Monday, July 21, 2014
Saturday, July 19, 2014
Magnolia Science Academy - A Gulen Charter School: Magnolia Science Academy investigation California ...
Magnolia Science Academy - A Gulen Charter School: Magnolia Science Academy investigation California ...: Not only the LAUSD but the entire State of California http://laschoolreport.com/magnolia-charter-troubles-having-impact-beyond-la-unifi...
CLEVELAND -- Bombshell allegations made against a charter school company that runs several schools right here in Northeast Ohio. As we reported in June, the FBI raided several Horizon Science Schools in this area -- and WKYC learned that the Ohio Auditor has launched a special audit into Horizon-Concept schools. This comes as former teachers went before the Ohio Board of Education today with allegations of test-tampering, sexual misconduct and racial slurs against African American students. About a month ago, we told you that the FBI raided some of our local schools-- and now more investigations. "School officials were filling in bubbles on standardized tests, they claimed that it was because students didn't fill in circles dark enough," says Matt Blair, a former teacher. The allegations today were limited to the Horizon Science Academy in Dayton. Concept Schools charter chain runs 19 schools in Ohio, all will be part of a special audit by the Ohio Auditor's office. Teachers said they witnessed racial slurs, sexual activity among students that wasn't reported to parents and unsafe building conditions. The Ohio Department of Education has also said it will investigate the complaints. No Cleveland schools were implicated in the testimony today. Horizon Science Schools in Cleveland have had strong academic records even being named Blue Ribbon Schools http://www.wkyc.com/local/
Friday, July 18, 2014
Magnolia Science Academy - A Gulen Charter School: LAUSD to expand investigation includes all Magnoli...
Magnolia Science Academy - A Gulen Charter School: LAUSD to expand investigation includes all Magnoli...: http://laschoolreport.com/just-in-lausd-expanding-probe-into-magnolia-charter-schools LAUSD’s audit of two Magnolia Science Academy ch...
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Ex Teachers, Parents and Pupils of Horizon Science Academy tell of test cheating, sexual scandals and more
http://www.abc22now.com/shared/news/top-stories/stories/wkef_vid_21200.shtml Horizon Charter Schools Under Investigation DAYTON/COLUMBUS -- A federal investigation is underway concerning multiple instances of misconduct at 19 Horizon Science Academy charter schools in Ohio. Three of the schools being investigated are located in Dayton. A group of teachers from Horizon Science Academy Dayton High School attended the Ohio Board of Education meeting Tuesday, to share testimony about their allegations of school misconduct. "The stuff that went on here was so outrageous and absolutely unfair," said former Horizon teacher Kellie Kochensperger in an interview after the public hearing portion of the board meeting, "Unprofessional and completely beyond anything I thought a public school should have happening." "Some of the teachers here have used racial slurs when describing students," added Richard Storrick, who worked for the Dayton High School until June of 2013. The allegations don't stop at racial slurs, Kochensperger says she testified about sexual misconduct that she believes the administration hid from parents. "Oral sex, that took place outside of the cultural festival, an after school activity," Kochensperger said. She said the incident took place while she was working at the school, with a group of 6th and 8th grade students. Other students are alleged to have watched, and the incident was recorded on school surveillance cameras. Kochensperger says none of this was reported to parents, who were told that students were suspended for being out of school boundaries. "It's a publicly funded school, so everybody's tax dollars are funding everything we just talked about," Storrick vented. Teachers also allege they were instructed to improperly conduct state standardized tests, and not ask questions about it. "It says here in the book that they're supposed to have calculators," Kochensperger said about a conversation she had with a superior administrator during a testing day, "and he told me they don't need them, it's a science test not a math test." "With every bone in my body I thought if I filed a complaint with the Ohio Department of Education, if I filed a civil rights suit, if I did anything that would get back to [the Horizon] director I would be terminated and I would lose my job," said Storrick about the allegations of intimidation presented to the State Education Board. He added that's why the group of teachers who testified waited until they had found other teaching jobs to do so. About the state meeting today, board member Deborah Cain said, "We as a state board and as a department of education have got to get to the bottom of this. Every allegation must be investigated to its fullest." "Knowing that the kids are being cheated in the long run," Kochensperger said with frustration, "I'm very passionate about students in Ohio deserving better." Horizon Science Academy Dayton and it's parent company Concept Charter Schools did not respond to requests for comment on the investigation.
Saturday, July 12, 2014
Two high performing LA Unified charter schools, Magnolia Science Academy 6 and Magnolia Science Academy 7, have been ordered to shut down after failing a new round of scrutiny, leaving the possibility that 450 students will be looking for a new school in the fall.
The two schools had initially been approved for renewal by the school board in March, pending the results of an internal fiscal audit by the district’s Inspector General. But the findings of that audit, which was concluded late last month, led the LAUSD Charter School Division to call off the four-year renewals.
“We are empathetic that parents and families are in this situation but it doesn’t touch the level of disruption it would cause if the schools were to shut down mid-year,” board member Steve Zimmer told LA School Report about the last minute closure.
“What is happening now is a function of our obligation as an authorizer. We have an obligation to make sure all of our schools are sound and to make sure the laws are followed,” said Zimmer, in whose district Magnolia Science Academy 6 is located.
Last week the schools’ management organization, Magnolia Charter Schools, filed an injunction in Los Angeles Superior Court to prevent the closures. A hearing is set for July 24th.
It’s unclear exactly how the schools violated the district’s guidelines — district officials declined to elaborate — but at the time of the renewal application the district was looking into the long-term fiscal viability of the two schools. Both have struggled to meet enrollment targets and were planning to eliminate grade levels next year. And neither school maintained the district’s recommended 5 percent in cash reserves as a rainy day fund.
Another issue that has dogged the schools’ operator in the past has been its ties to the Gulen movement, a Turkish Islamist group that has founded schools, think tanks, and media outlets around the world.
At the school board meeting in March, Inspector General Ken Bramlett confirmed claims of the association, “We have done some looking into that allegation and there is some evidence that some members of the Magnolia organization do have ties with the Gulen movement, but we have not found anything currently that would be grounds for denial.”
Instead, Jose Cole-GbEuitierrez, Director of the Charter School division told the board, “we want to do a deeper dive” into the schools’ financial state, before adding, “our expectation is that there [will be] no material weaknesses found in that review.”
But the findings of that audit apparently revealed enough damaging information that it triggered the non-renewal.At last week’s board meeting Janelle Ruley, an attorney representing the Magnolia Science Academy schools, challenged the Charter School Division’s decision and its timing,
Below is the forensic audit for Magnolia #6 and #7, page 5 indicates these schools paid over $200,000 for h1-b immigration visas and many were not employees of the school. MERF, one of the parent companies over the Magnolia Science Academies owes the schools $2.8 million.
Monday, July 7, 2014
Gulen Islamic operated Charter Schools (Concept Schools) under fire in Ohio for displacing American Teachers with Turkish immigrants
A chain of 19 publicly funded Ohio charter schools, founded by Turkish immigrants, is taking the position that the United States lacks a qualified pool of math and science teachers and is importing perhaps hundreds of Turks to fill the void.
The schools are run almost exclusively by persons of Turkish heritage, some of whom are not U.S. citizens — a new twist in Ohio’s controversial charter-school movement.
In addition, the Horizon and Noble academies, run by Chicago-based Concept Schools, are related through membership, fundraisers and political giving to the nonprofit Niagara Foundation, which provides trips to Turkey for state, local and federal lawmakers.
Among those touring Turkey has been State Rep. Cliff Rosenberger, a Clarksville Republican on the powerful finance and appropriations committee and considered to be a leading candidate for House speaker next year. He was joined on the trip by at least four other state legislators and local government leaders from his area in southwest Ohio.
There have been other trips from Ohio, and in Illinois, there are allegations that state officials who took trips showed favoritism in disbursing public dollars to Concept schools.
Public records show that since late 2009, the U.S. Department of Labor has allowed 19 of these schools in Ohio to hire 325 educators almost exclusively from Turkey.
However, as early as 2002, state audits found thousands of public dollars “illegally expended” to finance the U.S. citizenship process for Turkish employees — some fresh out of college with no classroom experience and broken English. Help with legal and immigration fees also extended to their children and families, including the spouses of directors.
The auditor also cited suspect wire transfers, totaling $36,000, and checks made out to “cash” to repay personal loans issued by individuals in Istanbul, Turkey.
Three of the Ohio schools have been visited by the FBI as part of a multistate probe. The agency said it is part of a white-collar criminal investigation.
Federal agents have not disclosed details, only that the investigation originated in Cleveland, has spread to Indiana and Illinois, and may or may not be connected to previous investigations at related schools in Baton Rouge, La., and Philadelphia.
Last school year, these Ohio charter schools, called Horizon and Noble Academies, received nearly $50 million in public funding transferred from local school districts where students otherwise would have attended.
At $50 million, Concept is among the larger players in Ohio’s charter-school movement, totaling $914 million last year. For years, charter schools have come under fire for poor academic performance and questionable finances.
Concept, founded in suburban Chicago by Turkish men, manages the Ohio charter schools and 11 others in five Midwest states. Its status as a for-profit or nonprofit under IRS standards is not clear.
Murat Efe oversees Concept operations in northern Ohio. His boss, Sedat Duman, controls the company from Des Plaines, Ill.
Former CEOs of Concept schools control Breeze Inc., a real estate company that owns many of the school buildings. As landlords, they collect rent from the publicly funded charter schools. Breeze shares office space with Concept in a building northwest of Chicago.
A Beacon Journal interview scheduled for June 27 with Efe and Salim Ucan, vice president of the company, was canceled by Concept less than a half-hour before it was to occur.
The Beacon Journal also requested records June 12 seeking taxpayer-funded contracts, emails discussing recent FBI investigations and visa applications filed by the schools.
The records were requested of three Concept administrators and 18 school board members.
Only three, all board members, acknowledged that they received the request. One forwarded it to a principal. The other two passed it along to Efe, who has not responded to repeated attempts to reschedule an interview.
In addition, The News Outlet, a student journalism lab headquartered at Youngstown State University, conducted a survey this spring of 20 school board members at Horizon and Noble academies in Northeast Ohio. Few answers were received.
Better than average
Last school year, Ohio’s Turkish-run schools — which offer the Turkish language and promote themselves as specialized in math and science — enrolled more than 6,700 students.
In Cleveland alone, $12 million was transferred from the municipal school district to Concept schools. Academies also exist in Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, Euclid, Toledo and Youngstown.
According to the Ohio Department of Education, the academies’ performance on state tests varies widely from school to school and year to year. In 2013, 12 received D’s, four C’s and three B’s.
Those scores are better than the average Ohio charter school and often higher than most city school districts where they are located, although some have lower graduation rates.
In 2012, Secretary of State John Husted visited Horizon Academies in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati, then another in Dayton a year later. In the weeks before and after each visit, people who identified themselves as with Horizon, Concept, Noble or Turkish interests donated $5,400 into Husted’s campaign fund.
A spokesman for Husted said the “donations were really received through fundraising events that were publicized and open to the public” and that the secretary “had no conversations” with donors.
Husted, who has been a leading advocate of charter schools for a decade, is pictured on many Concept school websites, smiling with officials and children.
State Rep. Cliff Rosenberger, who could be the next Ohio House speaker, also received $1,850 in 2012.
Three months earlier, Rosenberger joined two other House Republicans and two local officials for a trip to Turkey. The trip, focused on economic development, was paid for by the Niagara Foundation, which also has sponsored dinner at the state capital.
Rosenberger’s office did not answer Beacon Journal requests for information.
Between the fall of 2012 and 2013, the latest year for which numbers are available, the 19 Ohio charter schools sought to import 97 Turkish teachers.
In contrast, Ohio’s public school districts (which enroll roughly 270 times more students) looked overseas only 11 times. More than half of the requests, including one filed by Akron Public Schools, sought Mandarin or Chinese teachers — languages that economists say are in high demand.
Concept Schools, however, pursued visas for 13 Turkish language teachers that year.
To put the hiring practice in perspective, records show that Horizon and Noble academies have attempted to import as many teachers in four years as it would take to staff the state’s largest public high school, with more than 100 teachers to spare.
Former employees allege that Turkish employees generally are paid more than U.S.-born teachers, then asked to contribute as much as 40 percent of their pay to an Islam-based religious movement known as Hizmet that supports interfaith dialog.
The movement is led by Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania.
A Beacon Journal review of visa applications indicates that most teachers recruited from Turkey would receive a starting salary of more than $40,000. That’s higher than the salaries of many existing employees whose names do not reflect Middle Eastern heritage, according to pay data kept by the state treasurer’s office.
And, “They’re not qualified,” said Mary Addi, a former teacher at a Horizon middle school in Cleveland.
One state audit supported her contention by finding as many as 20 percent of teachers at one school were not licensed, and nearly half of all treasurers at 19 schools lacked proper credentials.
“American taxpayers are just so ambivalent about all this. Do they know they are paying for all this?” said Addi, whose husband, Mustafa Emanet, has worked for the schools.
“I worked for them. I was one of them,” he said, saying he and his wife were fired then rehired multiple times. Emanet said he was asked to return 40 percent of his salary, which started at $44,000 in 2006.
“They know the system here and they use the system here,” Emanet said.
State audits also show reimbursement to high-level employees for their pursuit of MBA degrees, along with credit card purchases for alcohol, shampoo, Red Bull and other non-school-related goods.
Now, the Ohio Department of Education is probing allegations that grades and attendance records have been tampered. The matter, first investigated in 2012, has been reopened after the department was publicly criticized for taking it easy on the school’s independent sponsor, which in Ohio handles academic and fiscal oversight.
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org.