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Pinnacle's accreditation not in jeopardy

Pinnacle Academy's building in Price is expanding again as additions are being constructed.

Sun Advocate reporter

Pinnacle Canyon Academy in Price recently appeared on a list outlining academic advised status against 33 of its teachers and administrators. However, as of January, the institution has reduced this number to under 10 and has not lost any accreditation.

"The problem's solved. Pinnacle should be fine by the end of this school year; we just got caught off guard," said Roberta Hardy, the school's administrator.

One of the reasons the school was put on the list issued Oct. 30, 2009 was because many of the teachers were not properly endorsed by the state for a variety of reasons. One area of raised concern was the fact that Pinnacle has recently hired many new teachers who teachers who were not at a Utah professional educator's level two license. However, according to state accreditation specialist, Georgia Loutensock, the school is working to fix this situation.

"Most of (the teachers in question) at Pinnacle are in a state licensing program. Even since October, they've made great strides in getting them endorsed," she said.

There were also administrator licensing issues, but, because Pinnacle is a charter school, different regulations apply. However, as of Jan. 11, Hardy indicated that its administrators were no longer under scrutiny, as Pinnacle has a regular school license. Most schools in the state, including Pinnacle, do not require administrators to be fully-licensed educators. As such, this requirement creates a gray area, which is currently under review. As far as actual teachers being endorsed, regulatory changes have been fairly recent.

It is now required that any teacher who teaches even small portions outside their core subject must prove qualification through a variety of means.

"The law was changed about two years ago and no one said a word to us," said Hardy.

To prove qualification and, in effect, get the endorsements the school needs, Pinnacle is working with teachers on an individual basis. Much of this involves teachers taking a Praxis test, which qualifies them based on their teaching position and education levels. The tests, which are broken down by teaching subject and grade level, test not only on academics, but also actual teaching skills.

"They (Praxis tests) prove that (a teacher) understands their subject. They are case- specific, based on a teacher's degree and grade level," said Hardy.

As rural institutions go, according to Loutensock, schools such as Pinnacle face many challenges when it comes to finding qualified personnel. Part of this challenge stems from small population bases as well as high turnover rates.

"It's more common than we would like (for rural schools to be listed as advised status). Not to say that this isn't a serious situation, it is. But since Pinnacle is doing everything they can to solve the problem, it's less serious. They're getting their teachers endorsed. We see that as a positive, because, if they weren't doing anything, it would be far worse," said Loutensock.

Currently, Pinnacle is having many of its teachers and administrators go through alternative routes to licensing (ARL). Although the school is still on advised status, once the licensing procedures are complete, this should be revoked.

Pinnacle was also not the only rural school listed. Merit Academy in Springville was also listed because of changes in its administrators.

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