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Closing of Pinnacle placed on hold as injunction is issued against state

A judge Thursday granted a preliminary injunction to Pinnacle Charter School, preventing the state Education Department from closing the school at the end of June.

State Supreme Court Justice John A. Michalek ruled that the school "demonstrated a likelihood of success in proving the Board of Regents had violated the school's constitutional right to due process," according to a statement issued by the school.

The judge also ruled that the timing of the decision -- April 24 -- could cause irreparable harm to the school's more than 500 students, most of whom would have no choice but to enroll in district schools. Most charter schools have an application deadline of April 1.

The regents, in deciding to close the school, cited its poor academic performance, which placed it among the worst schools in the state.

Michalek, in issuing his decision, quoted a letter written by Regent Robert M. Bennett urging the other regents to allow the school more time to prove it could improve student performance.

"While I am well aware of the issues presented and the policy implications for keeping Pinnacle opened for an extended term, these issues are far outweighed by what the outcomes will be for these children by placing them back in the Buffalo City School District," the judge quoted Bennett as saying.

Three weeks ago, Michalek granted a temporary restraining order that blocked the Education Department from taking steps to close the Ash Street school.

Pinnacle officials have argued that their 2012 test scores will provide proof that they have started turning the school around under chief academic officer Linda A. Marszalek, who took over less than a year ago.

"We agree schools must have high expectations for their students and are accountable for their students' academic achievements," she said. "At Pinnacle, we will continue to try to meet, and even exceed, our high standards, and we are grateful that we will have the time to continue doing this."

The Education Department was represented in court by the State Attorney General's Office.

"We are reviewing the decision," said Jennifer L. Givner, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General's Office.

She declined to comment on whether the state would appeal the decision.

email: mpasciak@buffnews.com