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Oracle Charter School to close after renewal denied

Eileen Buckley/WBFO News

Albany is closing Buffalo's academically-challenged Oracle Charter School.

The Delaware Avenue high school has been facing a struggle with the SUNY Charter Schools Institute over low test scores and a failure to turn the college prepratory school around. On Tuesday, the committee voted to reject renewal of the school's charter, which will close Oracle at the end of the school year.

Committee Chair Joseph Belluck said Oracle just wasn't doing its job.

"It was really based on the performance and the data of how the kids in the school were performing. They had a very low percentage of students who appeared to be on track to graduate," Belluck said.

Oracle, which has 311 students, has a graduation rate higher than regular city public schools but the trend was down. It also has a low retention rate from ninth grade upwards. Ninety percent of Oracle's students are African-American.

"At a certain point with these charter schools, if they're not performing better than the district schools, they're not providing an alternative to kids in Buffalo or any other city that's better than the district school, said Belluck.

Seniors will graduate as planned, but students in the other grades will need to find another school to start in September.

Oracle board co-chairs Jacqueline Hollins and Dr. Ramone Alexander issued a statement saying the Oracle community is "deeply disappointed" by the decision.

“We understand this news is difficult. Our students and their families are our top priority and we will bring to bear all available resources to ensure their emotional well-being and academic success in the transition,” they said.

Belluck, a UB Law School graduate, said he is sorry this had to happen, but the law setting up charters dictates if the schools are not achieving their goals, the school has to be closed. He said he worries about the ability of students to find a good school after the closing.

Hollins and Alexander, in the statement, said there will be multiple information session for parents in the coming weeks and tours of city schools to help students find a new building. They said they will work closely with each student and family throughout the transition process.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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