School & District Management

Kentucky School Board Chairman Accused of Cheating On GED Exam

By Denisa R. Superville — April 22, 2016 2 min read
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In the annals of the strange and wacky things that transpire on local school boards, this one from Kentucky merits a mention.

The Kentucky state police is alleging that the chairman of the Knox County School Board cheated on his GED exam by having someone else take the test for him.

You read that right.

The state police says that it has surveillance footage showing the chairman, Dexter Smith, appearing at the Jackson County Adult Education Center on March 30 to take a GED exam, speaking to an employee, and then leaving. It appears that the employee then takes the test for Smith, according to media reports.

The Lexington Herald-Leader also reported that an adult education teacher at the center had admitted to taking the test for Smith, who was elected to the school board in 2012.

You may be wondering: shouldn’t a school board member have a high school diploma or a GED?

Good question.

According to the Associated Press, Kentucky law does require school board members who get at least $75 a day in expenses to hold a high school diploma or GED. And, according to the AP, Smith, who had dropped out of high school at the age of 17, signed an affidavit when he first ran for office, attesting that he, in fact, had met the requirements to be a school board member.

Fast forward a few years later when questions about Smith started to surface.

In December 2015, the state board of education reported, after an investigation, that Smith and another board member, Merrill Smith, had “improper involvement in personnel matters and in the day-to-day operation of schools,” according to the Herald-Leader. Superintendent Kelly Sprinkles was also found to have violated rules about hiring, according to the paper.

Amid a contentious meeting last month, the board voted not to renew Sprinkles’ contract, and Smith was among those who voted to get rid of Sprinkles.

That’s when residents started narrowing in on Smith and scrutinizing his qualifications, according to the AP. To quell the tide, Smith responded by posting a copy of a diploma he got from Nation High School on Facebook.

That only made things worse. Nation High School is not accredited by the Better Business Bureau, and a local paper said it was a “diploma mill” and a scam, according to the AP. And if you Google the school, you also get a PR Newswire release from 2011 trumpeting that the school offers “high school diplomas for a tuition fee as low as $289.”

Smith was supposed to take the GED test to lay to rest questions about his education qualifications.

Now, in addition to the state police investigation into the alleged cheating on the GED exam, the state’s attorney general is also looking into the matter of his diploma. The Kentucky Department of Education also “has an open investigation into numerous allegations regarding the Knox County Schools,” a spokeswoman for the agency told the Associated Press.

The district told the AP that the employee who allegedly took the exam for Smith had retired amid the district investigation. The Herald-Leader also reports that the police are investigating whether Smith had committed perjury.

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.