Recent Kestrel Heights graduate says she has 2 options to properly earn degree

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – A graduate of a Durham charter school said she had no idea she hadn’t properly earned her degree.

Maya Martinez is one of 160 students who graduated from Kestrel Heights between 2008 and 2016 without meeting the state’s requirements, according to an internal review.

Martinez said graduating from the school with honors was one of the most exciting times of her life.

But that soon changed.

“Getting that letter in the mail was certainly terrifying, knowing that after four years of high school and even more at Kestrel, that I didn’t actually earn the diploma that they gave me,” Martinez said.

Shortly after school officials learned of the issue in August, they started to look into course alignments between the high school and Durham Technical Community College.

“I don’t believe they are capable to run a high school if they’re not able to mandate the students to get the proper classes to get their diplomas,” Martinez said.

Her thoughts are shared with the charter school advisory board, which recently recommended Kestrel Heights close its high school.

Now, Martinez is a college student at Durham Tech but legally, she hasn’t finished high school.

She said this issue is an inconvenience for her and she thought she’d be able to move on with life after graduation.

She hopes no one else ever has to go through this.

“I just hope that Kestrel, other schools, can learn from this and maybe they’ll start checking those transcripts beforehand. I just wish Kestrel all the best and hope that they can kind of get their feet back on the ground as a school,” Martinez said.

She said the school gave her two options.

She can take the classes she needs online or complete and pass an English exam.

On Wednesday, the North Carolina Charter School Advisory Board recommended that Kestrel Heights end its high school program and become only a K-8 school effective July 1 of this year.

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