Durham charter school loses appeal; high school must close

Posted April 6

— Kestrel Heights charter school’s appeal to stay open has failed.

The State Board of Education voted unanimously Thursday to close the high school as punishment for giving unearned diplomas to 40 percent of its students in the past eight years.

The board also required the K-8 portion of the school, which will stay open, to retain an independent professional auditor.

Kestrel Heights must close its high school by July 1 but can apply to reopen in three years.

The school's new principal first discovered the diploma problem last summer. School leaders investigated further in December and found that 160 of 399 students received diplomas in the past eight years without earning all of the proper credits.

The problems stemmed from "systematic errors" by a counselor and two principals, according to school officials, who said the staffers are no longer employed. The Durham County District Attorney’s Office is working to determine whether a criminal investigation is warranted.

The school's executive director, Mark Tracy, said he is disappointed with the decision but moving forward.

"Obviously we're disappointed for our students and our parents and our community but we're really excited about the opportunity to continue a quality K-8 education. You know we've got an additional stipulation but what we're excited about is proving that we continue to provide a quality education," he said.

The school will provide guidance counselors for students Friday, as they did last month, to let kids talk and vent if needed.


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  • Fred Neopolitano Apr 6, 6:38 p.m.
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    Those responsible need to be punished.

  • Wayne Talley Apr 6, 1:28 p.m.
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    Looks like the current students and their families are the ones being punished. Those who committed the infractions are no longer at the school. I'm not sure the interests of the students were ever considered in making this decision.