State shortens renewal for Durham’s Kestrel Heights charter

From staff reportsJuly 10, 2014 

— The State Board of Education voted unanimously Thursday to shorten the renewal of a troubled Durham charter school based on the recommendation of the state’s charter school advisory board from five years to three years.

Joel Medley, the director for the office of charter schools, told the Charter School Advisory Board that Kestrel Heights was violating the state’s Open Meetings Law by not announcing its meetings to the public.

According to the summary of findings, the school’s board of directors also held meetings without recording minutes or specifying actions that it took.

This wasn’t the first time the board received criticism.

In May, board members decided not to renew the contract of the school’s founder, Tim Dugan, who had been served as the school’s executive director and high school principal.

It drew much criticism from students, who cut classes to protest the day after. Some asked that board members step down from their posts.

The next month, the school’s executive director, Richie Mitchell stepped down.

Kestrel Heights was one of six Triangle schools that received top honors last month from U.S. News & World Report's 2014 Best High Schools list.

It received a silver medal,” ranking at No. 1,744 in the magazine’s top 2,000 schools nationwide. Hillside New Tech High in Durham ranked 1,997th.

The U.S. News list differs sharply from those put out by The Washington Post and Newsweek. While all three lists look at data such as the number of Advanced Placement exams taken, only U.S. News uses state test results for the performance of low-income and minority students.

U.S. News used state reading and math tests to see whether more than 31,200 public high schools nationally are doing better than expected overall and whether the schools' black, Hispanic and low-income students were exceeding state averages. Schools that cleared the first two hurdles were then judged on their college readiness, based on participation and performance on Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams.

The rankings were based on 2011-12 school year data.

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