Dark clouds of uncertainty surround Pinnacle Charter School in Buffalo
BUFFALO, NY - A team from the NY State Department of Education visited the Pinnacle Charter School on Ash Street Monday afternoon.
According to a department spokesperson, they were there to assist school management in producing a satisfactory transfer plan for the nearly 600 K-8 students at Pinnacle, which the state has ordered shut down due to poor performance.
Concerned parents and the media were not allowed inside the school during the meeting.
While the schools's Chief Chief Academic Officer Linda Marszalek had stated that preparations would continue in anticipation of opening as previously scheduled on September 4th, the state apparently feels otherwise.
Lisa Coppola, the attorney representing Pinnacle, said she will pursue all legal avenues to reverse the closure.
Coppola will try to file a new case in State Supreme Court in Buffalo either Tuesday or Wednesday, according to a school spokesperson.
The Board of Regents 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.
While parents of Pinnacle Charter students are being advised to fill out a School Choice Form that would place their child in a Buffalo Public School in good standing...it's been well chronicled that the Buffalo Public Schools can't even do that for nearly 80 percent of their own students seeking placement in those schools.
Not wishing to comment further until the outcome of possible renewed court action, Buffalo School Superintendent Pamela Brown issued the following statement late Monday:
"Pending the outcome of ongoing efforts being made by Pinnacle Charter School, we will reach out to their leadership in order to determine a way in which we can be helpful in identifying placement for the coming school year for those students whose parents have an interest in enrolling them in our schools."
Several parents have expressed reluctance to place their children in the public schools.
Pinnacle students scored about the same on the most recent standardized tests as did the "average" Buffalo Public School.
However, Pinnacle scored far better than most of the surrounding public schools within their east side neighborhood, which were among the city's poorest performers, and where parents fear most of their kids would end up being placed.
"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," said Coppola, echoing the sentiments of many parents, who said they only learned on Sunday that they might have to find other schools in which to enroll their children
However, Board of Regents member Bob Bennett 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."
The Department of Education Spokesman noted that the case had to make its way through the court system, a process which was only concluded last Thursday.
He also provided the following timeline of events regarding the state ordered shut down of the school, which dates back more than a year.
• March 23, 2012 Notice for non-renewal sent to Pinnacle Charter School BOT
• April 24, 2012 April Regents moved for a meeting - non-renewal vote
• May 2012 Pinnacle filed complaint challenging nonrenewal and Preliminary Injunction; SED opposed motion for preliminary injunction and moved to dismiss Pinnacle's complaint
• May 31, 2012 New York State Supreme Court Erie County (Michalek, J.) granted a Preliminary Injunction and denied SED's motion to dismiss on all but one claim, Pinnacle's negligent misrepresentation claim
• July 26, 2012 SED appealed portions of the court's decision to the Appellate Division Fourth Department
• April 3, 2013 Oral argument before Appellate Division Fourth Department
• At the direction of Judge Michalek, the parties entered into settlement discussions. On March 15, 2013 and May 15, 2013, SED's P12 Deputy and Assistant Commissioner for the Office of School Innovation traveled to Buffalo to engage in settlement discussions with Pinnacle. Attempts to resolve the matter were unsuccessful.
• July 5, 2013 Appellate Division Fourth Department issued decision dismissing complaint
• July 8, 2013 Pinnacle filed a Notice of Appeal to Court of Appeals and requested a stay
• July 11, 2013 Judge Jenny Rivera granted a temporary stay of the Fourth Department's decision
• July 26, 2013 SED opposed the stay, requested that the appeal be dismissed and requested an expedited decision
• August 22, 2013 Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal on the ground that no substantial constitutional question was directly involved. The motion for a stay was dismissed as academic.
• August 23, 2013 SED Staff spoke with Pinnacle Charter School leadership to begin closure procedures. Staff will meet in person with Pinnacle leadership beginning on Monday, August 26th.