Ex-Forest Hill assistant football coach calls his arrest, charges a 'complete surprise'
Michael Dudeck’s arrest for two felony counts of falsifying documents and receiving unlawful compensation shocked the Palm Beach County School District and many of his former colleagues and employers. But no one was more surprised than Dudeck himself, who said Wednesday that he “had no idea” authorities were investigating him.
The 55-year-old former high school teacher and coach is accused of fudging high school transcripts for one Dwyer High School and three Forest Hill High School football players so they would be athletically eligible for the 2011 season, a charge that caught Dudeck off-guard.
“I’ll be getting a lawyer,” Dudeck said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon. He added that, “Unfortunately, I’ve been told not to talk to anybody right now.
“I don’t know what’s happening,” he said. “(Tuesday) was a surprise, and everything so far has been a complete surprise to me.”
Yet some close to the investigation weren’t surprised. Robert Hook, who runs Lake Worth Christian School in Boynton Beach, released a statement Wednesday detailing his school’s involvement with Dudeck, a longtime area football and softball coach, saying he expected Dudeck’s arrest “for a while.”
In a seven-page probable cause affidavit, the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office alleges that Dudeck listed Lake Worth Christian as the site for his summer-hours tutoring company, The Knowledge Zone, despite never using the space after receiving permission from Hook.
Dudeck’s alleged scheme began to unravel last September when a Forest Hill High guidance counselor contacted Hook to verify the summer-school hours reported on a student-athlete’s transcript that was signed by Dudeck, who claimed to be Lake Worth Christian’s summer-school director. Hook said the documents, which featured Lake Worth Christian’s letterhead and school identification number, were false. Hook immediately reported the incident to the Boynton Beach Police Department.
“The ‘transcript’ was false in its entirety,” Hook said. “The student named on the ‘transcript’ had not participated in any LWCS school program in 2011, nor at any other time. Michael Dudeck has never been a summer school director at LWCS.
“This falsification of our school information was without our knowledge or permission,” Hook said in the statement.
How Dudeck’s alleged actions will ultimately affect those students whose transcripts are involved is a question that the school district was still wrestling with Wednesday, according to Superintendent Wayne Gent.
“This is something we’re working on right now,” Gent said, as he headed into Wednesday’s a school board meeting.
Meanwhile, a slightly clearer picture of Dudeck, of Delray Beach, emerged Wednesday as more details of his arrest and past came out.
He was employed for four months this year as an ESE teacher at Forest Hill High before he was “non-reappointed” by the school district on June 9, School District spokesman Nat Harrington
Dudeck, who is out on $6,000 bond,was an assistant football coach at Forest Hill High, and the head softball coach at Palm Beach Central High School. Forest Hill administrators told head football coach Chris Kokell that Dudeck could not be retained as an assistant coach for the 2012 season, but didn’t explain.
Dudeck was Pope John Paul II High School’s football coach for one season, in 2007, and coached softball at American Heritage, Lake Worth Christian, North Broward Prep and Spanish River. None of the administrators reached Wednesday were aware of his arrest or his previous financial troubles, which includes a 2009 bankruptcy filing.
“He wasn’t ever in trouble with us,” said Spanish River Athletic Director Kevin McEnroe, who supervised Dudeck from 2005-09. “Eligibility packets, especially with off-campus coaches, are always a hassle, but I didn’t red-flag him or anything like that. There was no reason to.”
Yet there remains mystery surrounding Dudeck’s tutoring company, which dissolved in September 2011, right around the beginning of the state attorney’s investigation.
Kokell refused to comment
The teachers listed on the false transcripts — Boynton Beach Charter School teachers Brad Pess and Robin Smith-House — could not be reached, either, though they told investigators they had never worked for Dudeck or any of the students in question.
The status and class of the student-athletes, whose names were blacked out in the probable cause affidavit, remains unknown, though at least one Forest Hill football player admitted to investigators that he played in several 2011 games. Three Forest Hill players in total were dismissed from the team after their falsified transcripts were discovered.
The Florida High School Athletic Association, which would enforce punishments against any schools using ineligible athletes, had not received any information from the state attorney’s office regarding the investigation. But spokesman Corey Sobers said he’d assume his organization would be in contact with the state in the coming days.
“We weren’t aware of any of this,” Sobers said. “We weren’t investigating the schools or anything like that. We hadn’t heard anything about it.”
Michael Dudeck (PBSO)