Fight begins to keep Durham charter school open after diploma errors

Posted January 18, 2017 10:28 p.m. EST

— Concerned parents and students had their chance to ask questions Wednesday night about the future of a Durham charter school.

Kestrel Heights Charter runs an elementary and middle school, but it’s their high school that could be on the chopping block}. School officials are asking everyone from staff to parents and students to do everything they can to try to save it.

The state Charter Schools Advisory Board has recommended that Kestrel Heights School in Durham close down after problems with student transcripts.

The charter school reported that 160 of 399 students graduated over the past 8 years without all of the necessary credits.

“At the end of the school year, the high school would close,” said Kestrel Heights Board President Brandon Paris

But that will not happen without a fight. The State Board of Education will ultimately make the decision, but Kestrel Heights’ leaders are counting on them to hear arguments in favor of allowing the school to stay open.

In a public meeting with parents, Kestrel Heights Executive Director Mark Tracy said school leaders found the problem, self-reported it and worked to fix it. He said an internal investigation turned up no malice or intent to change any grades.

‘It is not an excuse. It is not ok, but I wanted you to understand what the facts were,” he said. “It was a lack of attention to detail in making sure the review of those transcripts were accurate.”

Tracy hopes those facts are enough for the State Board of Education to show mercy. If not, Gina Green’s family will be affected.

Green has a student at Kestrel Heights School and said she loves the school and doesn’t want to see it go.

“When you are trying to figure out what your son, who is a junior, is going to do as he enters his senior year, that’s a great concern,” she said.

Closing Kestrel Heights School is only a recommendation and school leaders hope to formulate and propose an alternate punishment that would keep the high school open.

The State Board of Education could take up the matter at a meeting early next month.