use their title some do not--matter of choice-it is not the same as a medical degree.

Submitted by buckstopshere on Wed, 07/02/2008 - 8:14am.

Dr. Mary K does hold her PhD. She is a professor at Mercer and I think she will be great for the FCBOE.

Submitted by tc on Wed, 07/02/2008 - 12:14am.

I have two questions regarding board meetings. Currently the meetings are set up so that board members have a lot of background material that is not made available to the public which makes it difficult to follow the discussion at times. Are there ways to improve this process? Secondly, meeting recaps are posted on the web site after board meetings but contain little helpful information. What do you think should be done about this lack of information?

sniffles5's picture
Submitted by sniffles5 on Wed, 07/02/2008 - 9:04am.

Hi TC, I created a forum topic to discuss the lack of transparency at school board meetings HERE

If you believe Dorthea (and I'm not sure I do anymore), much of the lack of transparency is due to the fact that the two retirees serving on the school board (Dr. Bob Todd and Marion Key) don't seem to care for these new-fangled things called computers and don't understand this whole internets fad ("internets" evidently is a series of tubes or something).

Submitted by buckstopshere on Wed, 07/02/2008 - 9:45am.

Dory has alot to lose this election. I believe there is as much at stake for Citizen Blogger as well.

The 2 retirees on the board are actually alot more savvy than the 3 amigos (Smola, Smith & Wright) give them credit for.

Did you know that the school board has been secretly getting rid of by-laws without any public input?
That is a violation of state law. Ultimately, this leaves the public with no recourse when things need to be answered for.

Have you ever noticed the meeting recaps that the FCBOE tries to pass off as minutes? They have so little detail...that again, is done on purpose.
This is a disservice the taxpayers of this county...Has anyone ever heard of SUNSHINE LAWS?

I guess we now know just a bit of what the 3 Amigos are trying to hide...

BTW, Transparency is always in the best interest of the elected officials and the people they work for...the citizens!

sniffles5's picture
Submitted by sniffles5 on Wed, 07/02/2008 - 11:28am.

Getting rid of by-laws without public input? I sincerely hope you are mistaken about that....I fear you are not. This might be a good story for the Citizen.

I have read these pathetic "recaps" posted on the FCBOE website. I agree that they are little more than warmed-over restatements of the agenda.

I actually took the time to wade through the 162 page "strategic plan" last night. What an amateurish document. I reads like a hyper-caffeinated 8 year old's Christmas list! "I want a PONY, and an IPOD, and a BRAVES HAT, and a..."

The "strategic plan" is a mishmash of wants and desires, sometimes written in past tense. There is no assignment of responsibility, no action plan, no measure of success/failure. It is, however, in three pretty colors.

Submitted by tc on Wed, 07/02/2008 - 12:04pm.

Ben Nelms did an article about this several weeks ago. See:

Submitted by tc on Wed, 07/02/2008 - 9:21am.

I did look at that previously. While I do think that the full spectrum of the e-board software should be utilized, I don't believe that anyone on the board dictates how it is installed or used. Typically in an organization, public information is controlled by the CEO (in this case superintendent) whose plans are carried out by the communication and technology departments. I suppose if there were minutes of a board or work session that indicated that conversations took place limiting how the software was to be used, we would have our answer, wouldn't we? In any case, I do agree with your idea that there should be transparency in school district matters - the district is, in essence, "owned" by the community and is accountable.

Submitted by buckstopshere on Wed, 07/02/2008 - 12:05am.

I think you are the answer to many, if not all of the problems with the FCBOE!! You are so qualified! I like your ideas and that you have respect for the taxpayers and voters! Thank you for answering the questions. People appreciate your dedication to education!!
I'm voting for Dr. Mary K !!!!!

Hi There's picture
Submitted by Hi There on Wed, 07/02/2008 - 5:42am.

Have you ever heard the term, "they are so book smart, they are stupid when it comes to the real world"? Well, meet Dr. Mary Bacallao! Try and carry on a normal everyday conversation with her. You'll walk away with an eyebrow lifted wondering just how 'smart' is she.

EDITED & WARNED for attacks on the children of a candidate I'm looking for someone a little more well-rounded, with the experience and teaching backgroud. Dr. M K Bacallao does not fit this bill!!!!

Submitted by MYTMITE on Wed, 07/02/2008 - 8:31am.

Perhaps she thought it was not necessary to talk down to you--guess she was wrong. As for her children, they are not running for any office. Children usually do not open up around adults unless they have been made into little Stepford children to promote their parents' agenda. Evidently you are blessed with perfect, intelligent, well rounded children who can some day run for office and have their children held up for riducule by some inconsiderate clod such as yourself.

Submitted by thenatural on Wed, 07/02/2008 - 7:41am.

Hi There, you should be ashamed of yourself. To even mention a candidates children is outrageous. You own Dr. Bacallao and her children an apology.

Submitted by CitizenBlogger on Sat, 07/05/2008 - 2:25pm.

School member's kids have been discussed in the blogs before and nobody said a word. I guess you all and Cal have different sets of rules depending on whose side you are on

Submitted by MYTMITE on Sat, 07/05/2008 - 6:49pm.

Then there is definitely something wrong with you. It is one thing to indicate that a child of a public figure got or is getting a position through nepotism, but it is entirely different to malign someone's children regarding their looks, intelligence, social graces or lack thereof. If you can't tell the difference you really have a problem.

Submitted by CitizenBlogger on Sat, 07/05/2008 - 8:31pm.

I am not defending talking about anybody's kids. Kids should be off limits. I am just pointing out there is a double standard on these blogs.

gelato's picture
Submitted by gelato on Sat, 07/05/2008 - 8:50pm.

from your computer, take two aspirins, and repeat "I will let this blog about the kids go," "I will let this blog about the kids go." Play a Yanni cd and quietly fall asleep - you might wake up understanding that there were no double standards...just a person that bullied another's children. Unacceptable under any standard. Now I've come to believe that Citizen Blogger, Dorthea, and Janet are not only the same...but you've morphed into Hi There as well. Sweet dreams!

carbonunit52's picture
Submitted by carbonunit52 on Sat, 07/05/2008 - 8:49pm.

The standard is whatever Cal says it is. This is his web site. Free speech is being able to start your own web site and say whatever it is you want to say.

Submitted by downunder on Wed, 07/02/2008 - 7:01am.

I guess you are not very concerned about childen.
You attack Mrs. Bacallao's children. These children have absolutely nothing to do with their mom's political view and ambition.
Leave her family out of this discussion.

Submitted by susieq on Wed, 07/02/2008 - 7:32am.

This the the reason the candidates do not want to participate in the Citizen blog -- not because they can't answer the questions.

gelato's picture
Submitted by gelato on Wed, 07/02/2008 - 6:43am.

You must be a friend of Janet Smola! Don't stoop so low as to personally attack someone's children. Shame on you!

Submitted by Y oh Y on Wed, 07/02/2008 - 11:56am.

Smola is not running against this candidate. Are the gangstas of Tyronne that pathological at that point that they need to insult someone for the sake of it?

Attacking the kids..... stupid

Attacking someone not even on this fight .... stupid

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