Unearned diplomas blamed on ‘systematic breakdown’ at Durham charter school

Executive Director Mark Tracy

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – An internal investigation into possible diploma fraud at Durham’s Kestrel Heights School found a “systematic breakdown” by principals and a counselor over an eight-year period.

In December, the school started its internal investigation into how at least 53 students recevied diplomas without meeting requirements.

The North Carolina Board of Education recommended the Durham district attorney investigate any criminal wrongdoing.

The school’s executive director, Mark Tracy, said he will cooperate with the district attorney if he decides to investigate.

The School’s internal investigation found during the 2007-08 to 2015-16 academic years, high school administration failed to properly vet student transcripts and align course curriculum.

Kestrel Height’s investigation found 160 were not provided with the support needed.

Two principals and one guidance counselor were found to be involved in not providing the proper support.

All three of those administrators are not longer employed by the school.

“While the Board finds that systematic errors were made throughout the eight-year period, it is unable to substantiate claims that the actions of the high school principals and counselor involved were willful, intentional, or done with malice,” the School said in a release.

The school said the issues were avoidable “by simply reviewing the course alignment between the school and Durham Technical Community College; verifying course completion in the Powerschool
Program during the years it was available; or manually checking each student’s transcript to ensure that the student has taken all the required core curriculum courses to receive a high school
diploma.”

Kestrel Heights School has implemented a stronger verification process.

The school said it received a new 10-year charter renewal in November.

“Kestrel’s students have outpaced local and state high school students by most academic and end of course measures. A significant percentage of its students go on to college or university level study,” the School said in a release.

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