Does FBI investigation of Gülen include Louisiana RSD?
That common thread is the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Sheffield, who headed the RSD-North from June 2009 to July 2010, was brought to Baton Rouge by Vallas at a salary of $200,000. She previously worked under Vallas as Chief Accountability Officer for the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) from June of 2004 to July 2008.
She was an unsuccessful candidate for the position of superintendent of East Baton Rouge Parish schools in January of 2009 and was hired as superintendent of the Rockford, Illinois, Public School District later in 2009. She resigned in April of this year halfway through her contract.
While working for Vallas in Philadelphia, an audit by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) determined that nearly $138.4 million in grant funds were either unallowable or inadequately documented. The audit also determined that SDP should return almost $17.7 million in unallowable costs to DOE.
Before that, Sheffield was employed as Chief Academic Officer for the Detroit Public School System from February 2002 to July 2003. While there, she ran up thousands of dollars of charges to her district-issued charge card while on her wedding trip to Las Vegas, records show.
She also worked from December 1993 to May 2000 as Chief of Staff to Cleveland Mayor Michael White and also served as Director of the Department of Port Control and as manager of the $1.4 billion Cleveland Hopkins International Airport expansion project. While there, both she and White were implicated but never charged in an FBI investigation into widespread bribery in the city administration, including the port and airport project.
Both she and Vallas have departed the Louisiana RSD, but the presence of the FBI lingers.
Reports indicate the agency has initiated an investigation into the RSD, most likely stemming from recent revelations about the Abramson Science and Technology Charter School in New Orleans and the Kenilworth Science and Technology Charter School in Baton Rouge.
Both schools were operated by Pelican Education Foundation in New Orleans until Abramson’s charter was revoked last month. Pelican is affiliated with Atlas Texas Construction and Trading of Houston. Atlas also operates 38 charter schools in several Texas cities through Cosmos Foundation under the auspices of Harmony Public Schools.
Atlas and Cosmos are all linked to Fethullah Gülen and his network of schools that operate under such innocuous names as Magnolia, Sweetwater, Pioneer, Horizon, Noble, Dove, Bluebonnet, Beehive, Truebright, and, of course, Pelican and Harmony.
The federal investigation, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, does not involve links to terrorism, but centers on charges that the organization uses taxpayer money to bring teachers to this country from Turkey and other countries who are members of the religious group and then requires the teachers to kick back up to 60 percent of their salaries to Gülen’s Hizmet movement.
The Gülen-run schools receive taxpayer funding and also receive private financial support, much of it from the Walton Family, owners of Wal-Mart. The Walton Family Foundation, for example, provided $230,000 in funding for Abramson as recently as 2007.
Gülen, who was forced to flee his native Turkey in 1998 after being charged with attempting to overthrow the secular Turkish government, now resides in a mountain fortress in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.
He was granted a permanent residency visa as an “alien of extraordinary ability” and as “a leader of award-winning schools for underserved children around the world,” according to his attorneys, even though he does not hold a high school diploma. Now, however, in an effort to ward off investigations, he claims that neither he nor his movement have an affiliation with the charter schools.
The investigations of Gülen and his organization, which federal officials have refused to confirm or deny, are being coordinated by prosecutors in Pennsylvania’s Middle district in Scranton, and involve hundreds of Gülen charter school members nationwide.
Ostensibly, that would include the two Pelican-run schools in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.