School officials meet to discuss Durham charter school investigation

— Board members for a Durham charter school are meeting Tuesday night to discuss the trouble they are in with the state and possibly the law after reporting more than 50 students received diplomas they didn’t earn.

The State Board of Education recommended Monday that the Durham County District Attorney’s Office determine whether a criminal investigation is warranted against Kestrel Heights. The school’s board will likely respond to the call for a wider investigation during the Tuesday night meeting.

The State Board of Education has ordered the school to investigate deeper, looking into records that date back to 2008.

Executive Director of Kestrel Heights Mark Tracy said the school is cooperating and wants to do what’s right by their students and acknowledged that the wider investigation might reveal more problems.

“That is always a potential, but that is the point of an investigation and, you know, it’s hard to say at this point because we are still in the middle of it. We just got started with it in the last couple days,” he said.

Kestrel Heights’ new principal discovered the problem 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.

A letter from the school on Dec. 8 lays out the timeline of what happened and references a school counselor who “was unable to provide the necessary information to resolve the (students’) missing credits.” The counselor, who is not named, took a leave for medical reasons in mid-August and resigned in September.

Tracy said he believes the school has been upfront and honest once the problem was identified and will continue to be cooperative in the investigation. He said the school is making sure the investigation has minimal impact on alumni and current students.

“We are really focused on moving forward. Focusing on the students we have and our alumni, making sure we do what is right by them,” he said.

Tracy said the plan is to finish the internal investigation by Dec. 22.

A special thank you to our friends at WRAL for helping out with this post.