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COMMUNITY Charter School granted temporary restraining order

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

WBFO News has learned that the community charter school in Buffalo has been granted a temporary restraining order by state Supreme Court Justice John Michalek.  It calls to block the state education's attempt to close down the school.

This temporarily blocks the state New York State Education Department from taking any further action to close the school by June 30, 2013.

The school will now have a chance to argue the case before a judge. Legal argument on a preliminary injunction is scheduled for May 16.

COMMUNITY Charter's lawsuit charges the State Board of Regents and the NYSED with "denial of the federal and state constitutional right to due process by, among other things, using impermissibly vague standards to evaluate renewals of school charters."

The lawsuit also charges the state with violation of its Administrative Procedures Act, which governs state agencies. COMMUNITY Charter School charges the NYSED has failed to adopt rules to define standards by which charter school performance and renewal applications are evaluated.

“Depriving COMMUNITY Charter School and its families of their rights without due process of law not only is fundamentally unfair but should offend any fair?minded individual, particularly where safety and security of children is involved,” said the school’s lawyer, Lisa A. Coppola, a partner with Rupp, Baase, Pfalzgraf, Cunningham & Coppola LLC.

Daniel S. Ricigliano, president of the school’s Board of Trustees, said he was “delighted” with the judge’s decision to issue a temporary restraining order.

“It makes no sense to force families to send their children back to the failing Buffalo Public School system rather allowing them to remain in the safe, nurturing learning environment we provide at COMMUNITY Charter School, especially this late in the 2013-14 enrollment process,” Ricigliano said.

Sources close to WBFO News say the judge issued the temporary restraining order late last week. 

Late last month we reported the New York State Board of Regents said it would not renew the east side school's charter. 

The Regents said the school has had a dramatic drop in student performance in Math and English.  But the board of trustees said it would pursue legal action.  

In an April 25 interview, school leader Denise Luka told WBFO News legal recourse is their only choice.

"It's unfortunate that resources will be dedicated to that degree. rather than putting that back into the school to support teaching and learning. But we are not going to give up.  We have 300-children  and families that are counting on us to remain open," said Luka.

Luka said it remains business as usual at community charter students for students in K-8th grade. 

Luka -- who took over as school leader -- just this past fall -- has implemented a turnaround plan to improve student performance, but said she needs more time to prove it can work.  

According to sources -- the judge who granted the temporary injunction was the same judge who issued an injunction last year for Buffalo's Pinnacle Charter. 

Efforts to keep the school open have gained support from numerous elected officials, including New York State Senator Tim Kennedy and State Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, along with local religious leaders, pastors and community organizations.

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