WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - The superintendent of the School District of Palm Beach County has opened an investigation into a former Forest Hill Community High School Assistant coach accused of falsifying transcripts for student athletes, NewsChannel 5 has learned.
"I just talked to the superintendent about it this afternoon and he said he was starting an investigation and would advise the board," Frank Barbieri, chairman of the Palm Beach County School Board, said in an exclusive interview.
On Tuesday, investigators from the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office said that Michael Stephen Dudeck, 55, a former Forest Hill Community High School assistant coach, created false summer school transcripts for several student athletes through The Knowledge Zone, a testing and tutoring program authorities said Dudeck was running.
A young man who says he was one of those student-athletes spoke exclusively with NewsChannel 5, opting not to reveal his name publicly.
"I thought it was a big advantage, a big help, so I didn't know anything," he said. "I just wanted to get my grades up and play football."
Authorities say Dudeck sent the falsified documents to school guidance counselors at Forest Hill and Dwyer high schools so that those football players would appear academically eligible to play in the fall of 2011.
One of those guidance counselors contacted the Palm Beach County School District because the documents were filed on a letterhead with school code and instructor names from Lake Worth Christian School, investigators said.
The Christian school and named teachers were interviewed by investigators and said they had never tutored any of the student-athletes in question.
"Michael Dudeck has never been a summer school director for LWCS," Robert Hook, Lake Worth Christian School superintendent said in a statement. "This falsification of our school information was without our knowledge or permission."
Hook said Dudeck coached the school's varsity girls softball team in 2010 and had not worked there since January 17, 2011.
One of the football players said to be involved said Dudeck instructed him to take courses and tests online, which he did.
The student said that Dudeck assured him 'not to worry' about failing grades and that he would have the documentation to play sports.
"To this day I have not been back on the football field because of that," the student-athlete said. "Right now, I'm just currently working on my grades to get back on the football field legally, not illegally, legally. Because if I knew everything, I would not ever have taken his class," he said.
That player said he was pulled from the Forest Hill football team after about five games during the 2011 season by his head coach, Chris Kokell.
Another student believed to have been playing at Dwyer with falsified transcripts played through the 2011 football season, according to sources..
In addition to coaching at Forest Hill, Dudeck was said to be a teacher during the 2011-2012 school year.
The Palm Beach County School District said it was gathering information and was not prepared to comment on Dudeck's current standing with the district.
"There are 12,000 teachers [in the School District of Palm Beach County] and, out of 12,000 teachers, some people are going to do things they shouldn't be doing," Barbieri said. "Certainly, the superintendent will take appropriate action [and] make recommendations to the board and the board will do what the board thinks is in the best interest of the children."
A woman who answered the telephone at Dudeck's Delray Beach residence said Dudeck had 'no comment.'