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Justice temporarily halts closure

Pinnacle Charter School isn't done yet.

State Supreme Court Justice John A. Michalek on Wednesday granted the Buffalo charter school a temporary restraining order, blocking the state Education Department from taking further steps to close the school on Ash Street -- at least for now.

What happens next could become more clear May 24, when both sides are back in court for a hearing on whether to grant a preliminary injunction that would prevent the state from closing the school until the case can be settled by a judge.

"It's a small battle won, but we're thrilled with the decision," said Linda Marszalek, Pinnacle's chief academic officer.

A spokesman for the state Education Department, meanwhile, declined to comment Wednesday.

The state Board of Regents voted April 24 to close Pinnacle by the end of June, after a state report recommended the board not renew the school's charter because of concerns over student performance the past few years.

Pinnacle is "in need of improvement" based on its failure to make adequate progress in English two years in a row, the state Education Department report noted. The school serves 560 students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Overall in 2010-11, only about 20 percent of Pinnacle's students in grades three through eight were considered proficient in math and English, according to the report. That compares with an average of roughly 30 percent of students in Buffalo Public Schools.

The school, however, argued in court papers that the state denied Pinnacle due process by failing to establish procedures for an appeal.

School administrators also argued that the state's decision to renew the charter was based on last year's state-mandated tests taken when the school's administration was in flux.

Instead, administrators said, the charter renewal should be determined by this year's tests, which haven't been scored yet, but should be significantly better, Marszalek said.

"We made a commitment to ourselves, our parents and our students that 2011-12 would be a turnaround year for Pinnacle," Fenice Boyd, chairwoman of Pinnacle's board, said in a statement.

The latest turn of events at Pinnacle puts next week's meeting between parents and the state Education Department on hold, Pinnacle administrators said.

The state Monday had planned to provide parents with details about the closing and the process for assigning Pinnacle's students to Buffalo Public Schools.