Leaders at Kestrel Heights School told parents Tuesday night they are taking steps to make sure current and future students complete the required credits for their high school diplomas.
“Though our process and personnel were askew, we have never forgotten about the students, and we will do what’s in the best interest of our students moving forward,” executive director Mark Tracy said at a meeting of the charter school’s board of directors at Kestrel Heights Middle School.
On Monday, the State Board of Education asked the Durham County District Attorney’s Office to investigate Kestrel Heights for possible criminal misconduct.
That recommendation followed last week’s report from Kestrel Heights to the state Charter School Advisory Board that at least 53 students received unearned diplomas over the past three years. That amounts to nearly one-third of graduates.
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The problem was discovered by the school’s new principal, April Goff, in July, according to a Dec. 8 letter sent to patents. The letter also says the school’s guidance counselor “was unable to provide the necessary information to resolve the missing credits.”
That counselor resigned in September for medical reasons.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Tracy said these steps will now be taken:
▪ The guidance counselor will monitor and communicate graduation status throughout each student’s academic career at Kestrel Heights.
▪ A current and aligned program of study will be used for all students in grades 9-12.
▪ The counselor will meet with students in grades 9-11 no less than two times per year.
▪ The counselor will meet with seniors at least three times per year.
▪ The Upper School Leadership Team will meet monthly to review academic progress of all juniors and seniors, to make sure they’re on track, and offer alternatives to students at risk of not meeting requirements.
▪ The principal, with assistance, will review senior credit hours within the first 20 days of each new academic year, as well as 20 days prior to graduation.
“We are making significant progress,” Tracy said, “and will meet the January 3 submission deadline.”
As directed by the Office of Charter Schools, Kestrel Heights is also reviewing all transcripts from 2008 through 2016.
Board President Brandon Paris said Tuesday that because the investigation is ongoing, “we won’t be making any additional public comment at this time.”
He said that once that investigation is completed and “submitted to proper authorities” for review, Kestrel’s board will then have a parents’ meeting in early January, to provide complete details on findings of the investigation.
Tracy assured parents in the room that “current students at Kestrel are not impacted by this situation.”
Sharon Henderson, a parent of two girls in Kestrel Heights schools, said she left the meeting satisfied that the leadership has a plan to correct the problem.
“My major concern was about my daughter, who’s a senior, to make sure that her transcript was fine, and that there aren’t any issues, because she’s graduating this year,” Henderson said.
She said she had also been concerned about the school’s plan moving forward.
“I have another one that will be coming up, in the future,” she said, referring to her younger daughter, standing near her.
A previous state recommendation for a 10-year renewal of Kestrel Heights’ charter, which expires in June, is now on hold.