Saturday, June 22, 2013

A Pattern of Deceit

KSN&C finds One More Dykes Conflict with Kirk 

Kiss and Tell Leads to Revelations

Updated and Corrected

In 2010, when Fayette County Special Education Director Kathy Dykes confided in administrator Mike Muncy, that she didn't know what to do - because she had slept with newly assigned Due Process Hearing Officer Clinton Dale Kirk, which she knew to be a conflict of interest - even that was apparently a lie.

She knew exactly what to do. Nothing.

She knew, because according to official documents obtained from KDE through an open records request, it was not the first time Kirk had failed to recuse himself in a Fayette County case where Dykes was directly involved. Kirk and Dykes were both principal parties to Agency case 0809-17 in May of 2009.

One wonders why she felt compelled to say anything to Muncy at all.

She sat quietly in 2009 as the former superintendent, then KDE Hearing Officer Dale Kirk kept secret his conflict of interest with Dykes. She sat quietly in 2010 as two more cases were tainted with deceit.

As a result of the conflict, parents in at least two of the cases tell KSN&C that they want all of her testimony thrown out. Motions to that effect are in the works.

The first case, Agency case 0809-17, began on May 6th, 2009. Attorney's from that case have not responded to requests from KSN&C. The next two cases occurred in June 18, 2010 as KSN&C fully reported here. Kirk and Dykes were outed by Mike Muncy in the April 12th letter from Brenda Allen to Superintendent Tom Shelton.

Yet another case, Agency case 1112-21, was filed on April 20th, 2012, and once again Dykes and Kirk were slated to serve their respective roles. But fate intervened. According to new documents received from KDE, Kirk and Dykes were listed as principals in the hearing, just as in the three prior cases. On April 24th, "Hearing Officer Kirk telephoned the office of the Director of Special Education, Fayette County arrange a conference call between parties." But "later that same day," Dykes and Kirk "were served electronically a Motion to Dismiss Without Prejudice" from counsel for the petitioning family. So before Kirk could make any rulings in the case - the case was withdrawn.* The case was later refiled as Agency case 1112-23, but was assigned to a different Hearing Officer. 

Lincoln County & KSBA

Even prior to Dykes joining FCPS, there were allegations from Lincoln County parents that Dykes deceived parents, and apparently only her hiring by Fayette County kept yet another earlier conflict from occurring. In 2004, parents filed a due process hearing request (Agency case 0304-26) to remedy on-going violations of IDEA in Lincoln County (where Dykes served as Director of Special Education) negatively impacting their son's education. But "Kathy Dykes came to us and begged us to drop the suit. She promised that the district would remedy the problems. But once the due process hearing was out of the way, she went back on her word," one parent told KSN&C.

The parents complained to KDE in Agency case 0405-C-32(54). In a May 2005, KDE Assistant General Counsel Kevin Brown issued a Report of Findings indicating that "the department has found violations by the district" on Dyke's watch. Unsatisfied by the district's response, the parent's refiled their due process action on in August 2005 in Agency case 0506-3. Kirk was named to the case, but by that time Dykes had left for Fayette County.

Once KDE became aware of Kirk's failure to divulge the conflict of interest in the Fayette County cases, they took action against Kirk. When Kirk applied for more work as a hearing officer in August, 2012 KDE determined that he had "an existing conflict with this work" and declared him "ineligible for selection." To protect the integrity of the process KDE requires that a hearing officer "not have a personal or professional interest" that conflicts with the objectivity in any hearing. Kirk did not meet this mandatory requirement, as he had violated the provision in at least four cases - but perhaps only one that KDE was aware of. Dale Kirk no longer serves as a hearing officer for KDE.

Kirk did find work with the Kentucky School Boards Association as a search consultant for districts seeking new superintendents. KSBA has been made aware of Kirk's failures at KDE, but at the time of this writing, KSBA is reviewing their hiring policies to determine if there is a problem with Kirk's employment. "No decision has been made regarding his status with KSBA," according to KSBA spokesman Brad Hughes.

Who is Dale Kirk?

Kirk had bristled as the head of the West Kentucky Educational Cooperative back in 2000 when it was revealed that another co-op in Ashland was used in an embezzlement scandal by former Deputy Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Education Randi Kimbrough (Lexington Herald-Leader - August 3, 2000 ). State Auditor Ed Hatchett began investigating KDE's relationship with a few co-ops. Among other things, Hatchett said the department had used the agencies to stash unspent money that should have gone back to the treasury. While no one associated with a co-op was charged with wrongdoing, a new law required co-ops to be reviewed by the State Auditor's office each year thereafter. Kirk suggested that the auditor's actions were politically motivated. The Kentucky Post (February 23, 2001) reported that "the auditor found problems with the West Kentucky Education Cooperative, questioning the way it spent $11,000. The auditor said some personal items were charged to credit cards and migrant educational funds were spent for unallowed purposes."

A Livingston County native, Kirk received his bachelor's and master's degrees in history, English and education administration from Murray State University.

Kirk's resume includes stints as a teacher at Livingston Central High School, Boothville-Venice High School in Boothville, La., and Crittenden County High School. He was named assistant principal at Crittenden County High in 1979 and was principal there from 1980 to 1986. From there, he went to Fort Thomas Highlands High School, where he spent a year as assistant principal and a year as principal before becoming superintendent in Harrodsburg.

Kirk was one of the unsuccessful candidates for the Daviess County superintendency in 1995 when Stu Silberman was hired.

As a candidate for superintendent in Daviess County, Kirk described himself to the Owensboro press as a "journeyman educator," which seems about right, but one wonders if Kirk knew what the word means.
Dale Kirk  is the superintendent of the McCracken County school system d lives in Paducah. Before taking the McCracken post three years ago, Kirk was superintendent of Harrodsburg Independent Schools from 1988 to 1992.
Kirk expressed strong support for the Kentucky Education Reform Act, but said its assessment system needs adjusting.

"I believe my plan would be to continue the implementation of KERA, as we know it," he said. "We as educators face a legislative challenge to defend the good parts of reform and not let them be tossed out with the parts that need attention." Kirk said he thought Daviess County would be a good place to end his career, after eight to 10 years as superintendent.

Kirk has overseen an eventful three years in McCracken County.

When he arrived in 1992, several high-level openings existed in the central office, and two elementary schools required expensive structural repairs. Last year, a controversy flared up between the school board and teachers over salary negotiations. At one point, the local teachers' organization filed suit against the board and Kirk, who was named individually and as superintendent. The suit said Kirk violated the negotiation agreement by comments he made to local news media. The teachers accepted a 3.5 percent pay increase in December, and the suit was dropped.

Kirk is credited with implementing innovative curriculum and staff development programs in McCracken County, including a voluntary leadership academy for teachers to learn administrative skills. Murray State University now gives college credit for the program.

Chuck Mullin, chairman of the McCracken County School board, said Kirk is admired and generally well-liked in the district.

"He's a good guy with real innovative ideas," Mullin said. "As a whole right now, he has a lot of support." Kirk is married and has one son, a junior at Lone Oak High School. His wife, Charlotte, is director of federal and instructional programs for the Hickman County school district. Kirk is a veteran of the Vietnam War and has been a member of the U.S. Army Reserve since 1977.
* In the original story we reported that "news had filtered from Fayette County through the proper channels at KDE, and Kirk was suddenly replaced before any damage could be done in the 2012 case." This was not completely accurate. News did reach KDE, but legal counsel connected with the case informs KSN&C that before KDE moved against Kirk, and before the initial telephone conference, the case had been withdrawn for other reasons. A response to a KSN&C Open Records request arrived after publication (due to a simple typographical error in the return email address) but confirmed the source's information. KSN&C regrets the inaccuracy of the original report. We have no desire to hype the story or make it worse than it is.


Karen Sheetz said...

Parents of students in special education here in Fayette County could have been spared eight years of grief and frustration if this Director had been properly vetted when she applied for the position of Special Education Director in the summer of 2005. Staff and parents endured eight years of bullying and intimidation from this director while our children received substandard services. Eight years they will never get back. Wonder who will defend her this time?

angela southern said...

Unbelievable! I have lost all faith, and trust in the FCPS system. I refuse to let Kathy Dykes attend my child's IEP meetings. It's NOT about the kids, it's about the money, and power! shame on you Kathy!

Anonymous said...

I feel for the kids receiving special education services in Fayette County. This is just a shame. Thankfully, I don't have any kids in the system anymore.

I am a practicing attorney in Lexington and I saw Doug Barnett at the KBA Convention last week in Louisville. I did not get to speak with him, but I did find it interesting that he attended one of the same sessions that I did. The session was entitled "Rules and Procedures for Running for District/Circuit Judge." Makes me wonder if he's had enough of this insanity and is planning for something else in 2014.

Anonymous said...

I cannot say it clearer: this matter has ceased to be a personnel issue. If the district does not file a formal motion to have dykes fired, or her certificate revoked, and the same for her former lover, Tom Shelton is not doing his job and the board of education can no longer be viewed asactingin the interests of the public they represent. inaction is nothing short of cowardice.