Monday, July 08, 2013

Dyke’s Improper Behavior Hurt Four Special Needs Children’s Cases In Fayette County

Shelton Reported Concerns to EPSB

EPSB “encourages individuals to provide additional information”
In Dykes’ Probable Cause Hearing

The other day, KSN&C wrote a correction regarding Fayette County Special Education Director Kathy Dykes. Today we correct the correction.

We were interested in nailing down just exactly how many times Dyke's refusal to acknowledge a known conflict of interest had negatively impacted special needs children in Fayette County. There was one case in 2008-09, two more in 2009-10, and a fourth in 2011-12. We said four. 

But upon further examination of official documents, and consultation with an attorney on the case, we could not confirm that Dykes actually denied her involvement with the hearing officer a fourth time. It turns out that her tarnished reputation as Fayette County’s Special Education Director had preceded her. On the same day Kirk was named hearing officer, the parents immediately dropped the case, and there was no reason given. On our own initiative - we were not challenged by Dykes or the school district to make any corrections – KSN&C corrected the record to reflect only three cases. We simply reported that “fate intervened” and kept the initial meeting of the fourth case from occurring. 

Now we know more about fate, and the quality of communications among the parents of special needs kids in Fayette County. 

After publishing our last piece on this story, KSN&C was contacted directly by one of the parents in the fourth case. He clarified that his son’s case was damaged by Dykes, but not in the same manner as before.

While it is true that Kirk and Dykes were listed as principals in the case, a hearing never occurred...the way [it was] reported…is not the way it played out.  [Kirk] was not "replaced by KDE before any damage could be done." Rather, we had to withdraw our complaint and wait to refile it in hopes of getting another hearing officer because we knew of the rumors.  Damage was done by [our son] having to wait another month to get any relief. 

So while Dykes never actually hid her involvement with Kirk during a fourth hearing, her actions from the earlier cases, along with Kirk's, derailed the fourth case.

The Education Professional Standards Board

Under KRS 161.120 the Education Professional Standards Board may revoke, suspend, or …issue a written reprimand or admonishment; or any combination of those actions… any certificate or license” for a host of reasons outlined in the law. These include, committing any act that constitutes fraudulent, corrupt, dishonest, or immoral conduct; demonstrating willful or careless disregard for the health, welfare, or safety of others; violating any state statute relating to schools; violating the professional code of ethics; or violating any administrative regulation promulgated by the Education Professional Standards Board or the Kentucky Board of Education.

EPSB confirmed to KSN&C that there are pending investigations open on Kathy Dykes, Rachel Baker and Mike Muncy. Until the cases are closed, the records are not subject to the Open Records Act. For that reason, KSN&C can confirm that the wrongdoings reported by FCPS Superintendent Tom Shelton included unprofessional behavior related to the Las Vegas conference reported by WLEX, but in Dyke’s case, is less certain to what degree the district has also faulted her ethics in the Due Process hearings. 

Shelton went on the record expressing his displeasure with his administrator’s behavior during the conference, in person, as well as online. But it is harder to know the district’s position on the Due Process Hearings.

Should Kathy Dykes be held responsible for dishonest conduct under KRS 161.120 including but not limited to, her willful disregard for the welfare of the special needs children in these cases, the neglect of her duty to report a conflict of interest when asked to do so by a Due Process Hearing Officer, or the possible violation of other administrative regulations related to the cases?

Does all of the blame belong to Kirk, who was “let go” by KDE for his actions? 

Was Kathy Dykes an innocent pawn who was simply following the lead of the only responsible party – the hearing officer? Was she forthright in self-reporting her misdeeds to the superintendent and some district officials tend to believe?

Or was Dykes also responsible for her own behavior - a willing participant whose actions helped deny four children the due process promised our most vulnerable students, under the law?

The record shows that neither Dykes nor Kirk divulged the fact of their relationship for “a few” years. There was no change in Kirk's status as a hearing officer before Brenda Allen's letter to Shelton in April 2012. Dykes had not admitted her involvement prior to being outed, and KDE had not yet received a letter from Shelton reporting Dykes prior to that time. Kirk was not recused before June 5 on a motion from attorney Ed Dove...and he was replaced at the end of June. At this point, the second and third due process hearings began again, with a new hearing officer, and with every prior decision having to be reviewed. How did that not affect or hinder due process? 

How does Dykes get credit for meeting the professional ethics guidelines if she only divulges information when she knows someone else already has? This was also the case when WLEX investigated her Las Vegas travel problems, and only then did she admit them?
Professional Ethics 

Official documents show that, on three occasions, Dykes participated in an official telephone conference where the hearing officer asked everyone in attendance to declare if they knew of any reason why the hearing officer could not fairly hear the case. Starting with the first case, what Dykes knew in that moment was that she had slept with the hearing officer. 

But in addition to Dykes, Hearing Officer Kirk was also aware of the conflict and should have acknowledged it on his own, without even asking the question. But he didn’t. Instead he acted as if all was in order. And acting in his official capacity, he asked the group to divulge any reasons they might be aware of that might prejudice his status as the hearing officer.

It is hard to imagine that Dykes would not have seen her involvement with Kirk to have been to her advantage. Their connection was very personal. If there had been a different kind of conflict that served to benefit the children’s cases – say, one of the parents was the business partner of the hearing officer - one assumes that she would have sought a new hearing officer without hesitation. 

Dykes knew there was a conflict, was asked by “the court” to divulge that information, but chose to hide her complicity. The fact that Dykes could simply ignore any hearing officer’s request with impunity is evidence of why such conflicts of interest are harmful to due process. It would be foolish parents who thought they could simply ignore the hearing officer directives in a due process case. But Dykes apparently felt privileged to do so.

Since they got away with it in May of 2009, Dyke’s could reasonably expect that Kirk would respond the same way in any future hearings. Still, she engaged in a little game of “charades” with Mike Muncy, the district special education administrator for elementary schools when the second and third cases improper cases arose in 2009.

"Kathy told me,” Mike Muncy reported, '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.'"

"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...and she said, 'Well he never mentioned it, so I didn't bring it up.' And they started the hearing," Muncy said.

KSN&C was given a peek into Dyke’s thinking about her conduct during due process hearings in the form of a few secret recordings made by FCPS special Education staff who wish to remain anonymous. On one, Dykes can be heard relating a conversation she had had with an unidentified man, to a small group. Dykes can be heard saying, "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’."

Under normal circumstances one might dismiss such loose talk as ill-advised perhaps, but probably harmless. But it would be foolish to dismiss the inference in a case where an intimate relationship had already been acknowledged. 

Muncy related another exchange that appeared to demonstrate the lengths Dykes was willing to go to – by coyly appealing to Kirk’s manhood. "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 [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."

Does Dyke’s behavior constitute probable cause that she failed in her duty to act in a profession and ethical manner? Will EPSB question 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?

Or, to look at it from another angle, does Kathy Dykes' behavior represent a model that other school administrators should strive to emulate? Because, if EPSB and Superintendent Shelton accept this behavior, it will become the minimum standard for others.

What Now?

Aside from confirming that an on-going case exists, regulations prevent EPSB from sharing any other information, until the case is closed. 

EPSB’s Director of Legal Services Alicia Sneed encouraged citizens with something to say, to say it.

“You may most certainly supply additional information, or submit an additional complaint,” she wrote.

[I]n fact we encourage individuals to supply additional information for the EPSB’s probable cause review since we are unable to fully investigate every complaint we receive prior to the EPSB’s initial review. Having information from multiple sources, whether it is the same information, or more information, gives the EPSB a better understanding of the allegations.”

Any information may be sent to Alicia Sneed, Director of Legal Services, Education Professional Standards Board. Her email address is

The next step will be an initial review which EPSB always undertakes in closed session. The respondent is not present, nor is her counsel. At present, it appears the case will probably be heard on the September 16, 2013 docket. But there’s apparently an outside chance it could make the August 5 docket.

Following the initial review, Sneed is permitted to inform the public if the matter is still pending - meaning it was not dismissed, and the individual was not admonished. 

If a hearing occurs in the matter it is the respondent who gets to request whether it is a public or private matter. 

Once the EPSB issues a final order in the matter, the entire file is subject to open records and may be released even if there is an appeal to Franklin Circuit Court.  

 Ms. Sneed sent along a couple of flowcharts outlining the EPSB’s disciplinary process.  

In related news, KSN&C has also heard from Dale Kirk’s ex-wives as a result of these stories. Neither woman wishes to be quoted in the matter, but both expressed very similar sentiments. I believe it’s safe to say that neither was shocked by news of his dalliances. We don't allow name-calling on KSN&C, but perhaps we could say that both tend to regard him as a rodent of indeterminate parentage. Neither would be heart-broken if Mr. Kirk suffered some negative repercussions as a results of his actions.


Anonymous said...

I continue to be stunned that KathyDykes still holds her position. It is time for the Board of Education to act. They need not wait for the the EPSB to make their decision. She must be removed from her current position.

Anonymous said...

I get the sense that if the school house were on fire, FCPS would out of duty pull the fire alarm as required and simply wait for the fire department to arrive. Don't think they would consider actually doing anything to combat the fire. That's not leadership.