Monday, August 05, 2013

Dykes Case Still Pending Before EPSB

EPSB finds probable cause to fully investigate allegations

Today Kentucky's Education Professional Standards Board met in closed session to undertake a probable cause review in the case of Fayette County Schools Special Education Director Kathy Dykes.  

In accordance with state law, Dykes had been reported to EPSB by Fayette County Schools Superintendent Tom Shelton following reports from WLEX TV and Kentucky School News and Commentary alleging professional misconduct.

EPSB Director of Legal Services Alicia Sneed confirmed to KSN&C that the standards board also heard complaints from an undisclosed number of parents of special needs children from Fayette County (and perhaps Lincoln County, Dykes's former district).

At this point, other than confirming that Dykes' "case is still pending," Sneed is precluded from providing any further information. We can report is that the case was not dismissed. Dykes was not admonished at this time.

The lack of conclusive action from today's probable cause review means that EPSB will now "fully investigate" the complaints. Whenever a hearing occurs in the matter, it is the respondent (Dykes) 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. 

In May, WLEX reported that parents raised serious ethical questions about how FCPS Special Ed administrators conducted business when Dykes posted pictures on her Facebook page showing her in Las Vegas in 2009 at a casino during her tax funded trip for a School Attorneys Conference. Former special education administrator Mike Muncy told WLEX that he and Dykes skipped part of the conference to take a side trip to the Grand Canyon. Several embarrassing website posts and emails from special education department staff further compounded the impression of unprofessional, and perhaps illegal behavior. As WLEX reported,
In 2009, Scholastic Incorporated, a book company the school district does lots of business with, invited administrators to a conference in Nashville, where Scholastic Inc. was footing all hotel and registration costs, including the bar bill.

Special Ed administrator Rachel Baker emailed her boss Kathy Dykes stating the following: "Ben (scholastic rep) has us at an open bar. How much more stimulus money do we need to spend? Your reply to this email is authorization:)"

Dykes responds: "I want to know if you all drank enough to equal the amount of money we have spent -- somewhere around $500,000. Hope you are being wined and dined:) smiley face."

Baker: "He is taking us out to a honky tonk for the night and we intend to invest. You guys would have a blast... poor Ben (scholastic rep) :)"

They invested alright. More than $494,000 before the trip, and the business relationship continues today with hundreds of thousands of dollars spent with the company.
KSN&C reported that in four due process hearings, Dykes failed to divulge a personal relationship with the hearing officer, as required. The conflict of interest harmed four special education cases by denying parents their legal rights to due process.

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.


Anonymous said...


Will Mrs. Dykes have a consequence if she is found guilty of violating standards? Does this mean she will be fired from her position at Fayette County Public Schools?

Richard Day said...

A consequence? Perhaps she will have to write lines: "In the future when I skip out on my conference I won't post pictures of it on Facebook, and I promise not to hide anymore conflicts of interest in due process hearings."

EPSB has a range of options that could affect her certificate. If her certificate was impacted FCPS would probably be forced to do...something. She could not work during a period when her certificate was suspended, for example.

I'm not sure her offense rises to a level where she would lose her certificate, but we'll see what EPSB thinks. My guess is that a public admonishment and perhaps short suspension are more likely.

Ultimately, I think her actions call into question her leadership and ethics more than her ability to work in the district.

I assume the superintendent retains his full range of options during the investigation and could ultimately suspend, demote, or fire her...or something else. But the district has already defended her in one case, and mitigated her wrongdoing generally. I wouldn't bet a nickle on termination.

If it was me...I'd do a little departmental reorganization around her demotion. But it's not...

Anonymous said...

Dr. Day,

Do you know if there will be an investigation of and/or disciplinary action taken against Dale Kirk?

Richard Day said...

Kirk was an independent contractor who did not get his contract renewed. So, he lost that job. I'd say KDE is done.

Anonymous said...

One last thing, you said that the hearing testimony is subject to an open records request?

Richard Day said...

Not the hearing testimony....

...but the case file.

I don't know what all is in the case file. It may or may not include specific testimony. It would surely include all received complaints, responses, official EPSB actions...but I'm not sure what else.

Anonymous said...

Thanks as always, Dr. Day. You are an advocate for transparency. I wish Fayette County Schools and our local newspaper felt the same.

Richard Day said...

Thanks. I appreciate your kind words.

Anonymous said...

Does Ms. Dykes still get to testify in the new hearings for these special education children? I am guessing there would be new hearings done. Would these children be rewarded something for their parents expense and time? In order to end up at a due process hearing the school was already doing something pretty bad.

Would the attorneys in this matter just work this out, or would they have to do another due process hearing?

Richard Day said...

August 12, 2013 at 9:44 PM: It is my understanding that at least one set of parents has requested that she be removed from participation in their case. But I do not believe the district has changed a least, I've been told the request was denied.

The fact that a due process hearing is going on does not mean that the district has anything wrong. It's a hearing like any other.

We know some facts in Ms Dyke's case that throw all of that into question, but we'll have to wait to see what EPSB does.

Since EPSB found probable cause to investigate, I suppose an investigation is ongoing. How attorney's play into that - I don't know. I suspect they can negotiate, argue for a lower consequences, or try whatever lawyers can try.

Anonymous said...

I think the bloggers should be aware of something. Parents have just learned that the attorney for the children has a connection to the school. His wife works for the Fayette County School System in a higher up position.

This concerns special education parents because how do we know that he isn't working with their attorney to make deals behind the parents backs. Now who should we trust? This attorney is set to re-do one of the cases.

Parents are starting to feel like they can't trust the school system, the attorneys involved, or the Department of Education. Where do we go now Mr. Day?

Is there any justice in this town at all for the children?

Richard Day said...

September 12, 2013 at 7:31 AM: These kinds of entanglements are fairly commonplace and not unique to Kentucky. I believe most folks are able to set aside personal considerations and do their jobs. But I must admit, that does not always happen. That's why it is so important, that when it does not happen, the system must respond strongly.

I may have more faith in the system than many parents, particularly parents of special needs students whose program has been in dispute. But I'm not sure what the alternative would be.