Harmony Science Academy a Gulen Charter School

Harmony Science Academy in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico are under the Cosmos Foundation. The Cosmos Foundation ran by Turkish Nationals who are known members of the Gulen Movement have abused many state and federal laws. Cosmos is the largest abuser of H1-B Visas for foreign teachers than the largest school district in America. Scratch your head and wonder why the Gulen Movement is getting away with reverse discrimination? Texas money crosses over state lines to support the other Gulen Managed charter schools, this is WRONG!! DISCLAIMER: If you find some videos are disabled this is the work of the Gulen censorship which has filed bogus copyright infringement rights to UTUBE

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

KCBD INVESTIGATES: Did Gulen charter school administrator cheat students?

KCBD - TV NewsChannel 11
5600 Ave. A
Lubbock, TX. 79404
Front Desk: (806) 744-1414
Toll Free: 1-800-9-NEWS11

Officials with the Houston District office for Public Harmony Schools, head of the cluster of Texas charter schools, expressed they are actively working to get answers about the alleged grade changes. KCBD NewsChannel 11 is keeping the former administrator's name confidential, since the investigation is still pending and no charges have been filed. When we began our investigation, parents told us this former administrator was still employed at HAS, but parted ways last week. The district office said they are unable to confirm dates of when this investigation began or when this administrator ended her employment.

Public Harmony Schools Spokesperson Julie Shussler confirmed Monday the Harmony Science Academy administrator is no longer employed at the charter school.

"As a precautionary measure, we have taken additional steps to protect the integrity of the school's computer technology and grading system," Shussler said in a written statement.

KCBD NewsChannel 11 spoke with several parents who claimed they knew the former administrator changed grades to hurt some students academically, which they claim helped her own children to excel and graduate with honors.

Jeffrey Ramirez, who has 2 step-children who currently attend HAS, volunteered at the Charter school. Ramirez said despite his effort to help out, he noticed problems between students and school officials from the very start.

"Pretty much when I started volunteering there right off the bat, I started seeing all kinds of things like teachers mistreating the students, screaming at them," said Ramirez.

Ramirez said he was dismissed after he exposed several incidents to administrators, including a school official who he said changed grades.

Ramirez said he witnessed the administrator change grades with his own eyes and said it explains why her son graduated as valedictorian.

NewsChannel 11: "Do you think she's using that same system to hold other kids back?" Ramirez: "Yeah, in fact, I'm positive that she is. She has a problem with one of the parents because this parent does voice her concerns."

We met a few mothers who did voice their concerns. Although they did agree to an on-camera interview with NewsChannel 11, we respected their wishes and concealed their identity.

One of the mothers said she checked her daughter's grades through the school's online grade checking system. She checked it on a continual basis since she participated in an after school extracurricular activity and is a member of a club, which helps to provide a scholarship for college.

This mother noticed a drastic change in her daughter's grades over a 2-day period. She checked with her daughter's teachers. The teachers confirmed the grades in the system were not accurate.

Ramirez provided KCBD NewsChannel 11 a few text messages between him and the former administrator. According to the message provided, it read, "Please don't tell him (Principal Bayar) about me changing the grades over the summer. I don't want to get fired. If you keep my secret, I'll help you as much as I can."

Shussler provided the following statement in regards to the accusations of altering grades:

"The matter is under an ongoing investigation, which is not yet complete, and until it's complete we are not in a position to comment."

Harmony Science Academy declined our request for an on camera interview, due to the pending investigation.

We reached out to the Texas Education Agency to see if they had any insight about this particular investigation. TEA said this matter is considered an "internal investigation" and only involves the Houston-based district office.

NewsChannel 11 will continue to stay on top of this investigation. We will bring you the latest results as they become available.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Harmony Science Academy audit finds misspent funds

Gulen "Inspired" charter schools and their layers of Gulen NGOs like: Raindrop Turkish House, Grace Institute, Istanbul Center, Turquiose Council, East West Institute, Niagara Foundaton, Rumi Forum, and much more....have an elaborate scheme of money laundering among these groups and their businesses created to service the schools.   Food Catering, Construction companies, janitorial business and much more. This money was intended for use to educate Special needs, handicapped and disabled children.

Abuse of Disabled, Handicapped and Special needs students contintue at the Gulen "Inspired" charter schools.  Read here how the Minnesota School of Science (another GULEN school) threw out 40 special needs students.  http://www.tcdailyplanet.net/news/2012/07/24/cityview-leaves-north-minneapolis-special-education-students-behind

Auditors say funds misspent for Harmony campuses
By Lindsay Kastner
Updated 12:23 a.m., Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Page 1 of 1
A months-long state audit of the Cosmos Foundation — which operates the Harmony network of charter schools — found $186,197 in misspent federal grant money intended to improve education for students with disabilities or those from low-income families.
Texas Education Agency auditors determined as “unallowable” 34 percent of expenses they examined, which is 16.1 percent of the total expenses associated with the grants, according to the report.
Cosmos could be required to pay back some or all of the money in question, TEA spokeswoman Suzanne Marchman said.
The audit, dated July 17 and released to the San Antonio Express-News on Monday in response to a public information request, was launched in October 2010. Marchman said she did not know what prompted the review.
Harmony Public Schools Superintendent Soner Tarim issued a statement that said the network had “implemented a range of accountability and transparency improvements to address the original issues highlighted by the TEA” while the audit was being conducted.
“We believe we have addressed those concerns effectively, and we are pleased that the TEA considers this audit closed,” the statement said.
He did not return a call seeking comment.
The swiftly growing charter network serves more students than any other such network in Texas, and last year, two Harmony schools were dubbed “miracle high schools” by Newsweek magazine.
Based on state test scores, Harmony schools are some of the highest rated in the state. Its two San Antonio campuses were rated “academically acceptable” in 2011, the most recent year available.
But the state's audit is not the only time the schools have come under scrutiny.
Founded by Turkish immigrants, the schools have become a lightning rod for criticism over murky ties to religious leader Fethullah Gulen, procurement practices that often favor other Turkish-run businesses with lucrative contracts, and the hiring of large numbers of foreign — often Turkish — employees on H1-B visas.
Supporters have condemned the criticism as little more than thinly-veiled xenophobia. But this year, the Republican Party of Texas included in its platform a statement about “foreign culture charter schools,” including a demand for U.S. citizenship of board trustees.
Last year, such concerns nearly caused a second special legislative session, until lawmakers agreed to launch a House investigation of all Texas charter schools.
“It's still an ongoing investigation for us. We haven't closed the books,” said Rep. Chuck Hopson, R-Jacksonville, chairman of the House General Investigating and Ethics Committee.
“It started out originally we were looking at some of the Turkish charter schools, and it's evolved from there,” he said.
The TEA audit did not evaluate Harmony's procurement practices or reliance on foreign workers, sticking instead to the organization's use of federal dollars awarded for two grant programs: Title I, Part A, for high-poverty schools, and IDEA-B, for students with disabilities.
In one instance, Title I money was spent at a noneligible campus. In another, the grant money was improperly used to cover payroll costs.
In response to a preliminary version of the audit released to Cosmos last year, the organization's attorney, Joseph Hoffer of San Antonio, issued a letter disagreeing with many of the state's findings.
“While Cosmos respectfully disagrees with the report's determination that it ‘misused' funds, Cosmos recognizes that the unparalleled success of its educational programs has fostered unprecedented growth and with it a need for constant introspection, self-evaluation and system improvements,” Hoffer wrote.
Twitter: lkastner

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Students delight thousands in glorious Turkish Olympiads finale

Texas Harmony Science Academy students performed at this event.  How many of them heard PM Erdogan invite Gulen back to Turkey?  Any doubt now that your school is operated by Gulen followers you are kidding yourself.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Herenton Suspects Ulterior Motive with Lack of Charter Funds - Gulen Cha...

Say "Good Bye" to Herenton
Although Herenton listed "Csomos Foundation" as his partner on the charter school applications, and "Harmony Schools" as a possible strategic partner Herenton is now denying any affiliations.

MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton won't be able to open several charter schools this coming year because the state ran out of money for his operations. The former mayor says one reason he thinks it happened is over allegations that a company he is considering working with has ties to a Turkish Islamic group.

Harmony Schools of Innovation operate charter schools in the southwest, and one in Memphis. There have been allegations over the years that they put money into the hands of Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish preacher who describes himself as a peaceful Muslim

But Herenton says one reason he thinks the state ran out of funding for his schools is because people in Nashville are linking Herenton with the Turk.

The man is an educator. It is how he started his professional career and it's how he's ending it.

"Very few people care about kids that are at the bottom," Herenton said. "I came from the bottom. I have a deep passion for helping these kids do better."

This is the reason Willie Herenton is working.

He's gone to the unified school board to get permits for charter schools, and was turned down along with a group of other charter applicants. He then went to the state and got his permits.

But while the other schools received start up money from Tennessee, when they got to the former mayor he was told, 'Sorry, we're out of money.'

"You know what this is really about? It's about power, control and money," he said.

Herenton isn't certain, but thinks the lack of money might be because of Harmony Schools.

It is headquartered in Texas; Harmony also operates one school in Tennessee. The group is controversial. Critics say they hire mostly Turkish teachers, buy Turkish furniture, and the money goes to support what is called the Gulen Movement. Gulen is what has been called a moderate form of Islam, with a goal of becoming world wide.

Critics say the followers are using Harmony Schools to get a foothold in the U.S. But, there has never been direct evidence linking the schools to the group, and the schools do not teach religion.

Herenton stated, "We do not have any relationship with Harmony. Harmony is mentioned as a potential strategic partner. I want to make a statement that from all ongoing research it is an outstanding charter managing organization."

Herenton said if he had ties to this group, which has been very successful in Texas, he wouldn't need the state's help for money. They'd fund the schools. But there is no relationship between the former mayor and Harmony Schools, so there is no money.

Roland Wants Closer Look at Herenton's Charter Affiliations Gulen Charte...

MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton denies charges that his charter school group is affiliated in any way with a controversial organization from Turkey.

Harmony Schools is a Texas-based group that runs charter schools in several states. There have been allegations that Harmony is tied to an Islamic cleric who is trying to spread Islam into the U.S.

Harmony denies it, and Willie Herenton says they aren't working with him. Shelby County Commissioner Terry Roland now says he wants to know the truth.

Nobody has ever connected Harmony Schools with the Islamic group headed by a man named Fethullah Gulen, but they do business with groups that the government says sends money to the Gulen groups.

Willie Herenton listed Harmony as a consultant when applying for charter schools. Terry Roland says he wants officials to look into everything.

It's a long way from terry Roland's tire store in Millington to Turkey. The Shelby County Commissioner says if there's a possibility of taxpayer money being spent improperly, he'll look into anything. Even a group that so far, has no official ties into supporting any Islamic movements.

"If there is any connection to the Islamic movement or if they're just taking our public dollars and using them wrong, we need to know that too," Roland said.

Harmony Schools operates one charter school in town already, located in a business park in southeast Memphis. They operate dozens of other schools across the country.

When former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton announced that his group, the W.E.B. Du Bois Consortium of Schools, wanted to open charter schools, he listed Harmony as a consultant.

He said, "We do not have any financial, any contractual, any strategic relationship with Harmony, while I recognize they're a fine organization."

For Terry Roland, he wants an investigation and a closer look at the Herenton application.

"Mayor Herenton clearly stated that he just put it in there for fluff. Well, does that mean he falsified that application?" Roland asked. "Does that mean his charter application should be denied because of falsification of references?"

The former mayor says this whole fuss is about power, control and money, and says again, he is not involved with any deal with Harmony schools.

"We do not have any relationship with Harmony. Harmony is mentioned as a potential strategic partner. I want to make a statement that from all of my research it is an outstanding charter managing organization."

Roland wants to know why the state board of education approved the Herenton permits after they were refused by the school board.

What Roland didn't say, and maybe it's because he didn't know, is the school board denied all charter school applications this year for financial reasons.

After the state treasurer ruled against them, the state board of education approved all the charter school applications, including Willie Herenton's

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Harmony Science Academy and the "Newsweek" Top performing school award.

Many of the Gulen managed schools claim to be voted a "top" Newsweek school

So what does this really mean?

Harmony School Receives a Gold Medal by U.S.News
U.S. News has announced the best high schools of the nation. The 2012 edition includes data on almost 22,000 public schools, 500 of which received gold medals.

Harmony Science Academy High School - Houston is ranked #309 in the nation, making the school one of the Gold Medalists. Harmony Science Academy is also ranked 24th within Texas. Students have the opportunity to take Advanced Placement coursework and exams. The AP participation rate at Harmony Science Academy is 89 percent. The student body makeup is 44 percent male and 56 percent female, and the total minority enrollment is 86 percent.

Harmony Science Academy Dallas is ranked #554 in the nation, enabling the school to receive a Silver Medal. Harmony Science Academy - Dallas is ranked 50th within Texas. Students have the opportunity to take Advanced Placement coursework and exams. The AP participation rate at Harmony Science Academy - Dallas is 62 percent. The student body makeup is 48 percent male and 52 percent female, and the total minority enrollment is 88 percent.

Harmony Science Academy North Austin received a Bronze Medal. At Harmony Science, the student body makeup is 47 percent male and 53 percent female, and the total minority enrollment is 89 percent.

You can read more here.

Now lets see the REAL truth away from Hizmet’s lying fancy PR firm and fake awards.  Besides what does U.S. News have to do with education?
Case 1.  Newsweek magazine lists Harmony Science Academy North Austin on its 2011 "Top 10 Miracle Schools" list based on false data.

Newsweek listed Harmony Science Academy North Austin (a Gulen charter school located in Pflugerville TX and run by the Cosmos Foundation) on its 2011 "miracle" school list.  Newsweek explains how schools were chosen for this list:  "Our analysis excluded schools that had fewer than 10 graduates, as well as those that were newly founded and did not have a graduating senior class in 2010."  The rankings are based on data as reported by school officials.

The Texas Education Agency's report card for Harmony Science Academy North Austin shows it did not have a graduating senior class in 2010.  The inclusion of this school on the list is an error.

This error has not stopped Harmony Public Schools from aggressively and repeatedly advertising this supposed honor.  Newsweek has not issued a correction.

More details can be read at the Miracle Schools webpage.

Harmony Science Academy, Dr. Soner Tarim the Superintendant

Letter from Dr. Soner Tarim--why is it better to be a coward and not speak like your Hocaefendi.  Hiring Julie Shussler of the expense public relations firm of Burson-Marsteller will not put out the fires or be successful in damage control.  You must do the deposition, remember we will pay for it any time you feel like being truthful to American people.  Here is the expensive public relatons firm Julie Shussler works for.
What a shame to spend $$$thousands of money that should go to education, instead of trying to fix lies.

Dear Texas State Board of Education Representative,  
Last December the television news show 60 Minutes contacted Harmony Public Schools (HPS) about a story they were working on, and in which they intended to include HPS. The overall story is about the Turkish scholar and author Fethullah Gulen and his alleged influences in the United States.

We explained repeatedly that HPS has no affiliation of any kind with Mr. Gulen or the Gulen movement but, ultimately, the 60 Minutes producer said that HPS was going to be in the story no matter what we said, and whether we cooperated with them or not.

We have now been advised that the story will be aired on CBS this Sunday, May 13, and we wanted to alert you to the broadcast, share some perspective and background, and note that we may need your assistance in responding to the story.
  • The story is expected to be about 12 minutes long, with approximately three minutes devoted to HPS. We expect the story to allege a link between HPS and Mr. Gulen, despite the fact Harmony Public Schools is not affiliated in any way, formal or informal, with Mr. Gulen or his organization, or with any other religious or political organizations or movements.                                                                          
  • The producers of the show admitted that no such link or affiliation could be proven, yet we fully expect their story to suggest such a link. As such, we believe the story may be unfair to HPS and contain unsupported allegations.
  • HPS has cooperated extensively with 60 Minutes over the past six months, supplying dozens of documents and records, answering hundreds of questions, and providing full access to our school in Houston for an entire day of filming students and classrooms, and interviewing teachers, students, administrators and the head of the Texas Charter School Association, David Dunn.
  • The only request we did not grant was to interview me in my role as Harmony Superintendent. We chose not to grant that request when it became apparent, after numerous lengthy discussions, that no matter what I said or did, the producers intended to link HPS to Mr. Gulen, despite having no proof of such a link.
Depending on how HPS is treated, and the factual accuracy of the 60 Minutes program, we may ask for your support in responding to CBS. We will be in touch immediately after the show airs to provide you our thoughts, and our plans for a response.

Thank you for your continued support of the HPS family.


Dr. Soner Tarim, Superintendent
Harmony Public Schools

Soner if you have "no link" to Gulen why do you describe your inspiration for these schools as Fethullah Gulen in the Texas Monthly?  Not to mention you were on the board of the Gulen Insitute in Houston.  Your schools openly admitted this on the PBS interview and in fact interviewed your teachers.
Your are slipping old boy must be from your days around that slippery fish.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Harmony Science Academy, A Gulen Managed Charter School, another former teacher speaks up

I taught at Harmony School of Innovation back when it was just called Harmony Elementary. The school had only been open for one year before I was hired.. I was hired on to teach third grade health, history, and handwriting, making just $32,000/year whereas my Turkish counterparts made about $50,000. We know this is true because there's some website where people with immigration jobs or something must report age and income. I worked on a team of two other white teachers...one taught Math/science, one taught Language arts. Anyway, the night before school began I still had an unfurnished classroom...no desks! I refused to put them together and another teacher had to do that for me. I had a broken Apple (yes, the orange screen) computer in my room to count as technology. We had no library or recess area. Basically the area was a concrete space by the dumpster. There were feral cats. We began the year with no teacher's editions, no school wide curriculum, no materials at all. I finally told the kids to go home and tell their parents they had no textbooks. Parents got pissed at ME of all things. Finally, I used the school account to purchase TE's, test guides, worksheets, overhead sheets, and about 30 student textbooks. At that point I didn't care if I got fired. No one ever said anything to me about it.........principal left mid-year and put a person who spoke little English in charge of the school. Discipline was non-existent although we supposedly had some kind of discipline point system. Several teachers in critical subject areas spoke little English. A math teacher (white lady) was subject to psycho-bitch parents who complained to the new-"principal" and she was fired. Her replacement was two full time guys who spoke little English. They had no math/science background and neither wanted to teach. They wanted to do human resources and asked to not teach...but the principal made them. Their "teaching" was photocopied math TAKS worksheets/packets. Nice! Every month I would find a newly enrolled random Turkish child in my class. The ESL teacher was clearly mentally ill and a drug addict and taught nothing. She was frequently absent. Most of these turkish children were actually refugees from Russia, had never been schooled and were wild. Since we had no birth records for several, we didn't know their age or how to spell their names. There was an online thing where we posted grades. The guy who called himself the superintendent had a non-English speaking son who was placed in gifted/talented despite being average, and the dad would come to me wanting to change grades and behavior/conduct grades. Since the entire school board was made of one family, there was no one to complain to. Mysteriously, all the non English speaking refugees made high scores on the Stanford test (it's like a baseline IW bullshit test, but still) even though the never took the test. It was suggested that I help students "correct" grades during testing and be on the lookout for state employees (they usually come out to schools to make sure we're doing things right.........like they walk around hallways, peek into rooms, etc). Math and Science grades for third grade were mysteriously high despite many clearly failing (as I walked around the room, I looked at their booklets and nearly all were marking wrong answers. Remember, the new math teacher spoke little English. About 75% of the staff was not hired back, including me and that math teacher, although I won some kind of excellent teacher award at the end of the year. Note--the math teacher was transferred to another department (HR). I just got let go. The thing is, aside from fuckking with teachers, the students suffer. Those kids cried during math cuz they had no clue what was going on. The refugee kids never learned anything due to the ESL teacher being high half the time. The kids had none of that robotics club, science club, etc etc. I admit that I was supposed to teach French club but not having any materials and not willing to spend more of my own money, I just turned it into a "hanging out" club. No library, shitty recess area with feral cats, gross as hell lunch...bad atmosphere all around. This was in 2006-07. I guess the school has changed since then.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Gulen Charter Schools sign the Act For America Petition - 130 US Gulen-operated charter schools Mirror ...

This organization which operates 130 charter schools in the United States has been violating the civil rights of American teachers and administrators for the past eleven years by blatantly ignoring  federal age, nationality, and gender equal opportunity laws. Further, their practices have supplanted American jobs by bringing in H1-B visa holders instead of hiring qualified and available American teachers and administrators, and all the while using American tax dollars to do so. The American tax payers are not only losing jobs, but are also required to pay for H1-B visa fees  and in many instances graduate degrees for the foreign teachers and administrators.
With unemployment rates still at an all time high, let's ask our government officials why they are still allowing the influx of H1-B visa employees to take American jobs when the United States has a wealth of qualified and credentialed American teachers and administrators

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Gulen Charter Schools, State Amendment in Tennessee to protect American teachers

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A conservative group that has warned of the growing influence of Islam is promoting a bill that would limit how many legal immigrants charter schools can hire, drawing opposition from charter school and immigrant groups.
The Tennessee Eagle Forum, an organization that has criticized U.S. immigration policy and last year pushed for passage of the so-called “Shariah bill,” is pressing Tennessee lawmakers to pass legislation that would cap the number of foreign workers charter schools can hire.
The bill has drawn bipartisan support but has raised the concerns of charter school advocacy and immigrant rights organizations, which say it would place unfair and unnecessary limits on who can be hired or volunteer with charter schools.
The Putting Tennessee First Act, which is scheduled to be heard in two committees this week, makes no reference to religion. But it comes amid worries from some groups about the involvement of Islamic organizations in running charter schools elsewhere in the country, although there are no such schools in Tennessee.
The measure, Senate Bill 3345, says chartering authorities may not approve schools that plan to have more than 3.5 percent of their staff made up of legal immigrants with visa work permits. The bill also calls on authorities to revoke schools’ charters later if they exceed the cap, and it requires schools to disclose the source of all donations from overseas.
There is no record of any schools in Tennessee exceeding that limit, in part because records aren’t maintained on employees’ nationality.
The Tennessee Eagle Forum, which drafted the bill, is affiliated with the Eagle Forum, a national organization that wants to reduce the number of visas available to foreign-born workers and opposes the use of textbooks that it sees as favorable to Islam.
Last year, the Tennessee Eagle Forum urged lawmakers to pass the Material Support to Designated Entities Act, which would have declared some followers of Shariah to be terrorists. Muslim groups vigorously opposed the bill, arguing that Shariah covers a broad set of Islamic traditions, many of which have nothing to do with warfare or secular law.
Legislators later stripped out references to religion.
Like the Material Support to Designated Entities Act, this latest bill is sponsored by House Speaker Pro Tempore Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma, and Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro.
Supporters say the measure is meant to encourage the hiring of Tennessee and American-born teachers by charter schools.
“The state of Tennessee is stating a preference that charter schools look to hire U.S. and Tennessee workers as a priority,” said Joanne Bregman, an attorney for the Tennessee Eagle Forum.
But charter school advocates fear the bill’s broad provisions could limit the ability of schools to hire the best instructors. Immigrant groups, meanwhile, fear it could limit participation in charter schools by people living in immigrant communities.
“The intent of this bill is really to put up barriers for anyone with a foreign background to be involved with working at charter schools,” said Remziya Suleyman, director of policy and administration for the American Center for Outreach, a Nashville-based group that lobbies on behalf of Muslims. “The tendency already is that it’s very difficult to get immigrants and refugees to participate.”
Concerns over Islam
The effort comes amid concerns about the involvement of Islamic organizations in charter schools. The Gulen movement, which is affiliated with the moderate Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, operates 120 charter schools in 25 states.
Some critics say the group improperly mixes religion and state government. A New York Times investigation last year questioned whether businesses tied to the movement had profited from the charter schools.
Ketron said ties between charter schools and the Gulen movement or other Islamic groups were not among his reasons for bringing the bill.
“Not at this point, no,” he said.
But Sen. Jim Summerville, R-Dickson, said after discussing the measure with Ketron, he believes worries that Islamist groups might infiltrate charter schools do appear to be among its backers’ motivations.
“I said I’ll help him bring it to the floor,” he said. “I’m not sure whether I’ll vote for it.”
The bill is scheduled to come up for discussion today in the House Education Committee and Wednesday in the Senate Education Committee, which decided to bring the measure back up for discussion after initially rejecting it last week.
Opposition has come from some Republican members of the Senate, who argue the measure unnecessarily hampers charter schools and might violate federal education and immigration laws.
They also have raised philosophical objections to the bill.
“If people are here legally and legally qualified for a job, I have no problem with them,” said Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville. “That’s what America is all about.”
Democrats have expressed little opposition to the bill. Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney, D-Jackson, and House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, have filed a bill that is similar to the measure filed by Ketron and Matheny.
But any proposal to limit foreign-born workers is opposed by the Tennessee Charter School Association. The group says its members would have to trace the source of every donation it receives to satisfy the bill’s reporting requirement, and they would have little recourse if they were accused of not doing so.
The group also questioned the need for the legislation.
Of the state’s 52 charter schools, none is backed by an overseas government or entity, said Matt Throckmorton, the group’s executive director. He urged the Senate Education Committee to study the matter further.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Gulen Charter Schools in Oklahoma to face amendment by Rep Cannaday an HONEST politician

Cannaday Amendment Attempts to Shine Light on Charter School Practices
State of Oklahoma
House of Representatives
March 14, 2012
Representative Ed Cannaday
State Capitol Building Rm. 539B
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105
Contact: Eric Russell
Cannaday Amendment Attempts to Shine Light on Charter School Practices
OKLAHOMA CITY (March 14, 2012) In response to the conduct and execution of taxpayer-funded charter schools, such as bypassing Oklahoma teachers to hire teachers from overseas, Representative Ed Cannaday has filed an amendment to HB 3130 to address these concerns.
The Democrat from Porum has filed an amendment that all charter schools that hire teachers on a H-1B temporary worker visa must file a report with the Oklahoma Department of Education showing proof of recruitment efforts to first hire qualified Oklahoma or U.S. residents.
“I find it hard to believe that given all the Oklahomans with bachelor’s degrees in education, and with the loss of public education jobs due to budget cuts, that any charter school is unable to scout out a teacher in our state and must therefore recruit teachers from the country of Turkey to fill these positions,” said Rep. Cannaday.
These comments reference the four Oklahoma charter schools that employ about 15 percent of their teachers from overseas using temporary nonimmigrant work visas. These schools are privately run by the Sky Foundation, but funded with state tax dollars.
Of the 149 teachers employed at these four charter schools in Oklahoma, 22 are here on H-1B visas.
Federal law allows employers unable to find qualified American employees to fill positions with foreign labor through a visa application process.
Two of the schools are in Oklahoma City: Dove Science Academy, grades six to 12, and Dove Science Academy Elementary, grades kindergarten to fifth. The other two schools are in Tulsa: Dove Science Academy, grades six to 12, and Discovery School of Tulsa, grades kindergarten to eighth.
The superintendent of the four Sky Foundation schools in Oklahoma, Kaan Camuz, said of 35 teachers at Dove Science Academy, 11 are from Turkey, Russia, Turkmenistan or Azerbaijan.
“I know these schools claim that there is a shortage of math and science teachers, so they allege that their only option is to recruit from overseas. Of interest is that the majority of these teachers come from Turkey, the home country of the founders of these charter schools,” said Rep. Cannaday.
More than 120 charter schools nationwide, including the four Sky Foundation schools, were founded by Turkish nationals.
“Turkish teachers are displacing Oklahoman and American teachers, and on the taxpayers’ dime, to boot! I don’t believe they are really making efforts to bring on board local teachers, and as a former educator I am insulted that they make claims when applying for the federal visas that they were unable to find a single qualified candidates from not just our state but in our entire nation!”
According to the US Department of Labor, secondary school teachers were the 5th highest occupation for H-1B visas granted in Oklahoma in 2010.
Rep. Cannaday’s amendment further requires charter schools on the needs improvement list for three consecutive years to have their contract terminated or denied renewal.
“Charter schools receive state funding the same way public schools do. One charter middle school in particular has been on the needs improvement list for three years now, and given that by definition charter schools do not have to adhere to many of the mandates that public schools do, I find it unacceptable that any taxpayer dollars are being funneled to charter schools that can’t meet the bare minimum.”
Unlike public schools, charter schools do not have to require that teachers have valid teaching licenses or certificates, that teacher assistants have a high school diploma, or that students are enrolled in a minimum of six periods of rigorous instruction. Neither do they have to require that the high school offer the mandated 38 units of credit, or have a graduation policy that requires the minimum 23 units or sets of competencies.
Of the 22 charter schools in Oklahoma, 3 were on the Needs Improvement List in 2011: the Justice Alma Wilson SeeWorth Academy in OKC, the Santa Fe South Elementary School and the Santa Fe South Middle School.
The Santa Fe South Middle School has been on the Needs Improvement List every year since 2008, which is considered consistently low performing.
For Fiscal Year 2011 the total state allocations for charter schools was $32,183,444.
“I hope to shed some light on those charter schools that receive public dollars but have very little accountability or oversight in areas that I deem important to me as an educator, a lawmaker, and a father and grandfather. We too often praise charter schools while demonizing public schools, and unfortunately, many people just don’t know what we’ve allowed charter schools to get away with, all on the taxpayer dole.”

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Harmony Science Academy student in El Paso, TX makes final for Turkish Olympaid

Hispanic Student to Represent U.S. in Turkish Song Contest

EL PASO, Texas – Jacqueline Mata, a 14-year-old Latino girl from El Paso, has been chosen to represent the United States in the Turkish Language Olympiad to be held May 23-June 14 in Istanbul.

The teen, who was chosen last month at the Olympiad U.S. finals in Houston, will compete against 179 students from other countries in a contest where all the songs will be sung in Turkish.

But for Mata that won’t be a problem since she has been taking Turkish classes since 2009 and believes she has developed a really respectable grasp of the language.

“I’m immensely happy because I will not only represent my city but the whole country. I hope to do a good job and make my artistic mark with a foreign audience,” the singer told Efe.

Mata attends Harmony Science Academy El Paso, a charter school.

“I’ve always been particularly fascinated by Turkey, and that’s why I wanted to learn the language. Then I learned several songs and here comes this beautiful opportunity,” Jacqueline said.

The student also said that the school board has behaved like her own family and that teachers and classmates meet with her all the time to encourage her in this new facet of her future artistic career.

The organizing body of the U.S. Finals is Raindrop Turkish House, a non-profit foundation present in eight states around the country and whose mission is to teach Turkish culture in the United States.

The organization is also sponsoring Mata and will pay all the expenses of her artistic adventure.

Jacqueline was invited to Turkey last year to attend the Turkish Language Olympiad but this is the first time she will compete.

“I already know something about Istanbul, but now I want to find out more about its culture and its people so I can make a lot of friends,” she said.

Mata has her musical repertoire ready and has included such songs as “Arkadas” (Amigos), “Soyle Buldun mu” (Que Crees que Dicen, or What Do You Think They’re Saying), and “Gurbet” (Nostalgia).

She spends every afternoon practicing the lyrics, knowing full well that besides her intonation, the juries will be paying keen attention to her pronunciation.

One factor in Jacqueline’s favor is the wholehearted support of her mother, who has also learned to speak Turkish for the sole purpose of helping her daughter.

“I thought it was vital to learn the new language that my daughter speaks, so I’ll know what she’s talking about,” laughed Norma Longoria, who is doing all the necessary so she can accompany her Jaqueline to the land of the Turks. EFE

Monday, January 2, 2012

Harmony Science Academies - The inner circle "Harmony Schools causing DISCORD"

The 36 schools that make up the Harmony charter school network are among the highest-rated in Texas.
But despite its glowing academic record, Harmony has received a flurry of criticism for its business practices.
In particular, the charter network's reliance on visas for Turkish-born staff and use of Turkish-owned businesses for construction and other contracts has raised questions about how it spends taxpayer money and whether it is too insular.
In just more than a decade, Harmony Public Schools, operated by the Cosmos Foundation of Houston, has grown to become one of the largest charter school networks in Texas, serving about 16,700 students last school year. Two schools, with about 900 students last year, are in San Antonio.
Some Harmony critics point to a burgeoning number of Turkish-American-led charter networks in the United States, more than 120 in 25 states, that they say are tied to Islamic political leader Fethullah Gulen.
“The only crime is that they're Turkish,” State Board of Education member and early Harmony supporter David Bradley said. “And in Texas, that is not a crime.”
From 2008 to 2010, the Labor Department certified 1,197 H-1B visa requests from the Cosmos Foundation — more than double the number of visas certified nationwide for Texas-based computer company Dell USA and about 70 percent as many as were certified for tech giant Apple Inc.
Those certifications were forwarded to the Homeland Security Department for final approval.
The visas are intended to attract foreign workers with skills that are in short supply among American workers.
Harmony has about 290 employees working on H-1B visas, or 16 percent of its workforce, according to Superintendent Soner Tarim. Most are Turkish, said Tarim, who is also from Turkey.
Few other Texas school districts hire significant numbers of workers on H-1B visas.
“Staffing Northside schools has never really been a problem,” said Pascual Gonzalez, spokesman for Bexar County's largest school district with 97,000 students, where Labor Department records show no H-1B visa certifications in recent years. “In the past there have been thousands of people applying for hundreds of jobs.”
At Harmony, Tarim said the charter network finds a shortage of qualified teachers in math, science and English as a second language sometimes prompts them to hire foreign workers.
He noted that Harmony's focus on science and math means particularly high recruiting standards in those areas.
“It's unacceptable for us to raise our kids to say, ‘I cannot do math,'” he said.
Nearly a third of the H-1B certifications received by Cosmos actually were for jobs outside those fields, however.
Labor Department data includes visa certifications for legal counsel, accountants, assistant principals, public relations coordinators and teachers of art, English and history.
“They may be on an H-1B visa and they already worked in our system and they changed positions,” Tarim said, noting the number of certifications includes renewals and applications for individuals who change jobs or locations. “Remember, we always promote from within in our organization.”
Some students say they have trouble understanding foreign-born teachers.
“One of our teachers ... is Turkish,” sixth-grader Noah Nabers volunteered. “And it's kind of hard to understand him.”
But some parents say they are unfazed by concerns over the visas.
Earl Estrada said the teachers at Harmony are better educated than those his daughter encountered at a previous charter school, and he doesn't care how many come in on visas.
“I went to Cal State Fullerton. ... We had a United Nations at that school as far as professors,” Estrada said. “They fit the criteria as far as getting people educated.”
In a year when schools across the state struggled to meet state and federal academic standards, 21 of the 33 Harmony Schools rated earned one of the top two state accountability ratings; the remaining 12 are rated “academically acceptable.”
Like most charter school operators, Harmony's first schools opened in former stores and spaces leased from churches. Harmony still operates some storefront campuses, but over time began to build its own schools using money from the sale of public bonds.
Tarim bristled at the implication that the charter network was giving much of its work to a closed circle of Turkish-owned businesses.
“That's actually a misconception,” he said.
The Cosmos Foundation does award many contracts to businesses owned by non-Turks.
But in recent years, eight of the charter network's 10 largest contracts have gone to just two companies, both of which have close ties to Cosmos: the Houston-based contracting firms Solidarity Contracting and TDM Contracting.
Solidarity is run by a former Harmony school business manager, according to a report by the New York Times. TDM was formed a couple of years ago by a former Solidarity employee.
Together, the two young companies have received more than $66 million in Cosmos contracts since 2009, records show. The total doesn't include cost overruns or smaller jobs they might have been awarded.
“The lowest responsible bid wins,” Tarim said, during an interview at the new School of Innovation in San Antonio, which was built by TDM.
The firm's $8.2 million bid was the lowest of the five submitted for the project, although Tarim said the final cost turned out to be about $10 million.
In response to an open records request, Cosmos provided no criteria used to rank the five firms or information about how such criteria was weighted, saying simply that the contract was awarded to the lowest bidder.

Gulen's influence

Some of Harmony's harshest critics point to somewhat opaque connections between the charter operator and Gulen, a charismatic religious leader from Turkey who espouses religious tolerance and a moderate brand of Islam from his self-imposed Pennsylvania exile.
Tarim laughed a little when asked about the relationship between Harmony and Gulen, which he said is nonexistent.
“We get asked this question many, many times,” he said, waving off any connection. “We continue to tell people (there is no tie).”
But some former Harmony board members have been involved with the Institute for Interfaith Dialogue, a Houston-based organization with branches in San Antonio and other cities that takes its inspiration from Gulen.
One of those men, Harmony founder Yetkin Yildirim, told the New York Times earlier this year that he has been influenced by Gulen. Yildirim helped Tarim start the charter schools after recognizing a laxity in America's math and science education.
Bradley, the state school board member, recalled when Harmony came forward with its initial charter proposal, more than a decade ago. He said the team was, and is, passionate about improving education for Texas children.
A conservative, Bradley said he considers Harmony's critics his political allies but said their attacks on the charter network are misguided.
“There's a small group of folks that are working to smear their good name and I take exception to that,” Bradley said.
State Rep. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio, chose the Harmony Science Academy for his children after hearing about it from a Texas Education Agency employee who was also a Harmony parent.
Menendez said he and his wife liked the diversity and tolerance they found at their children's school, as well as the focus on science and math, but he stressed that there is no religious instruction at his children's school.
“I don't know why people feel threatened,” he said. “There really isn't anything going on other than people educating them.”

Two networks

Harmony opened three new campuses in Texas this school year and is on track to enroll 24,000 children by the end of 2012, according to Tarim.
The Cosmos Foundation also provides management services to other charter networks.
Tarim said Cosmos consults with the School of Science and Technology, a small San Antonio-based charter network run by a nonprofit called the Riverwalk Education Foundation.
“We provided help as to how to establish a program,” Tarim explained.
Though Cosmos and Riverwalk have separate boards, others referenced a closer tie between the two organizations, referring to their campuses as “sister” schools.
The charter networks contract with several of the same businesses, and students and staff seem to frequently move from one organization to another.
Opposition to Harmony, mostly from the conservative, grass-roots Eagle Forum, nearly plunged the state Legislature into a second special session earlier this year after a small group of Republicans voted down a must-pass bill.
The legislation included a provision to use money for state public schools to guarantee charter school bonds, potentially saving the Cosmos Foundation tens of millions thanks to lower interest rates.
The conservative legislators switched their votes only after striking a compromise that included a resolution to conduct a House investigation of all of the state's charter schools.
Not part of that probe, the TEA has spent the past several months conducting an audit of roughly $540,000 in “inadequately documented” federal grant funds received by the Cosmos Foundation, TEA spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson said.
State school board member Michael Soto called the wrangling in the Legislature “a political cheap shot against Harmony for the obvious reason that most of its administration is Turkish” but said he welcomed increased scrutiny of the state's charter schools.
“There's very little oversight of the charter system by TEA and whenever you can bring that forward, that's a good thing,” Soto said. “The Legislature could do its part by giving the TEA more authority to shut down charters that are failing.”

Database Editor Kelly Guckian and News Researchers Kevin Frazzini and Julie Domel contributed to