Kentucky school official accused of cheating to get his GED

A chairman of a Kentucky school board is accused of cheating on a GED test that he chose to take to prove the diploma he bought online was authentic.

According to the Associated Press Thursday, the Kentucky State Police allege that Knox County School Board Chairman Dexter Smith had another person take the exam for him.

The issue came to light last month when the Mountain Advocate reported that Nation High school, the online school listed on Smith’s diploma, is a “diploma mill,” unaccredited and described by the Better Business Bureau as a scam.

The Federal Trade Commission and the state's Council on Postsecondary Education have also warned consumers away from online high school scams.

Nation High School boasted in advertisements that for $289 a person could apply for a diploma based on their “prior life experience.” The online school is said to be located in Charlotte, and as of Friday the website listed for the school on the Better Business Bureau site was down.

The Kentucky Department of Education requires that school board members, who receive a per diem of $75 and expenses for each meeting, have a high school diploma or a GED. Kentucky State Police Trooper Shane Jacobs said Smith signed a statement declaring he met the requirements when he ran for office three years ago.

Jacobs said the state police submitted its perjury investigation to prosecutors, who will decide whether to pursue charges.

Concerns over Smith’s education arose amid other turmoil in the state’s school system. The Kentucky Office of Education Accountability found that Smith, another board member and the superintendent violated the law by meddling in the day-to-day operation of schools. Smith told the media he only did so to ensure students were getting the best possible education.

Nancy Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Education, told the AP the department “has an open investigation into numerous allegations regarding the Knock County Schools.”

Then the board, including Smith, voted last month to oust the superintendent.

The Mountain Advocate reported that citizens incensed by the votes against the superintendent questioned Smith over his educational qualifications last month. In response, he posted a picture of his Nation High School diploma on Facebook. Questions piled up about its validity and Smith said he would settle the issue by getting his GED.

Jacobs said that on March 30, Smith went to the Jackson County Adult Education Center for the GED exam. But he didn't take it.

The state police found surveillance video showing him talking with the employee, then leaving, and the employee taking the test in his name instead, Jacobs told The Mountain Advocate in an interview Thursday.

He did not know how the arrangement came to be, or if there is a connection between Smith and the employee, who he declined to identify.

Larry Bryson, the attorney for Jackson County Schools, said the district started a separate investigation and the employee, who had been with the school system for more than 30 years, opted to retire. Jacobs was unsure whether that person could face criminal charges.

A school board meeting is set for Tuesday evening.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.