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Citing 'significant' feedback, state board delays decision on Durham charter school's fate

Posted February 1

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— Kestrel Heights charter school students and teachers will have to wait another month to find out whether their high school will be shut down this summer or continue operating as normal.

The North Carolina State Board of Education was supposed to vote this week on the school's fate after the discovery that 40 percent of the students had received diplomas without meeting all the requirements in the past eight years.

State board member Becky Taylor said Wednesday that the board had received "significant" feedback from the public, and she suggested waiting a month before taking a vote, which the other board members agreed with.

"​A decision of this magnitude deserves serious evaluation," Taylor said.

The board will discuss and vote on Kestrel Heights' future at its next meetings on March 1 and 2.

"Looking at the student demonstration this week, the petition the parents did independently of the school speaks volumes to what Kestrel means to our community and our students and I think speaks to our ability to provide a quality education moving forward for our students," said Kestrel Heights Executive Director Mark Tracy.

The Durham charter school has been under scrutiny since it alerted the state Office of Charter Schools last fall that it had given diplomas to students who didn't earn them. The school's new principal first discovered the problem last summer.

School leaders investigated further last month and found that 160 of 399 students received diplomas in the past eight years without earning all of the proper credits.

The state Charter Schools Advisory Board recommended last month that Kestrel Heights high school be shut down effective July 1 due to the diploma problems.

The final decision rests with the State Board of Education. Meanwhile, the state board has asked the Durham County District Attorney’s Office to determine whether a criminal investigation into the school's diploma issue is warranted.

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