Mostly there were mothers. Mothers with strollers. Mothers with children sitting beside them on the metal folding chairs. Mothers squinting into the sun blazing through the glass block windows high on the wall of the gym at Pinnacle Charter School on Buffalo’s Lower East Side.
Theirs were the voices that rose up during the emergency parent meeting Thursday evening and sometimes drowned out the man with the microphone, Broderick Cason, chairman of the school’s board of trustees, as he explained the newly crafted plan to keep the doors open for another year to the crowd of more than 100.
What riled them the most, aside from the state Education Department’s refusing to extend the school’s charter two weeks before the start of classes, was the news that it would become part of the Buffalo Public Schools, operating as an annex of a school yet to be determined.
“There’s no school he can go to,” said Tracy Reynolds, who tried to transfer her 6-year-old son to another Buffalo school after Pinnacle’s closing was announced. “Now we’re still under the Buffalo school system, and we don’t have confidence in the Buffalo school system. That’s why our children are in charters.”
The parents expressed their anger and frustration to Barbara A. Seals Nevergold, president of the School Board; several district administrators; and two representatives from the state Education Department.
“You don’t have to behave for me,” said Jamal L. Young from the Education Department’s Charter Schools Office. “If you’re upset, that’s all right. There are things that are done, and there are things that can’t be done. But there’s a new moment in this building. We’re creating a process. The opportunity is to enhance the stability that is here. You have an opportunity to remain in this space for a year until new decisions are made.”
That didn’t satisfy mothers such as Kimberly Dixon, who stepped to the microphone in the audience and announced, to bursts of applause, “I’m getting livid! You want to take our teachers. You want to put in some incompetents. We count on you not to let us down. You’re failing my daughter. It’s not OK. It’s not your kid.”
She stormed from the gym, followed by her daughter, who will be starting fourth grade.
“I don’t want to drop the lawsuit,” she said in the lobby, referring to an effort to keep Pinnacle as a charter school.
She then turned to her daughter. “You love this school, don’t you?”
“Yes,” the girl said.
“Nobody’s got an answer because it’s not going to affect them,” Dixon continued, gesturing to a young woman standing nearby. “This was going to be her teacher, and she’s not ever sure she’s got a job. That’s wrong.”
Equally outspoken was Dallas Lamont, who also has a daughter about to enter fourth grade. “Everything’s in total chaos,” she said. “I did try to transfer her, and they gave her the lowest-performing school. I don’t want her to go to a Buffalo school. Honestly, I will keep her here because she’s familiar with the school.”
The few fathers on hand also were frustrated.
“An annex?” said Rasheed Alston, whose daughter is starting third grade. “You don’t have an outline. You don’t have a plan that parents can be confident with.”
Hoping to find a way forward was the Rev. Calvin Fitzgerald of Refreshing Springs Church, who sent his son to Pinnacle through fourth grade and is about start his daughter there in first grade.
“The question shouldn’t be why it’s done,” he said. “It’s done. The question should be what are we going to do Monday. If we have a coalition of parents, we can change it. Instead of us griping, let’s accept what it is. Let’s make it a high-performing school.”