Two administrators from the former Pinnacle Charter School want to open a new REACH Academy charter school that would eventually enroll up to 720 students in developmental kindergarten through fifth grade.
If approved, the academy would open in the 2015-16 school year for an initial group of 240 children in developmental kindergarten through first grade.
“Our main focus will be on high academic expectations and student engagement,” said charter school applicant Linda Marszalek, chief academic officer with the former Pinnacle Charter School.
A letter of intent and formal proposal for REACH Academy have been filed with the State University of New York Charter Schools Institute. The Buffalo School Board is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the proposed school April 23.
According to the charter school’s application summary, the mission of the school will be “to ensure the achievement of high academic standards through a hands-on, authentic learning environment.”
Class sizes would be capped at 20 students, and students would have a longer school day, from 8:15 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Students would also spend roughly a dozen more days in school than those in regular public schools, and a summer session would be provided.
The developmental kindergarten would be in addition to a regular kindergarten and specialize in teaching children with “late birthdays” from September to December, Marszalek said.
School organizers are hoping to locate the school in the Broadway-Fillmore area by acquiring a vacant former retail building. An alternative location has been identified in the Willert Park area, also on the East Side but a little closer to downtown.
The academic program at REACH Academy would be run by Marszalek, who was serving as chief academic officer at Pinnacle when it closed as a charter and was taken over by the Buffalo School District last summer.
Co-applicant Michael Olsen was the director of facilities for Pinnacle before becoming an instructional technology coach with the Buffalo Public Schools. He earned a master’s degree in technology education from Buffalo State College.
Marszalek was chief academic officer at Pinnacle for two years, from 2011 to 2013. She was previously dean of academics with the Buffalo Academy of Science charter school from 2009 to 2011. Prior to that, she served as principal of Cloverbank Elementary School in Hamburg from 2003 to 2009.
She has a master’s in education from the University at Buffalo and has also previously taught special education.
Marszalek was hired in 2011 to replace longtime chief academic officer Heidi Rotella in a bid to improve student performance after Pinnacle had several years of poor test performance that fell below the school district average. Marszalek said academic performance improved on her watch, and the poor performance at Pinnacle was unrelated to her tenure there.
“The decision to close Pinnacle Charter School was based on data during the eight years before I started,” she said.
If all goes as planned, Marszalek said, the Board of Regents would decide whether to grant REACH Academy a charter in July or September.