Facing closure, Durham charter school's appeal to be heard in April

Posted March 22, 2017 1:32 p.m. EDT
Updated March 22, 2017 1:39 p.m. EDT

— Leaders at Kestrel Heights charter school in Durham are getting one last chance to try to convince state officials to keep their high school open.

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

Kestrel Heights appealed the decision, forcing the state to take another look. A state board review panel will hold a public meeting April 4 at 9:30 a.m. in Raleigh to hear from the school.

Leaders from Kestrel Heights, as well as officials with the state's Office of Charter Schools, will each get 45 minutes to make presentations to the review panel. The panel will go into closed session and then make a recommendation about the school's future.

The full State Board of Education will consider the recommendation and take a final vote at its meetings on April 5 and 6.

Kestrel Heights' 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.