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Pinnacle Charter School Fighting State Shut Down

6:23 PM, Aug 26, 2013   |    comments
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BUFFALO - School starts at the Pinnacle Charter School on Thursday, September 4.

Or it was supposed to, at least.

"When I got the phone call that they were going to close this school," parent Tiffany Adams said, "I wanted to bawl."

After the State Education Department announced last week it would block the school from opening for the 2013-14 school year -- fewer than two weeks before the anticipated start date for classes -- Pinnacle administrators called an emergency meeting for parents on Sunday and vowed to vigorously fight the state's decision.

The school, which serves 560 students ranging from kindergarten to eighth grade, will host SED officials on Monday in a visit designed to develop a plan to usher Pinnacle students elsewhere within the Buffalo Public Schools.

"It's crazy," said Terrance Boyd, the father of a fifth-grader and sixth-grader at Pinnacle. "I think I'll put them in Catholic school."

Lisa Coppola, the attorney representing Pinnacle, said she will pursue all legal avenues to reverse the closure.

The Board of Regents already voted to close the school in April 2012 due to declining test scores, but a court ruling allowed it to stay open during the course of last year. This summer, an appeals court overruled that decision, and on August 22, the courts officially refused to hear the school's motion and subsequently allowed the state to notify Pinnacle of closure the following day.

The board cited declining test scores at Pinnacle during that original vote in 2012 to shut down the school. Even Chief Academic Officer Linda Marszalek admitted Sunday that the school is still "far from where we want to be academically," but she claimed that Pinnacle ranked in the top six percent of New York's schools in terms of academic growth for test scores.

In a media release, the school provided statistics claiming Pinnacle ranks second and third respectively in language and math test scores, as compared to "K-8 Buffalo Public Schools and Buffalo charter schools that serve a demographically-similar population of children."

"Our proficiency rates aren't there yet, but we're growing more than most schools," Marszalek said. "In two years, we've taken it to another level."

The school has already provided parents with the transfer forms, but questions remain as to how the district will place the students. Earlier this month, the Buffalo Public Schools announced they could only accommodate 300 to 500 requests for transfers, which did not even represent a quarter of the more than 2,000 students who asked to change schools.

"Can you imagine, if any of you are parents, being told seven [business] days before school starts: 'By the way, your child's not going to the school which he or she's been registered at these past several years," Coppola said. "'Oh and by the way, we don't know where he's going? We don't know what buses will be provided? We don't know what supplies your child will have?'"

"This irresponsible action, this reckless action of the State Education Department would put 560 additional students from Pinnacle Charter School at risk to be placed in failing schools in the city of Buffalo."

Board of Regents member Bob Bennett said he could not make an official comment on the situation. However, he said school administrators should have notified parents of the possibility of closure months ago, when the courts placed the renewal of Pinnacle's charter in jeopardy.

"We notified them immediately," Marszalek said, "and we continue to let them know we are going to continue to fight."

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