Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Dykes Hid Conflict of Interest in Due Process Case

Fling with Hearing Officer Sets Back Children's Case

Improper Hiring of Rachel Baker Alleged

During the recent WLEX investigation of the Fayette County Public Schools Special Education Department the district credited Director Kathy Dykes for being forthright and honest; for admitting that she ditched one day [and then later amended her confession to one-half day] of a 2009 professional conference in Las Vegas. But her confession only came after WLEX was poised to expose the fact, which they did in a recent three-part series of stories titled: "Special Ed, Special Perks." Fayette County Schools Superintendent Tom Shelton diminished the severity of the offenses," but also said he did not want to "defend a lapse in professional judgment demonstrated in these isolated incidents."

But were Dykes' lapses in professional judgement really isolated?

KSN&C has learned of two more instances where it appears that, instead of focusing on service to others, or protecting the professional integrity of the district by making the difficult choice, Dykes apparently chose to hold her breath, and cross her fingers, hoping that no one would further expose the shortcuts taken in her department. Unlike her Grand Canyon road trip, both of the other instances had potential repercussions for children (among them, some of Fayette County's most vulnerable students).

Fairness and Justice: The Heart of Due Process

About four years ago, a family with two special needs children moved to Kentucky. The children had already been progressing under an IEP from their former California school district. But upon arrival in Lexington, the parents learned that the Fayette County school district wanted to discontinue some of the children's services. The parents invoked the federal IDEA "stay put" provision. The "stay put" provision exists to maintain stability and continuity for the children. Under 20 USC § 1415(j) and 707 KAR 1:340 sec 12 (3), unless the local school district and parents agree, any student identified with a disability shall remain in his or her then-current educational placement.

But the district wanted to remove services. To resolve the matter, on June 15, 2010, the parents opted for a due process hearing under 707 KAR 1:340 sec 12. A Due Process Hearing is an adversarial administrative hearing used by KDE to resolve disputes in special education where a hearing officer (who is presumed to be impartial) hears matters of fact, and renders a decision. The dispute was styled XX v. Fayette County Board of Education, Agency Case 0910-[YY] (where XX is substituted for the child's initials, and YY for the case number). (Note: Although KSN&C is reporting this as though there was one case, there were actually two actions going on at the same time - one for each of two children.)

The parents claimed that the Fayette County Schools failed to provide their child with an IEP that included certain related services necessary for the child to receive a free and appropriate education as required under the law.

But on June 18, 2010, when Clinton "Dale" Kirk was named the Due Process Hearing Officer for the case, Dykes faced a moment of ethical conflict. She confided in Mike Muncy who served as a district special education administrator for elementary schools at the time.

"Kathy told me, she said, 'Well I don't know what I'm going to do. Dale Kirk is the hearing officer and I slept with him a few years ago,'" Muncy told KSN&C.

"She said, 'I don't know if I should let them know that or not. We're going to have a telephone conference, and I don't know if I should say that we need to get another hearing officer or not.' She said, 'I guess I'll just wait and see what Mr. Kirk says,'" Muncy said. "So they had their telephone conference. Ed Dove was their attorney. Bob Chenoweth was our attorney. The conference was over and she said, 'Well he never mentioned it, so I didn't bring it up.' And they started the hearing," Muncy said.

Kirk never mentioned it. Yet the rules of procedure in due process hearings specifically requires the parties to divulge any potential conflicts of interest during the initial telephone conference. According to Kirk's Order of Continuance, filed on August 17, 2010, "The purpose of the conference was for the hearing officer to divulge personal and professional information for the parties to determine if there was any reason Mr. Kirk should not hear the case."
Dykes and Kirk fail to divulge personal information

Dykes sat silently. Kirk never said, 'Oh, by the way, I had a very close personal relationship with the district's lead official a while back.' Their silence denied the parents a right that is fundamental to the process. Their silence denied them due process.

The motivating concern for any judicial proceeding is that all parties have confidence in the fairness of the process. Kirk and Dykes hid knowledge they were compelled to divulge, and the cost was that it denied the parents the opportunity to make a judgment about the hearing officer's fitness to hear the particular case, and ultimately, it cost the parents a fair hearing - not to mention whatever legal bills the family had amassed.

Over 22 months, the hearing plodded along with a formal resolution session, and further discussions of possible resolutions, to the deposing of out-of-state witnesses, to the filing of documents, and conference calls to the hearing officer informing him of the "progress or, more often, the lack of substantial progress" being made. The parents complained that the district was dragging their feet, while running up legal bills. KSN&C has been told that the case, which is not over, has already generated thousands of  pages of documentation. During this time Kirk issued numerous orders and continuances. Finally on Thursday, April 9, 2012, "several substantive decisions were made" during a conference call with the parties, and August 20th was set to begin the hearing. 

The Disaffection and Intervention of Mike Muncy

Mike Muncy would  later complain that there "were a lot of sexual innuendos going on in our office" and KSN&C has heard a few recordings that illustrate the very casual conversational tone that was generally accepted in Dykes' presence - and was even promoted by Dykes herself. The atmosphere in the special education department apparently became uncomfortable for some employees, other than Muncy, who began recording conversations. The samples KSN&C became privy to were mostly bawdy, sophomoric, exchanges one might expect from...well, a sophomore boy. Breasts as flotation devices; getting it up... Think Bevis and Butthead, in drag, planning a special ed meeting.

But some of the "jokes" were not simply unprofessional, but also had implications for more important matters. On one recording shared with KSN&C (6/18/10), Dykes can be heard relating a conversation she had had to a small group. "I said, well, I found out who the hearing officer is this time. He' said, 'Yeah? Who.' I said 'Dale Kirk.' And he said, 'I wondered about that.' I said at the head [of the table] is going to be Dale Kirk, and I'm going to have Ed [Dove] pressuring me. I mean, we're going to have to buy a very special outfit for them," Dykes told the group.

Muncy further illustrated saying, "She went [into her office] and made a phone call, and came back out into our middle room where we were having lunch. She says, 'Well, I called the hearing officer [Dale Kirk]. I had a question, and...he didn't answer, so I left a message. And I don't know if I should have said this or not, but I gave him my number and said, Give me a call over the weekend - if you're up to it.' And she winked at me, and smiled. She said, 'I probably shouldn't have said that,' and everybody started laughing."

Some KSN&C readers have asked how Dykes "could have been so stupid" as to post her unprofessional conference behavior on Facebook. One might also wonder how she could have been so unprofessional as to hide her conflict of interest, and then attempt to exploit it during a due process hearing.

By this point, it was clear to Muncy, as it was to others, that some rather inappropriate activities were becoming commonplace in the FCPS Special Education Department. And some would suggest that, although it might have been professional suicide, Muncy should have reported his concerns immediately. But he didn't. Neither did any of the other administrators who were well aware of how business was being conducted. To no one's surprise, everybody went along with the boss.

But that soon changed for Muncy when he started suffering from diabetes. Flare ups caused him to make trips to the emergency room, and he began missing work. A once-trusted lieutenant, his treatment at the hands of Dykes changed 180 degrees, and along with it, so did his attitude toward Dykes.

Muncy told KSN&C that he started getting angry emails from Dykes saying, 'I don't know where you're at, but you better get in here.'

Even before it turned sour for Muncy, Dykes had admitted to routinely targeting Muncy. In a recorded faculty meeting (1/20/11) that sounds more psychological than professional, Dykes said, "A lot of things don't bother me. When I feel it here, and Mike feels the lashing - [laughter] I target him for some reason. I go after our token male. [laughter] It must go back to something with male bashing a few years ago. [laughter] I've gotten over it, but anyway. [laughter]  He's a good sport, [laughter] but that's a big issue I know."

But on April, 12, 2012, three days after Kirk set the date for the hearing, "I filed a letter through [attorney] Brenda Allen's office to Dr. Shelton," Muncy said, "alleging everything I knew about the corruption, and things going on that were inappropriate...I did an open records request, made these allegations, and let them know that Kathy had slept with that hearing officer. So after that letter, [the superintendent] must have met with Miss Dykes and Bob Chenoweth the school's attorney. He called the family, or Ed Dove's office and said, 'Mr. Muncy's made an allegation that there was inappropriate activity with this guy, Do you want to start a new hearing? Or do you want to continue?' The [father] said, 'I absolutely want a new hearing'."


On June 5th, 2012, a Motion to Recuse was issued in the case, with the petitioner charging that "newly discovered evidence" was convincing, and that it was in everyone's best interest that Hearing Office Clinton Dale Kirk recuse himself.

After two years of delays and continuances in a case (two cases, actually) which Kirk admitted had already taken an "extremely long period of time," they were about to start over because every decision Kirk had made was now called into question.

Was Dykes successful in selecting just the right outfit? Was Kirk up for a weekend chat? How were the parents supposed to continue the process in good faith, when Kirk and Dykes had undermined that possibility?

By June 28, 2012, the process began again with a phone conference among the parties including Mike Wilson, the new hearing officer. In his first order, Wilson specifically confirmed that there were no longer any conflicts of interest.
Did Dyke's behavior constitute a breech of ethics? Apparently, the superintendent didn't think so. If he had determined that Kathy Dykes' conduct was dishonest, or her silence amounted to a willful disregard for the welfare of others (particularly the children whose Due Process hearings were set back), or that it constituted a neglect of her duty to report the conflict of interest, or if she violated any administrative regulations related to the children's Due Process hearing - then Superintendent Tom Shelton would have been required under KRS 161.120 to send a letter of notification to the Educational Professional Standards Board. KSN&C has been unable to confirm that any letter was sent regarding this incident.

Is the superintendent prepared to defend yet another lapse in Kathy Dykes' professional judgment? Or is it possible that the superintendent was unaware of some of the facts being revealed in our investigation? When KSN&C asked the superintendent to confirm that letters were sent, Shelton said, "these matters are still under investigation."


One might certainly argue that an even more serious obligation to report the conflict of interest lies with Kirk, as the hearing officer. If administrative judges cannot be trusted to act ethically, the administrative justice process is completely undermined. But Kirk was not a typical KDE employee. KDE Assistant General Counsel David Wickersham confirmed that "Mr. Kirk was a Personal Service Contractor." As such he would not be fired for any bad acts, but his contract could be terminated, or he could be denied any further work - and the latter is apparently the course KDE chose.
A KSN&C open records request produced evidence that KDE found the conflict of interest to be of sufficient concern that the department took action against Kirk. A letter from Amy Peabody of KDE's Office of Guiding Support Services to Kirk, referenced a conversation where he was told that he no longer met the requirements for employment. Still, during the next contract cycle, Kirk applied for more work as a hearing officer. On August 28, 2012 Peabody wrote to Kirk saying that "it was determined that you had an existing conflict with this work" and that he was therefore "ineligible for selection." Peabody cited the requirement that a hearing officer "not have a personal or professional interest that conflicts with your objectivity in any hearings" and that Kirk did not meet this mandatory requirement, as she had previously discussed with him. KDE spokeswoman Nancy Rodriguez told KSN&C that Dale Kirk no longer serves as a hearing officer for KDE.

Along the way, the parents' complaints about their treatment at the hands of the district mounted. "Every once in a while, Kathy Dykes pulls my son's aide away," the father told KSN&C. And apparently there is a new procedure, at least at one school, that forbids instructional aides from speaking to parents?! The parents believe this procedure was invoked because the aides were telling the parents whenever the children's IEP was not being followed.

After speaking to several parents of special needs students, it seems that the way the collective group of "parents" figure it - the district has boundless resources, including legal services on retainer, a big liability insurance policy, and some amount of sovereign immunity. If the district wanted to deny services to children (due to budget constraints, or other reasons), even if it was illegal, most parents would be hard pressed to do much about it. In cases where parents are pressing for services and no "stay put" provisions apply, the district could essentially run out the clock with delays if they wanted to.

Another issue?

Surprisingly, Muncy does not place all, or perhaps even most of the blame on Kathy Dykes. Muncy believes the problems actually began with the questionable hiring of the high school special education administrator, Rachel Baker. When former administrator Beverly Henderson went to KDE on a two-year MOA [Memorandum of Agreement], Baker was hired as an interim. "But when the two-years were up, they just kept Rachel without advertising the position, or interviewing any other applicants, and she was hired without the proper certification," Muncy and other former FCPS sources allege.

"Rachel started as an intern. The first year was real slow and smooth, but as time went on she became bolder and bolder, and just basically tried to run the department," Muncy said. Another source opined, "[Dykes] was a small town girl who came here with a big dream. She saw that she was ill-equipped for the job, so she latched onto [stronger individuals] to ride with them, and try to stay on the job."

Muncy [and two other FCPS Special Education Department employees who spoke to KSN&C on condition of anonymity] said there was an 18-month to two-year delay between the time Baker completed her course work [for a Director of Special Education certificate] and when she became certified [7/10/09]. But Dykes apparently wanted Baker in the position, and so she faced another decision that tested her ethics.

"[Baker] was having difficulty getting a transcript from the University of Kentucky. In the meantime, she was working in a job that required a certificate for Director of Special Ed, but she can't get a transcript, which means that she can't get a certificate," one source told KSN&C. "I said something to Kathy Dykes about that. How dare Rachel put the district in a position of working as a special ed administrator for high schools, without the certification to do the job?" Well, Miss Kathy went and told Rachel what I said, and that's when hell broke loose," the source said.

Muncy said she was "going to these ARC meetings with demanding parents, and telling them flat-out, 'No' on stuff, making decisions...but not having the qualifications." What if someone complained? Dykes allegedly responded to the concerns saying, 'Well I thought about that. I guess I would just tell them that she had completed her coursework, and just didn't have her certificate.'

Suddenly Dykes began placing restrictions on Muncy regarding who he could speak with, or have lunch with, and under what conditions. He was told to distance himself from the individual who had questioned Baker's certification. Childish retaliations began to occur, like no more invitations to eat lunch together as they had done for years. "During happy-hour at Sonic, they'd go out and get a 'Freezie'...for everybody but us. And this happened almost every day," Muncy said. Think Bevis and Butthead, in drag, at Sonic.

Muncy said it didn't help that Rachel bragged about being recruited to go to Nashville with the Scholastic Rep, which Muncy considered a kickback for all of the business FCPS had just done with the company. "The conference was about RtI (Response to Intervention)," Muncy said. "If anybody should have been going, it should have been Diane Shuffet," who was in charge of that concern.

Post Script

KSN&C met with Kathy Dykes during the time of the WLEX investigative reporting, to review some evidence that Dykes had hoped would prove she only ditched the conference for half of the day, instead of the whole day. A binder with a set of notes from the Las Vegas conference was presented. Nice, but, suffice it to say the "evidence" was not conclusive of anything related to her attendance because there is no way to confirm when such notes were made. 

But this grown up version of "skipping school" is a relatively minor offense. It is embarrassing that she posted her playtime on Facebook, and that it came to light while the superintendent was being entertained in Australia by the Gates Foundation. This will, no doubt, give rise to new inquiries from state auditors wanting to better understand the nature of funded travel and whether that can be considered a kickback. It may cause the board of education to begin adding up the number of days certain administrators are away from their posts. It might spawn significant headaches for the district. But blowing off some portion of a conference? Who hasn't done that? The last sessions of the last day of a conference are almost always poorly attended.

As a disciplinary matter, it seems the 'ethics' charges are far more damning. At least, they ought to be, because they are about services to kids. These are the moments when a district demonstrates it's commitments to children, or to adults. The public can tell by observing who is protected in the process?

During our meeting, KSN&C invited Dykes to comment for the record. She declined. After a few minutes, Dykes was called out of the office, and when she returned she informed KSN&C that she had been directed not to make any comments at all, and that if we had questions they should be directed to the superintendent.

KSN&C first began looking into issues related to the FCPS Special Education Department about ten weeks ago after being contacted by Mr. Muncy and some parents. In preparing this story KSN&C spoke to, or otherwise communicated with, about a dozen parents of special needs children, along with a handful of former and current FCPS special education department administrators and staff. Due process hearing documents have been examined and in some cases open records requests have been made. We communicated with Leigh Searcy, compared notes, and followed the WLEX reporting. 

And, of course, Mike Muncy decided to go "on the record" and we interviewed him and reviewed a number of documents, recordings, and even a funny photo of one special ed department employee asleep at his desk. (We didn't run it because it has nothing to do with this story.) 

Some will dismiss Muncy as being disgruntled. So be it. He was allowed to sit at the cool kids table as long as he went along with the boss and took her jabs. But when that changed, and the jabs were no longer in jest, Muncy no longer felt obliged to take Dykes' petty abuse and keep her secrets at the same time. So he spilled the beans. If that's all it was, I might be inclined to dismiss him too. But Muncy came with documents. That's why WLEX believed him. I would have been inclined to believe him anyway, having known him to be reliable from my time in FCPS. But it was the corroborating documentation that made this story possible.

I was in attendance during the last FCPS Sp Ed Advisory Committee meeting, which, despite the fact that Dr Shelton's recent letters about the WLEX investigation of Dykes were on the agenda, no one offered a word, or asked a single question about the issue. Of course, Ms. Dykes, who ran the meeting, only gave folks about 3 seconds to respond before moving on to the next item. But I got the sense that everyone in the room, parents and administrators alike, we're relieved that no one said anything. They quickly resumed their pleasantries. If there is to be public accountability for the misdeeds of FCPS special education administrators, it will come from somewhere else. 

If this is how this story ends, it will be a shame. If parents remain neutered, passive recipients of whatever help the district deins to provide their children; if the superintendent finds no fault in the behavior documented herein; if the servant leadership vision he is quick to espouse is in fact only a slogan; then it will be a shame for Fayette County special needs children and the district at large.

When Fayette County Special Education Director Kathy Dykes has faced decisions that test her professional ethics, she seems to consistently fall short of the ethical standard set for teachers and other educational professionals certified in the state of Kentucky. If the district fails to provide a strong response to these short-comings it will set a new, and lower, standard for leadership behavior in the entire district.

Especially now that Dr. Karen Frohoff has rejoined the district, it is abundantly clear that the wrong person is in charge.


Anonymous said...

Hello Professor Day,

How recently did Dr. Shelton say to you that, "these matters are still under investigation." regarding Kathy Dykes failure to disclose her relationship with the hearing officer? The letter sent by Ms. Allen to Dr. Shelton reporting the conflict of interest was dated April 12, 2012. It is now the 29th of May 2013.

Should your readers conclude that Dr. Shelton been investigating this issue for 13 months without coming to a conclusion?

Thank you for your reporting!

angela southern said...

Why isn't she fired yet? Why do these people that are trusted by the community and tax payers allowed to do whatever they wish with no consequences? They should all be fired and charged for mishandling state, local, and Federal funds. But, thanks to Tom Shelton, they are all still employed.

Richard Day said...

May 29, 2013 at 6:13 PM: You have asked the right question...and unfortunately, my mediocre journalism skills has left some wiggle room. The quote is from May 15 2013, but my question was double-barreled and that allows for ambiguity to creep in.

I asked Lisa Deffendall: "Can you confirm for me that Dr. Shelton sent letters to EPSB regarding Kathy Dykes (Rachel Baker, Sherri Williams and Mike Muncy?) regarding misconduct under KRS 161.120 including but not limited to, committing a fraudulent or dishonest act by failing to attend to their required duties while on professional leave, and/or for failure to maintain the dignity and integrity of the profession through their activities on social networking sites including Facebook, and/or in email exchanges?


Can you confirm for me that Dr. Shelton sent a letter to EPSB regarding Kathy Dykes, for dishonest conduct, willful disregard for the welfare of others, neglect of her duty to report a conflict of interest, or the violation of any administrative regulations related to the XXXXXXX Due Process hearing?"

She gave the superintendent's response.

I think we can take the superintendent's investigation of recent revelations from WLEX at face value. In fact, I have reason to believe that letters have gone to EPSB in those cases, and can confirm that Mike Muncy was reported.

Whether Shelton has reopened consideration of Dykes' role in the due process hearing is unclear, so I wrote the story to allow for both possibilities: 1) that no letter was sent and 2) that new evidence may yet lead to a letter being sent.

I doubt the superintendent had knowledge of the recordings I had the opportunity to hear and reported on, and I suspect he was skeptical of Muncy's testimony on the matter. But I am not aware of anything that would prevent him from reconsidering Dykes' actions, even at this late date.

As you probably understand, (and Angela, this goes to your comment) Shelton can't just read my story and act on it. The district would have to check out what they can - and they may not have access to some of the evidence I was able to collect, and I can't provide it to them.

The worst case scenario, in my opinion, is that the new evidence is ignored, and somehow in Fayette County it becomes OK for adults to put the welfare of children in jeopardy without consequence. That would be so NOT about kids.

angela southern said...

I have the evidence that shows Tom Shelton and others were aware of the mishandling of funds, I faxed the evidence to Tom Shelton and the state auditor, and the attorney general, and even the governor of Kentucky. Yes, I have the proof that they all knew what was happening but no one responded to me. Now, after the investigation of WLEX certain "professionals" want to talk. Too little, Too Late. Thank you Richard Day for this HONEST report of our most precious victims in this story..our children.

Anonymous said...

Richard- i think it goes without saying that the toxic environment at the district level goes back before Dr. Shelton took control. The ship was sinking before he took the helm. I am curious as to what was really going on with excessive travel and expenses while Mr. Silberman was there. An environment of entitlement, fear and inappropriate behavior was festering long before Shelton took over. Has anyone questioned why Lisa Deffendall was stripped of her administrative duties? Has anyone questioned why Brenda Allen was relieved of her duties only to be replaced a year later? This story is much deeper than it appears. I would encourage you to ask the hard questions. What about the travel of other departments? This story deserves more digging.

Coldstream Resident said...

I live in Doug Barnett's neighborhood (Coldstream Station) and I have know him for about 10 years. Our kids attend school together at Sandersville. I caught him out walking the neighborhood tonight like he does every night and I asked him if he read your blog. He told me that he did. We got to talking about it and, oh boy. He let some f-bombs fly with respect to the special ed director! He also said that if he did this type of conduct at his day job that he would quickly be disbarred. I can safely say that he was not happy at all! He said something that he was supposed to go to some sort of meeting last night, but couldn't because he needed to calm down.

I've never seen him this angry.

Richard Day said...

May 30, 2013 at 10:41 PM: I am generally aware of incidents involving Lisa Deffendall that resulted in corrective action during the Silberman administration, but like most stories, KSN&C never researched or reported on it.

We did report on the circumstances surrounding Brenda Allen's separation from the district...rather fully, I thought.

WLEX has...and perhaps still is...reporting on travel issues.

There are only so many hours KSN&C is equipped to devote to any issue. Petrilli v Silberman only got the extended coverage it did because it was summer, I wasn't teaching, and wasn't particularly busy with other work.

It would seem that the Herald-Leader staff is stretched so thin (with Jim Warren covering both education and crime, I think it is) that they are being forced to do the easy stories. Let me tell you, proper reporting takes time.

I spoke to a H-L reporter recently about why H-L didn't cover the Rosalind Hurley-Richards Supreme Court decision and she said it was entirely possible that they didn't even know about it. I'm really worried about our newspapers.

May 30, 2013 at 11:37 PM: Ya gotta love Doug. He impresses me as sincere and passionate. There are few things I enjoy more than being a Facebook friend of his. The on-going banter with Lady MacBeth is delightful. I figure Board members must be frustrated by stuff like this, plus there's a limited amount that they can do about it. They spend every waking hour supporting and promoting the school district to the public and then something like this comes along. It's gotta be embarrassing.

Wendy Wheeler-Mullins said...

I also attended the FCPS Special Education Advisory Committee meeting on May 9. It was very tense. I did not speak publicly on the story that aired because I know FCPS has "rules" about parents or community members not being allowed to address individual personnel issues at public meetings. I think there is some disclaimer of this kind in the school board meeting minutes. And Dr. Shelton is using the old "personnel issue" as a shield in this instance, so that makes it useless to try to address a group, like the SEAC, directly on that topic. Professor Day you left the meeting before I got to speak. What I DID do was ask in writing for the following to be explained and reported to the public: - What specifically is FCPS doing to reduce the achievement gap for Special Education students? -Requested a clear accounting regarding how Fayette Co. Public Schools spent the $8 Million in Stimulus Money (not just we gave $10,000 to each school and $500 to each teacher, etc.)? Exactly what was purchased, in detail? -Requested a clear accounting regarding how Fayette Co. Public Schools Special Education Department spends the federal, state, and local monies. Exactly what was purchased, in detail? I also listed 7 specific concerns regarding special education in Fayette county including: - student achievement (as measured by the state tests and achievement gaps), - teacher training and supports for staff who actually work with the students, - climate for families at school, - customer service (not treating parents as customers, rude and bullying behavior from school administrators), - not treating parents as true members of the A.R.C. team (as in pre-meetings by staff where decisions about a child's IEP are made in advance). I hope I will get a response to the specific questions I asked, but I will not be holding my breath. Sadly the SEAC is a powerless, ineffective sounding board that is chaired by the person who is in charge of the department that people come complaining about: special education. Dr. Shelton did not hire Kathy Dykes, so he does not get to take full credit for the poor job she is doing and the lack of ethics she is demonstrating. However, Dr. Shelton is in charge of Ms. Dykes as an employee NOW and he can make a decision about her as a current employee now. Dr. Shelton has to decide whether he wants to keep an employee who (by her own admission and on more than one occasion that we are aware of) is dishonest and seems to lack ethics in more than one area of her professional life. Then Dr. Shelton will need to look to see, based on accountability scores, whether she is making sure students with disabilities are getting an appropriate education. Based on the district's own data, it appears that she is not doing a very good job. The scores went BACKWARD in 2009 and 2010 (the 2 years when the district was so flush with stimulus money and when she was traveling and deciding not to divulge a prior social relationship with a hearing officer in a due process case). Dr. Shelton seems to be focused on the aggregate amount of money spent by the special education department and equates that with evidence of a good education, rather than looking at actual student outcomes and the large gap in achievement for students with disabilities. Fayette County Schools has had problems with providing equitable educations to kids with disabilities since I started advocating for my child in 1997, and I know folks with older kids who were complaining well before even '97. The people who want to keep things the same are deeply entrenched in that building on Main Street. Since Dr. Shelton does not seem motivated to address the problem, I guess we will have to look to our School Board Members to hold Dr. Shelton accountable for how he allows the school administrators to behave and for any poor job they do.

Anonymous said...


It was only a short time after the last FCPS Sp Ed Advisory Committee meeting began that it was rather obviously that it was be the appropriate venue in which to comment on Dr. Shelton's letter. First, this Advisory Committee appears to serve such a useless function with respect to any Sp Ed advisory function that it would have been a complete waste of time to even address this issue. Moreover, it is not always a good idea to show one's hand that might indicate one's future intended actions in the presence of those to whom such actions will be directed.

Nevertheless, a line-by-line critique of this letter was provided to an appropriate member of the Board of Education subsequent to the Sp Ed Advisory Committee meeting.

Anonymous - at least for the present time

Richard Day said...


Thanks for your comment.

I confess that I took a little shot at y'all ... hoping someone would get a little riled up. I don't know if the SEAC is the right venue or not, but if you are there to advise on policy, surely there is a way for the group to make recommendations to the board that express the frustrations but are not specifically personal attacks, even if the object of the group's scorn is running the meeting. voting on and recommending a policy that would set specific punishments for any administrator who failed to reveal a personal or professional conflict of interest in a due process hearing.

Just a thought.

Wendy Wheeler-Mullins said...

A large problem with the Special Education Advisory Committee is that the way it is structured the complaints only go to the superintendent. It does not report to the Board of Education. When Dr. Shelton started working in Fayette County, a group of us when down to speak with him. We discussed the weakness of the SEAC. That is when he started actually attending the SEAC meetings (at least when he was in town). It is also my understanding that there has been a request that at least 1 school board member attend each SEAC meeting as well (it only meets 7 times a year!). Was there a Board member at the May meeting? I looked at the SEAC by-laws and it does not even say that they are to report to ANYONE. Sadly the SEAC is part of the dog and pony show that FCPS holds to try to demonstrate that they are doing a GREAT job educating kinds with disabilities. The data shows they are not. And as your and WLEX's reporting has shown, it's not "about the kids," it's about little kingdoms, money, and power.

Anonymous said...

As a sped teacher I was given $250 last year. I filled out form and submitted to Rachel Baker. After a lengthy period of time I let ms baker know I had not received materials. She said I hadn't filled out form correctly and would not get materials as it was too late. If I had not inquired I wouldn't have know. Guess they used $250 allocated for my students to have some fun times downtown. Wonder how many others were denied their funds as well.

Anonymous said...

Hi Richard,

Regarding Dr. Karen Frohoff there is some confusion.

I understood from your conclusion that Dr. Frohoff (who I have not had the pleasure of meeting) is more qualified than Ms. Dykes. I have heard positive feedback about her from one parent.

However, several people I have spoken to have the impression that you found her return to the district a be a sign of poor hiring practices.

Can you elaborate on this subject?



Richard Day said...

MW: Sorry for the confusion. You read me correctly.

I have had experience working with Karen Frohoff (more directly than with Mike Muncy, actually) and have always found her to be focused on what's best for kids. I found her to be a knowledgeable, caring, professional, who respected the parents and the process. T hat is not to suggest that parent always got their way with her but that so far as I know she always worked within the la,lw and was interested in fairness. As I think about it, this is probably not the first time Karen was better suited for leadership than her boss. I would have thought her plenty competent even if the current situation had not thrown her superior qualifications into such sharpe relief.

I don't know anything about the circumstances of her hiring and have no reason to doubt her selection. I
imagine she would team very well with Lu Young...and if she hadn't come to FCPS would have been a likely finalist for Supt in Madison Co.

I use some of Karen's FERPA instructional materials with my students.

Thanks for the comment.

Richard Day said...

Wendy: No BOE members were in attendance at the May meeting unless they came very late.

Anonymous said...

As a teacher and taxpayer and Beaumont middle school employee, I can only tell you that these things happen at our school, too. There is a level of fear that keeps me from going to my superiors. Kathy dykes should resign and the board should reconsider both dr. Sheltons contract and its obligation to the public.

I thank dr. Day for this reporting.

Anonymous said...

Once again, glad I don't work in Fayette County if this is how they run their shop. You may look down at some of us as behind the curve at times but seems like the system has gotten too big for it britches or its own good.

Anonymous said...

I have had a child receiving special ed services in the district. Mismanagement of funds is certainly nothing new, but the superintendents seem to be reluctant to address this. I have been part of the movement to try to improve services in special ed for the last 15 years. It seems we take a step forward and 15 steps back. My question is, when is someone going to address the lack of progress made by this population of students? Test scores continue to decrease, money is spent to send the "chosen few" to training (where apparently they party instead of learning)and no best practices are brought back and implemented. The vulnerable students are paying the price.

Thank you Mr. Day for having the courage to write this article~

Sterling's Daughter said...


Sterling's Daughter said...

I advocated for students on my caseload & students with disabilities living in my home.I had to file a Due Process case for my niece. Finally, my niece aged out of foster care & went to live with her mom in Georgia.Instead of using special ed funds & tax payer dollars to pay for educational services. special e admin located my niece, paid for her travel back to Lexington, paid $180 per night for her to stay in the Comfort Suites in exchange for her to drop her Due Process case. In the mean time, admin continued to retaliate against me by placing my work desk in a restroom closet, involuntary transfers, negligence, threats, harassment, discrimination,& improper evaluations. I was assaulted & threatened to be shot by students.Rather than hiring enough adults to support the students, special ed admin stood by and allowed me to repeatedly be injured. They also threatened me that if I did not follow what they wanted me to do, it would "come back on me" and that "I would be held accountable." I was assigned to BTWA the same year Peggy Petrili was urged to quit. Their special ed was a complete mess. I worked countless overtime hours & was not paid. I was removed from being a facilitator there & JLA only to be replaced by five people! Several students needed addition adult support. Kathy Dykes emailed me asking, "who's going to pay for them?" "Where was the $ coming from?" But after reading previous posts, I can now see why they fought so strongly against paying for things that student needed. I was evaluated outside of my evaluation year & put on a corrective action plan. The principal had no idea what was even in my job description or of the directives given to me by my district supervisor, Mr. Muncy. After my evaluation I was removed from being a special education facilitator & sent to Project Rebound. I reached out to Mr. Silberman & Dr. Shelton to no avail. Dr. Shelton had Jack Hayes investigate the abuse, neglect, discrimination, & harassment. Mr. Hayes told me that Kathy Dykes had told him that I was treated differently because I "always sided with the students & parents and against them (special ed admin). Mr. Hayes told me that was right to make sure students got what they needed & that I was doing a good job. But rather than having backbone and addressing the retaliation and abuse, Mr. Hayes sent me an email telling me to "just let it go and move on." In spite of all of the abuse, I kept working. On one occasion I requested to attend professional development for math & also money for certain teaching materials & was told, "no". Yet there were funds available for admin to go to Palm Beach, Florida for a conference. I have a Director of Special Ed certification and 2 masters & could have served the district well. Yet Rachel Baker, who did not have proper certification was "given" an administrative position that she was not certified to do. The fact that she and others continue to be allowed to boldly & aggressively deny students what they need just blows my mind! Perhaps a different slogan needs to be developed that does not include, "Its About Kids." I experienced 1st hand the bully tactics, harassment, & negligence causing me to be assaulted and injured multiple times by the same students. Although my reports were ignored,I kept working. I knew kids were counting on me. Kathy Dykes asked me to take a home bound teacher position. I feel it was a set up to push me far away from coworkers & to isolate me. While in the home of a student, I was attacked and bitten by a dog. I have not been able to return back to work but often have flashbacks of the attack and how differently things may be if special ed admin hadn't worked so hard to keep money for their "special perks" by denying students what they need.