Students rally for troubled Durham school's charter

DURHAM, North Carolina (WTVD) -- More than 300 Kestrel Heights high school students skipped 6th period and rallied outside in an effort to save the school Tuesday.

"The Charter School Board basically sees us as an embarrassment to other charter schools and what we would like is that chance to redeem ourselves," said junior Faye Gant.

Kestrel Heights is under the microscope after finding out that 40 percent of graduates during eight years shouldn't have been given diplomas.
According to the state, 160 students skipped one or more classes, including English and Math, but still were handed a diploma from 2008-2016. School leaders have said they plan to track down the affected graduates.

The North Carolina Charter Schools Advisory Board has recommended that the Board of Education revoke the school's charter to teach high school.

PREVIOUS STORY: State board recommends Durham's Kestrel Heights close high school - become K-8

If Kestrel high is closed, 26 staff members could lose their jobs and 280 undergraduates will have to find a new school for the 2017-2018 school year.

"We would really like to graduate as a Hawk and having to start over with different schools, different people is just really hard for us," said junior Quynh Nguyen.

Administrators gave the blessing for students to rally. Principal April Goff, who discovered students were receiving diplomas without earning them, says she's proud students organized the demonstration.

"We have 300 plus students who are essentially homeless next year. This is their home. This is more than just a school for them," said Goff. "These kids chose Kestrel because Kestrel offers a different environment; a family environment, a home for them they may not get in a standard public school. My heart goes out to them and my hope is that re able to continue providing them the services that they deserve."

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There is currently a petition on for the renewal of Kestrel Heights' charter for the entire school (K-12).

Click here to read the petition

Currently, the petition is only a few signatures away from its goal of 500. Organizers plan to deliver the petition to the chairman of the State Board of Education.

Parents of students at the school say the new administration reported the problems with the graduation numbers and they will not repeat the mistakes of past leaders.

"We have every confidence in the current administration and are confident the procedures put in place will prevent the re-occurrence of these issues," the petition reads. "As everyone from the previous administration is no longer at Kestrel any punishments will only hurt our students, their families and the current staff. We urge the Board of Education to put our students first and renew the charter for the entire school."

The State Board of Education will have the final say on Kestrel Heights High School's future. It's expected to take up the issue Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the NCSBOE is also calling for a criminal investigation.

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