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Editorial: Oracle's closing sad but appropriate

The state’s decision to not renew Oracle charter school after some 13 years in operation does not come lightly. Indeed, 300 high school students must find a new school home. The school is scheduled to close at the end of June.

It was the right decision.

There are 19 charter schools in the region, mainly in Buffalo. In the last five years, the state has not renewed charters at Pinnacle Charter School, 115 Ash St., and Community Charter School, 404 Edison Ave.
There is a lesson here that should be applied to charter schools’ traditional counterpart: Closings should be normal for chronically failing schools.

Just 26 Buffalo Public Schools – less than half of the district – are considered in “good standing” by the state. Superintendent Kriner Cash, along with partners such as Say Yes Buffalo, has instituted a number of promising initiatives. But parents deserve an alternative and that is what charter schools provide. The ones that fail to live up to their promise should close.

Lack of proficiency became a problem at Oracle.

The State University of New York, which authorizes charter schools, cited poor academic outcomes as the reason for the decision.

The chairman of the charter schools committee spoke volumes in saying he was sorry to have to deliver such difficult news. SUNY trustee Joseph W. Belluck thanked them for their efforts.

Oracle leaders are “deeply disappointed.” They offered encouragement to students about a smooth transition to other schools.

Oracle opened in 2005 at 888 Delaware Ave. It had its charter renewed twice, the last time in 2012. Last year, the Charter Schools Institute recommended denying renewal for Oracle. The reason: it had not been meeting its academic goals or mission as a college preparatory program.

The institute found that students graduating were not prepared for college and career. It didn’t matter that its graduation rate is higher than the city school district’s over all. The academic trend at Oracle is downward. Students were suffering.

Oracle leaders have tried to regroup. They made a good-faith effort in appealing to SUNY in January, arguing the case for turning the situation around at the school. They planned to add a superintendent and hire a new head of school by July. The appeal failed. A sympathetic SUNY trustee, Merryl H. Tisch, noted the challenges which she called “enormous.”

The 2-1 vote is emblematic of the tough decision the committee made. And this despite trustee Edward M. Spiro’s optimism about the Oracle leaders’ plan. Spiro suggested a three-year renewal with annual monitoring.

Failing charter schools close. It is unfortunate and disruptive for students, but that’s how charters are supposed to work. It also means students are not wasting their time waiting for conditions to improve.

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