Share this article

print logo

Parents, staff protest likely closing of Pinnacle Charter School in June

Parents and staff made an impassioned plea Saturday to save Pinnacle Charter School after learning the 9-year-old school would close at the end of June based on a recommendation from state education leaders.

The New York State Board of Regents is scheduled to vote Tuesday on the school's third charter renewal, which is expected to be denied. If the Regents back the closing, it would leave 560 students in limbo, Pinnacle faculty and supporters say.

The Ash Street school, serving children in kindergarten through eighth grade, boasts a 93 percent attendance rate and has been fighting its way back from low test scores on state-mandated tests that school officials say have gradually been improving. Students are currently taking this year's tests -- and their scores will be unknown when the Regents make their decision.

"This school has everything it needs to be a school of excellence. It just needs strong leadership to pull it together," said Principal Linda Marszalek, who began at Pinnacle last August and has 17 years of administrative experience. "We recognize the importance of having high expectations for our students and that schools need to be held accountable. We're asking for the opportunity to show the turnaround."

Faculty members said the school is in the midst of a comeback and lobbied for more time to show that things are changing for the better.

Some noted that at the crux of the closing recommendation is performance by third- through eighth-graders on state-mandated tests during the 2010-11 school year. The tests, they noted, were administered during a tumultuous period at the school -- when there was a change of administration and the founding academic leader resigned.

Pinnacle officials said the changes were upsetting to older students, some of whom used the tests to vent their frustrations.

"This is an isolated event. We're turning around and are optimistic the test scores will improve," Marszalek said.

Parents and faculty members emphasized that if Pinnacle closes, it would lead to even bigger problems, because the four surrounding neighborhood schools all are failing and are characterized as persistently lowest-achieving schools.

Parents who pulled their children out of poor-performing public schools to enroll them at Pinnacle said they don't want their children back in public schools but cannot afford private schooling.

"It's like they're trying to send our kids backward, instead of forward," said Geneva Huff, parent of a first-grader at Pinnacle. "It's not fair."

Several parents attending a meeting and news conference at the school Saturday remained adamant that the state is rushing the decision on Pinnacle.

"It would be horrific for them to close this school. It's like a close-knit family," said Denise Bell, who has three children attending. "The state is not even giving the school a chance."

Administrators and members of the board overseeing Pinnacle vowed to fight the closing.

"To close this school would be unwarranted, unfair and a travesty of justice for the 560 children who go here," Pinnacle School Board President Fenice Boyd said. "We are just not going to take this sitting down. We were optimistic given the turn of events over the past several months."