Education

Facing possible closure, Durham school 'exploring all options,' plans community meeting

Posted January 12

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— Facing the possible closure of its high school, Kestrel Heights charter school in Durham announced Thursday that it "is exploring all available options" and plans to hold a community meeting next week.

The state Charter Schools Advisory Board recommended Wednesday that Kestrel Heights close its high school, effective July 1, and continue serving students only in grades K-8.

The recommendation came after Kestrel Heights reported this week that 40 percent of its graduates – 160 of 399 students – received diplomas in the past eight years without earning all of the proper credits.

The final decision about the school's fate rests with the State Board of Education, which will meet in February.

Kestrel Heights' leaders say they plan to hold a community meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 18, in the open space between the elementary and middle school "in order to answer questions and address any comments or concerns."

Since the discovery of the diploma problems came to light, officials at Kestrel Heights have reached out to affected students by certified mail. They sent an initial letter to inform students that there is a potential issue with their transcript. They followed up with two more letters if the students didn't respond.

The school's new principal discovered the problems in July, shortly after she took the job. The school began investigating and reported the issue to the state's Office of Charter Schools on Oct. 5.

The problems stemmed from "systematic errors" by a counselor and two principals, according to the school's Executive Director Mark Tracy. He said he does not believe their actions were "willful, intentional or done with malice" but noted that they "are no longer employed" at the school.

The State Board of Education has recommended that the Durham County District Attorney’s Office determine whether a criminal investigation is warranted.

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