Durham charter school could face criminal investigation

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Kestrel Heights School is under scrutiny over diplomas for certain students.

A local charter school could face a possible criminal investigation. On Monday, the North Carolina State Board of Education called a meeting to talk about Kestrel Heights High School.

A few discrepancies about incomplete coursework discovered by the new principal during the summer has led to the discovery of more than 50 students who received diplomas without meeting state graduation requirements.

The Charter Schools Advisory Board asked the state to reconsider a previous motion to recommend a 10-year charter renewal. The school's charter expires on June 30.

CSAB also recommended:

  • Kestrel Heights should conduct a full investigation and provide a report of what caused the issue and the steps they took to rectify the issue from 2008 to now.

  • The report should include but is not limited to transcripts, letters, notes and other relevant items should be completed/submitted by Jan. 3, 2017, for review at the regularly scheduled January CSAB meeting.

  • Immediately place Kestrel Heights on governance noncompliance and notify the Office of Charter Schools of the employees in question and whether those individuals held licenses.

  • Until further recommendation from the CSAB do not consider the renewal request of Kestrel Heights.

  • Refer the case to the District Attorney of Durham County to determine whether any criminal investigation is warranted.


READ MORE: Kestrel Heights Response to the Office of Charter Schools Advisory Board (.pdf)

The state board of education unanimously passed these motions.

The investigation is being asked to go all the way back to 2008 to cover when the principal and a guidance counselor were at the school. That guidance counselor has since resigned and a new principal started over the summer. Their names have not been released.

Stephon Bowens is the attorney for the Kestrel Heights School Board. When asked if these oversights were just careless work or a push for certain students, specifically athletes, to succeed, he said there are no allegations to suggest this was done to benefit athletes.

"I think the information that's been provided to the state board gives a very clear picture of what the school has been doing in efforts it's made to make sure its primary concern has been the students," Bowens said.

He said the school board would be addressing the issue during its regularly scheduled board meeting on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.

When asked about possible charges, the Durham County District Attorney, Roger Echols, said at this time he's not sure, but said his office would be reviewing all the facts.

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