Wednesday, November 24, 2021

State Board Votes to Close Durham Charter High School After Diploma Errors

North Carolina State Board of Education

— The State Board of Education voted unanimously Thursday to close Kestrel Heights’ high school in Durham but will allow the charter school to continue serving students in grades K-8.

The high school will close July 1 but can apply to reopen in three years. The state board decided to close the school after the discovery that 40 percent of the students received diplomas they didn’t earn in the past eight years.

Kestrel Heights has 10 days to appeal the decision. If they do, a panel of state board members will review their request.

“This always is emotional,” said state board member Becky Taylor, who choked up as she made a motion to close the high school. “This is certainly unfortunate, but it is necessary.”

Kestrel Heights Executive Director Mark Tracy said he plans to talk with the school’s board to determine their next steps.

The school alerted the state Office of Charter Schools last fall that it had given diplomas to students who didn’t earn them. Kestrel Heights’ new principal first discovered the problem last summer. School leaders investigated further 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. Meanwhile, the Durham County District Attorney’s Office is working to determine whether a criminal investigation is warranted.

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