This week, I received correspondence from the State Education Department notifying me that it would close the doors of Pinnacle Charter School. The notice indicated that Pinnacle was not educationally sound and not providing benefit to students. There was also an attachment labeled "school closing procedures."
This correspondence left an empty feeling in my gut, and I am sure our administrators, teachers, students and families felt even worse when notified of the state's action.
Hours after reading the letter, I attended a parent meeting in the Pinnacle cafeteria during which dozens of parents expressed their outrage and bewilderment over the state's decision. The first mother spoke about how her fourth-grader loved school and how her teachers had created positive expectations and confidence in her daughter. She stated, "My daughter feels good about herself and about her future."
A second parent noted how her son, who needed extra help, had improved his reading skills and how proud and grateful she was to the teachers who had worked effectively with her son.
A father spoke about the importance of elementary school teachers in the lives of students and about many of the Pinnacle graduates he knows who have graduated from high school. Another mother expressed fear that her son might get forced into a street gang if moved to attend a school not of her choosing. At this meeting, parent after parent expressed pride in Pinnacle and the faith and security they have with the culture and operations of the school.
I am perplexed not only by the state's decision, but by its delay in making it and its outrageous insensitivity to our students to make it public during the week when ELA and math testing is taking place. On my ride home, I was struck by the stark contrast in State Education's statement that Pinnacle was not "educationally sound and providing benefit to its students" and the sound of the voices I heard in our cafeteria.
The board of trustees, administrators, teachers, parents and students have regrets over past performance but a turnaround plan was implemented in early September with assistance from educational experts, and it is showing results. Our turnaround plan was presented to the Education Department, which stated, in effect, that it was "too late." It is never too late to improve and to learn from experience. In fact, we often learn better from what has not worked rather than from what has worked.
Pinnacle Charter is providing benefit to its student body and if the state does not think so, it just has to listen to our parents. State Education should not stop the clock on Pinnacle because of test scores alone and if it does, its leaders have not been listening.
Dennis R. Horrigan is a member of the board of trustees of Pinnacle Charter School.