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Durham charter accused of granting improper diplomas pledges to “do better”

Per WRAL, the leaders of a Durham charter accused of granting at least 53 unearned diplomas are pledging to “do better.”

The WRAL report comes after members of the State Board of Education agreed in a special conference call Monday to refer the bizarre case at Kestrel Heights School to the Durham district attorney for investigation to determine if any criminal offenses occcured.

It’s prompted a debate over charter school accountability in North Carolina, five years after the state lifted a 100-school cap on charters. Dozens of charters have opened in the state in the years since.

Leaders at the school say they’re taking responsibility for the flap.

From WRAL Tuesday:

School leaders told the public Tuesday night that their internal investigation is ongoing but that current students are not impacted and are receiving the necessary class credits.

“We understand these are real students and real life consequences, and we have to do better for our community,” said Mark Tracy, executive director of Kestrel Heights. “We will do what’s in the best interest of our students moving forward.”

The State Board of Education has ordered the school to investigate deeper, looking into records that date back to 2008. Tracy said the school is cooperating 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, April Goff, discovered the diploma 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 in October.

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.

School leaders are expected to prepare a full report on the investigation in January. The school’s charter, which is set to expire next summer, remains up in the air.

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