COLLIER COUNTY — A Collier County Public Schools employee called on his colleagues to speak out about the district's recent decision to reprimand rather than demote or fire the district director of technology, Tom Petry.
During Tuesday's School Board meeting, Steve Bidelman, a technician in the department of technology who identified himself to the board as a Collier County taxpayer and homeowner, said certain district directors are bullies.
"What do kids learn about bullying in school? Teachers are constantly fighting to make them learn that it's wrong," he said. "The director in question has in turn bullied his own employees."
In February, the district temporarily reassigned Petry, 28, and placed him on a three-month corrective action plan for belittling employees, making racist and derogatory remarks, and for possibly having an inappropriate relationship with a district vendor.
Bidelman called on the school board to take stronger actions against Petry, and called the district "a revolving door for opportunistic individuals."
"If the board can not clean this house up, maybe it's time the taxpayers clean this board out," he said.
Board members did not comment on his remarks.
Bidelman said he hoped other district employees would speak out against Petry at the meeting. There were at least 16 other technology department employees present, he said.
"I did this so that maybe other people would come out of the woodwork," he said. "In a private enterprise, (Petry would) be fired on the spot."
Petry, who was hired by the district when he was 19, became directory of technology in 2006. He earns $106,000 annually.
Collier County Public Schools superintendent Kamela Patton said Petry will not automatically resume his role as director of technology after the three-month period. The corrective action plan "is not a slap on the hand," she said.
"We were told there's an issue and we took action," she said. "We have to give employees an opportunity to learn and earn their way back."
Petry is under heavy supervision and receiving intense training, she said.
"We didn't have training programs when I got here," she said. "Succession management is the number one thing we need to work on."
Patton said she is willing to address every employees' concerns in individual meetings. She also is implementing a policy that requires new hires to review their department's organizational chart.
Some departments, like technology, have very little possibility for upward mobility, she said. People need to be aware of that before accepting a position, she said.
Patton said ultimately it is her goal to protect the employees and ensure that they feel comfortable.
"I will work with them until we see eyeball to eyeball," she said.