Kestrel requests SBE panel review

The Kestrel Heights Board of Directors has asked the State Board of Education (SBE) to review its decision to close Kestrel’s high school.

The board made the request in a certified letter dated March 8.

The letter is the same as one in which the Kestrel board agreed to the five stipulations the SBE demanded as part of an agreement to renew the school’s charter to operate a K-8 program.

“Kestrel Heights requests that a review panel of the State Board of Education review this matter per Paragraph 26.4 of the signed Charter regarding nonrenewal of the KHS grades K-12 charter,” the letter reads.

The SBE voted unanimously March 2 to order Kestrel to close its high school because the school awarded diplomas to students who didn’t meet state requirements for graduation.

Now that it has received the request for review, the SBE chairman may approve a review panel, which may review the appeal request with or without a formal hearing.

If the panel decides to conduct a formal hearing, it must be held within 30 days of receiving the request unless the SBE and the charter school agree to a different time frame.

Under the five stipulations to which the Kestrel board agreed, school officials must appear before the Charter School Advisory Committee every six months to give it an update, accept a charter admendment to serve only K-8, not seek expansion to a high school for three years, provide former students with an appropriate remedy that results in a diploma and continue efforts to locate students impacted by the diploma issue.

Kestrel, a public charter school, has been under intense scrutiny since an internal investigation found that 160 of Kestrel’s 399 graduates since 2008 didn’t meet the state’s requirements for a high school diploma.

The school’s leaders have blamed two former principals and a former school counselor for awarding the diplomas to Kestrel seniors who didn’t meet graduation requirements.

One of the former principals, Tim Dugan, is also one of the school’s founders.

The school’s board of directors was roundly criticized by parents in 2014 when it refused to renew Dugan’s contract due to concerns about his leadership not related to the diploma scandal.

Dugan was replaced by Kimberly Yates in August 2014. Yates is no longer employed by the school, either.

April Goff, the current high school principal at Kestrel, has been credited with discovering the problem with Kestrel transcripts as 2016 seniors prepared to graduate last June.

The discovery led Kestrel’s leadership to self-report their findings to state officials.

Kestrel leaders have said they found no evidence that the actions of the former principals or former counselor were “willful, intentional, or done with malice.”

Greg Childress: 919-419-6645, @gchild6645