Concept Schools, Gulen Charter Schools Midwest operations

Concept Schools, Gulen Charter Schools Midwest operations
DISCLAIMER:If you find some videos are disabled this is a result of Gulen Censorship and filing of fake copyright infringements to Utube.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Gulen "inspired" Schools are a danger to America

Gulen "Inspired" Concept Schools dba Horizon Science Academies, Quest Academy, Chicago Math and Science Academy, Indiana Math and Science Academy and more.

Using Turk­ish Islamic teach­ers just the tip of the ice­berg in char­ter irregularities!
Exhibit 1
Chicago char­ter schools import 474 Turk­ish Mus­lim teach­ers as 40k Amer­i­can teach­ers go unem­ployed,” pub­lished on Novem­ber 22, 2014, reported the lat­est antics of char­ter school operators:
Hori­zon Sci­ence Acad­emy in Bond Hill… employs seven for­eign teach­ers, mostly from Turkey, brought to the U.S. on H-1B visas for jobs it says Ohio teach­ers are unqual­i­fied to fill.
Con­cept Schools, founded by fol­low­ers of a Turk­ish Islamic cleric secluded in the Poconos, already is under fed­eral and state scrutiny for pos­si­ble irreg­u­lar­i­ties in teacher licens­ing, test­ing and tech­nol­ogy contracts.
An Enquirer inves­ti­ga­tion has found that Chicago-based Con­cept Schools, which runs Hori­zon and 17 other char­ter schools in Ohio, annu­ally imports dozens of for­eign teach­ers in num­bers that far sur­pass any other school sys­tem in the state.
At least 474 for­eign teach­ers, again mostly from Turkey, have arrived at Concept’s Ohio schools between 2005 and 2013. The schools are col­lect­ing about $45 mil­lion in state funds annu­ally to edu­cate 6,600 chil­dren in kinder­garten through high school.…
The Ohio Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion is weigh­ing com­plaints from for­mer Con­cept staffers that unli­censed, for­eign teach­ers were used.
Ohio teach­ers, mean­while, say plenty of qual­i­fied teach­ers are avail­able for jobs being filled by the for­eign­ers, espe­cially since about 40,000 are still with­out teach­ing jobs because of the reces­sion. [bold and red in original]
Exhibit 2
Are Amer­i­cans who live in cities where char­ter schools exist exam­in­ing their prop­erty tax bills?
Is the fact that their prop­erty taxes are going, in many cases, directly into the pock­ets of for-profit enti­ties, not into the tra­di­tional school bud­get cof­fer, not of some con­cern to them?
Is the fact that char­ter schools have no school boards that rep­re­sent the vot­ers of the entire munic­i­pal­ity of no con­cern to them?
Is the fact that Com­mu­nist Core Marx­ist cur­ricu­lum, assess­ment and reme­di­a­tion of their children’s atti­tudes, val­ues and beliefs will exist in their child’s char­ter school, and they won’t have the right to com­plain about “it” not of con­cern to them?
Is the fact that char­ter schools are being used to teach reli­gion of no con­cern to them?
There used to be a pro­hi­bi­tion against tax-funded pub­lic edu­ca­tion pro­mot­ing reli­gious beliefs. Many state con­sti­tu­tions for­bid tax money going to reli­gious schools! Why is this uncon­sti­tu­tional char­ter school entity not being chal­lenged in the courts?
What is it going to take for the hard-hit Amer­i­can tax­payer and/or par­ent to wake up and focus on the prob­lem of tax-funded  gov­ern­ment schools with no elected boards (char­ter schools)… and, in addi­tion, to wake up and under­stand that once the gov­ern­ment funds any form of pri­vate educ­tion,  includ­ing reli­gious and home edu­ca­tion, that this edu­ca­tion entity in effect becomes “public”/“government” edu­ca­tion (the kind of edu­ca­tion one finds in Cuba, China, or any Social­ist, Com­mu­nist country)?
What is it going to take for Amer­i­cans to real­ize that the inter­na­tion­al­ists, Neo­con­ser­v­a­tives, Left­ists, cor­po­ra­tions and their phil­an­thropic agen­das (such as Bill Gates), the Coun­cil on For­eign Rela­tions, the U.S. Dept. of Edu­ca­tion and the Carnegie Cor­po­ra­tion “mafia” do NOT care about their children’s futures? They all sup­port tax-funded school choice in order to imple­ment the life­long global work­force train­ing agenda. This Com­mu­nist work­force agenda can­not be imple­mented with­out tax-funded school choice.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Horizon Science Academies part of the Gulen Movement business model

Over the summer, FBI agents stormed nineteen charter schools as part of an ongoing investigation into Concept Charter Schools. They raided the buildings seeking information about companies the prominent Midwestern charter operator had contracted with under the federal E-Rate program.
The federal investigation points to possible corruption at the Gulen charter network, with which Concept is affiliated and which takes its name from the Turkish cleric Fetullah Gulen. And a Jacobin investigation found that malfeasance in the Gulen network, the second largest in the country, is more widespread than previously thought. Federal contracting documents suggest that the conflict-of-interest transactions occurring at Concept are a routine practice at other Gulen-affiliated charter school operators.
The Jacobin probe into Gulen-affiliated operators in Texas, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and California found that roughly $4 million in E-Rate contract disbursements and $1.7 million in Department of Education Race to the Top grantee awards were given to what appear to be “related parties.” Awarding contracts to firms headed by related parties would seem to violate the FCC’s requirement that the school’s bidding process be “competitive” as well as “open and fair.”
Unlike most charter schools networks, the Gulen charter network has received significant scrutiny in the US press, primarily because of the international profile of its Islamic cleric leader and xenophobic fears of “education jihad.” Such coverage distracts from what appears to be systemic corruption at the public’s expense, a predictable consequence of the US charter school model. This has nothing to do with Fetullah Gulen’s religious teaching and everything to do with the private management of public education dollars.
Like most big-time charter operators, the Gulen charter network has developed a growth model more reminiscent of a Fortune 500 company than a public school district. As the sociologist Joshua David Hendrick told Jacobin, the Gulen charter school movement links “private Turkish capital with a shared sub-economy that builds upon an initial educational venture and then expands from there.”
Armed with startup capital from Turkish foundations, the charter school network has quickly grown to over 130 schools in twenty-five states while employing the same business strategy: invest in lawmakers to win charter school contracts, import Gulen adherents to staff schools on H-1B teaching visas, and award school contracts to education resource firms led by former employees.
The cycle can then repeat itself as enriched former school employees donate to the plethora of Turkish foundations, securing political influence for individual charter school operators.

A Suspect Bidding Process 

Records indicate that Gulen charter schools nationwide may be regularly violating federal competitive-bidding laws by disbursing contracts and grants to firms owned by other Gulen schools or former Gulen school employees.
In August, the Chicago Sun Times reported that in Chicago alone Concept management may have engaged in nearly a million dollars worth of related-party transactions with E-rate contractor Core Group, Inc. An analysis of Core Group’s E-Rate program disbursement shows their only successful bids have come from Concept charter schools across the Midwest and that these fifty-eight bids amount to over $3.2 million.
More obviously suspect are the contracting deals sometimes crafted between Gulen chains. Apex Educational Services, for example, presents itself as a stand-alone education technology firm, but a 2013 IRS file from a Chandler, Arizona, branch of the Gulen-affiliated Sonoran Science Academy chain lists Apex Educational Services, Inc. as one of its properties.
Hence it is no surprise that nearly all of Apex’s forty-eight E-Rate bids have gone to Gulen-affiliated chains across California, Nevada, and Utah, and all four of Apex’s successful bids have come from Magnolia Science Academies, one of the country’s largest Gulen charter chains. To date, Apex has earned about $114,000 from Magnolia’s E-Rate disbursement.
Ties between other Gulen-affiliated chains and their E-Rate providers may also violate the FCC’s competitive-bidding requirements.
There appears to be an intimate relationship, for example, between Harmony Public Schools, a Gulen-affiliated Texas charter chain, and the telecommunications firm Brighten Technologies, which from 2010 to 2014 earned roughly $670,000 off of twenty-three Harmony’s E-Rate contracts. Set up and staffed by former Harmony computer-science teachers, Brighten Technologies exists almost exclusively for Harmony contracts (94 percent of Brighten Technologies’ E-Rate applications have been for Harmony Public Schools).
In an email to Jacobin, Harmony denied these practices constitute a conflict of interest, claiming that their contracting approach to federal grants is “fair and open.” Nonetheless, despite being unaware of their close relationship, the Universal Service Administrative Company – the independent agency responsible for reviewing E-Rate applications – has rejected thirteen of Harmony’s applications to contract with Brighten Technologies for failing to prove it had a competitive-bidding process.
Regarding their contracting with Brighten Technologies, Harmony officials wrote, “A range of factors, including price, product availability, and demonstrated ability to deliver are evaluated in selecting vendors, and all the criteria for ‘best value’ have to be met, not just low price.”
Such a response is telling; rather than simply explaining why no conflict of interest exists with Brighten, Harmony officials stressed twice to Jacobin that “low price” is not their only contracting criterion, a line they used to justify what appeared to be overly generous contracts to Turkish-owned construction firms three years ago.
Additionally, federal data does not support Harmony’s claim that Brighten Technologies offered any “better value” in lieu of its overcharging. In fact, most of Brighten’s applications were rejected for failing to provide basic planning standards. To date, only twenty-six of Brighten’s ninety-eight applications have been accepted. Had Brighten been competent enough to meet USAC’s basic requirements when applying for Harmony contracts, it could have netted well over $5 million from past applications alone.
But Harmony’s apparent competitive-bidding violations go beyond the E-Rate program. In February 2014, Harmony’s school newspaper announced that the Cosmos Foundation had secured a $29.8 million Race to the Top grant from the Department of Education to purchase Google Chromebooks for over 16,000 students.
Brighten Technologies received a roughly $905,000 Department of Education Race to the Top grant, secured for them by Harmony Public Schools — another potential federal violation of Race to the Top grant rules, which stipulate that recipients must foster “full and open competition” when contracting for goods and services.
Further analysis of the same Race to the Top grant shows that Harmony also awarded $805,000 in contracts to the Gulen-affiliated Texas Gulf Foundation for various consulting and instructional services. But as the New York Times reported in 2011, the foundation, like Brighten Technologies, was started by former Harmony employees and used to have its offices on a Harmony campus.
Harmony officials denied that this contract award violated competitive-bidding guidelines; Brighten Technologies has not returned Jacobin requests for comment.

Building Influence, Building Schools

Gulen-affiliated chains have grown most rapidly in the Midwest, Texas, Arizona, and California, where, as in Chicago, stories abound of Gulen-affiliated charter officials appealing to state authorities to override the contracting decisions of local school districts.
In Illinois and Texas, Gulen-linked Turkish cultural foundations have invited lawmakers on numerous trips to Turkey, and consistently fund the campaigns of those in a position to expand their fast-growing network. When the Chicago Public Schools declined Concept’s offer to build two more schools, for example, Concept appealed to the Illinois State Charter School Commission, an agency formed by Illinois Democratic Chairman Michael Madigan, among others. The commission overturned the school board’s decision and approved Concept’s expansion.
Madigan had taken four trips to Turkey that were hosted by the Niagara Foundation, whose honorary president is none other than Fetullah Gulen. From 2010-2012, the Niagara foundation paid for at least thirty-two sojourns for Illinois lawmakers.
In New Orleans, two members of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education traveled to Turkey at the invitation of the Gulen-affiliated Pelican Foundation. The trips prompted local rumors of a quid pro quo when one of these members was the sole dissenting vote against revoking Pelican’s right to operate Abramson Science and Technology Charter School, despite shocking stories of alleged mishandling of sexual-abuse cases.
Similarly, the Houston-based Turquoise Council of Americans and Eurasians, which a Stratfor email leaked by Wikileaks described as “definitely a nonprofit related to the larger Fethullah Gulen movement,” has been called into question for its lavish trips for Texas lawmakers. Prominent members of the nonprofit have close ties to Harmony Public Schools, Texas’ largest charter chain, and its 2012 IRS 990 form alone lists nearly $1.9 million in travel expenses.
The founder of Harmony Public Schools, Yetkin Yildirim, is also the Austin branch representative of the Turquoise Council of Americans and Eurasians, a position from which he regularly lobbies local politicians.
And their influence may extend beyond their regional bases. On February 9, 2010, Kemal Oksuz, the president of the Turquoise Council, and Yildirim, the founder of Harmony Public Schools, both attended a White House “Briefing for Turkish American Leaders.” In a statement to Jacobin, Harmony Public Schools claimed to have no affiliation with the Turquoise Council of Americans and Eurasians and denied any connection to the Gulen movement, despite several investigative reports that have linked the two.
Additionally, Buzzfeed reported this summer on the tens of thousands of dollars that Gulen adherents were pouring into Texas races, particularly to that of US Representative Sheila Jackson Lee. School officials denied these donations were part of a centrally coordinated influence-building effort. Nonetheless, in July, Harmony CFO Erdal Caglar admitted that Jackson Lee was helping the chain expand to a location in DC.

Education or Immigration?

Despite the financial success of many Gulen schools, several sites have driven themselves to bankruptcy, spending enormous amounts of public funding on immigration fees for fellow Gulenists. As the Atlantic recently reported, Utah’s Beehive Academy, a Gulen school, spent “about 50 cents to pay the immigration costs of foreign teachers for every dollar that it spent on textbooks.” This eventually caused the school to be temporarily shuttered.
In California, Magnolia Science Academies, a Gulen-affiliated chain, recently made headlines for allegedly misusing $3 million in public funds to cover the immigration costs of six non-employees. The Los Angeles Unified School District ordered the closure of two Magnolia schools, citing financial mismanagement, but a July court order reversed the decision.
For Gulen, it goes beyond financial impropriety. Gulen chains appear to use H-1B slots for teaching positions to facilitate immigration and further business expansion, rather than to improve teaching quality. According to Canadian consular officials, teachers being brought from Turkey to teach in Gulen schools on H-1B visas are often not credentialed. “While the H1B petitions were for teaching positions at charter schools in the United States,” wrote one Canadian official, “most applicants had no prior teaching experience and the schools were listed as related to Fethullah Gulen.”
Records indicate that from 2001-2010, Cosmos Foundation, the charter operator of Texas’ Harmony Public Schools, filed 1,157 H-1B visa applications and brought in 731 employees — higher than all other providers of secondary education combined.
In a statement to Jacobin, Harmony officials explained “the national shortage of math and science teachers” had pushed them to hire a “small percentage of international teachers” whose qualifications were “based primarily on academic professional credentials.”
The story of Brighten Technologies, the telecommunications provider closely linked to Harmony, illustrates how Gulen schools use H-1B visas not only to guarantee American residency to fellow Gulen adherents, but also to create in-house companies to profit off of federal and state grants.
Take Joseph Duzgun, the founder of Brighten Technologies, who came to the states sometime around 2002. According to his Linkedin page, Duzgun studied mathematics at Ondokuz Mayis University in Samsun, Turkey, though his profile does not include any information regarding teacher training.
Nevertheless, Duzgun served a short teaching stint at Harmony Schools from as early as 2004 to at least 2006. Two years later, he started Brighten Technology Solutions (later called Brighten Technologies), which has benefitted from numerous publicly financed contracts from his former employer, Harmony Public Schools.
Likewise, Turkish immigrant Gökhan Sancar was a computer teacher and technology instructor at Harmony Science Academy Lubbock from 2008-2009 and at the Harmony School of Ingenuity from 2009-2010. He joined Brighten Technology Solutions in 2010. He currently lists his position as Brighten’s VP of Sales. Neither Duzgun nor Sancar responded to Jacobin requests for comment.
Brighten Technologies exemplifies the Gulenist corporate expansion strategy. School officials bring over fellow Gulenists on H-1B teaching visas, keep them in Harmony schools for a few years, then organize them to found companies — which are guaranteed a profit from providing services to Gulen schools, often at inflated costs.

A Charter to Steal

Harmony’s E-Rate and Race to the Top programs federal grants have netted Brighten Technologies over $1.57 million in dubiously legal related-party transactions. Such transactions appear to violate many federal grant application rules, and also occur at the state level, where such nepotistic practices are often even more difficult to regulate.
In Texas, where Harmony has quickly grown to become the largest charter school chain, nine regulators oversee the operations of 671 charter school campuses — a number that hasn’t changed since 2011, according to Texas Education Agency spokesperson DeEtta Culbertson. This regulatory force is so inadequate that in 2011, even Greg Richmond, president of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, admitted, “They don’t have the capacity at the state level to do the job.”
From 2009-2011, Harmony awarded thirty-five contracts worth a total of $82 million to Turkish construction firms with close links to school officials. Despite offering substantially lower bids for the same jobs, competitor firms were shocked to find out they’d lost.
Investigation into Harmony Public Schools’ contracting practices from 2009-2013 indicates that tens of millions in public dollars have continued to flow to closely associated Turkish firms. Since 2009, TDM Construction has brought home over $45 million, Solidarity Construction over $45 million, and Atlas Construction over $3 million, totaling well over $95 million from Harmony contracts alone.
To finance their massive construction projects, Harmony Public Schools has also issued hundreds of millions in bonds, which will rely heavily on public financing to pay off. A 2012 New York Times report, for example, found that Harmony has been granted $200 million in bonds since 2007, making it Texas’ largest charter school bond issuer by far. Last July, the city of Houston alone issued Harmony a $101,555,000 bond to build two more schools, renovate four existing ones, and refinance some of Harmony’s existing debt.
Harmony’s plan to finance their overall debts is projected to cost nearly half a billion dollars over the course of twenty-nine years, a plan which could come back to haunt taxpayers, given that in the last five years the Texas Education Agency has shut down eleven Harmony schools. And unfortunately for the people of Texas, the state’s permanent school fund will guarantee the principal and interest of these bonds, thus exposing Texas higher education funding to considerable risk.
While these sweetheart deals, guaranteed windfalls, and potential financial collapses are troubling, they are endemic to the charter school movement nationwide. The widespread corruption at Gulen charter schools is not due to the religion of Gulen charter school executives, but rather because doling out millions in public funding to private education operators with little to no oversight protects and encourages such fraudulent practices.
Indeed, despite the FBI raids this summer, Chicago’s Board of Education authorized Concept to expand to two more sites just one month later.
The move came as a shock to many Chicagoans, still recovering from the Chicago Board of Education’s historic move to shut down fifty schools last year, mostly in working-class black and Latino neighborhoods. As Chicago NBC reporter Mark Anderson lamented, “a federal raid on a company doesn’t seem to mean much anymore, especially if that firm is a politically connected charter school operator ready to take millions in taxpayer dollars to stay in business.”
The contracting practices of Gulen-affiliated charter schools appear to be not just nepotistic, but illegal. Such corruption, however, must not be ascribed to the ideologies of the Gulen movement, but rather to the structure of the charter school sector, which it has successfully gamed.
In addition, the Gulen expansion strategy should be viewed not as an outlier within the charter school movement, but as its most successful example. Gulen foundations invest in politicians to win charter contracts, and use the resulting public funding to import Gulen adherents on H-1B teaching visas. Though these employees do not necessarily have teaching credentials, they are often qualified to form education resource firms, which consistently earn generous contracts from Gulen schools across the country. The cycle then expands as employees of these firms give back to the very foundations that initiated the process.
It’s a process that enriches private actors and hurts students. But as long as US lawmakers push for private control over public education, the corruption and public plunder that Gulen schools exemplify will only continue.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Concept Schools aka Gulen Charter Schools are defrauding America with fake h1-B visas

Cincinnati Inquirer reporter James Pilcher’s recent investigative story highlights the state of Concept Schools, and in particular, their uncanny ability to recruit and hire more H1-B visa teachers than any other educational company in the United States.  According to Pilcher, over the past 8 years, Concept Schools has brought in 474 “highly qualified” Turkish born teachers to teach American kids core subjects like math, science, “computer,” and of course – Turkish --  despite the fact that there are over “40,000” qualified and certified American teachers ready and willing to fill those jobs. Similarly, the majority of high level administrative positions at Concept Schools are held by Turkish males.

How exactly are these crooks allowed to continue on with this ruse? They continue to exploit American educators -- importing lesser qualified and skilled Turkish “educators,” to teach our children – while using our tax dollars? So while the American teachers are standing in the unemployment line, the Turks continue to ravage our tax coffers – laughing all the way to the Gulen bank of America.

Concept School President, Salim Ucan states that he “feels more comfortable,” hiring his fellow Turks. That’s great – but since the educational system in Turkey rates as one of the lowest in the world, how about keeping his "comfortable" Turkish “teachers” in Turkey instead of shipping them over here to teach American students. And by the way, isn't that comment by Ucan a direct affirmation of Concept's discriminatory practices?

In keeping with his ongoing credo -- Ucan also pronounces that all of the allegations are nothing more than fictional complaints by "former disgruntled employees." Disgruntled -- guess so --  as any employee would be if their employer was extorting 40% of their salary...

And this is not an issue exclusive to Concept Schools. Gulen’s network of schools spans 27 states and has 140 United States’ tax payer funded schools. According to Pilcher’s report, the US government has issued work visas to 2300 Turks in the years 2012-13.


Below is Pilcher’s story:

Horizon Science Academy in Bond Hill has the usual classrooms, books and lessons to teach kids seeking an alternative to regular public and private schools.

The charter school also employs seven foreign teachers, mostly from Turkey, brought to the U.S. on H-1B visas for jobs it says Ohio teachers are unqualified to fill.

Concept Schools, founded by followers of a Turkish Islamic cleric secluded in the Poconos, already is under federal and state scrutiny for possible irregularities in teacher licensing, testing and technology contracts.

An Enquirer investigation has found that Chicago-based Concept Schools, which runs Horizon and 17 other charter schools in Ohio, annually imports dozens of foreign teachers in numbers that far surpass any other school system in the state.

At least 474 foreign teachers, again mostly from Turkey, have arrived at Concept's Ohio schools between 2005 and 2013. The schools are collecting about $45 million in state funds annually to educate 6,600 children in kindergarten through high school.

Critics say H-1B visas were designed to help companies temporarily employ highly skilled foreign workers in biotechnology, chemistry, engineering and other specialized fields – not K-12 teachers.
The Ohio Department of Education is weighing complaints from former Concept staffers that unlicensed, foreign teachers were used.

Ohio teachers, meanwhile, say plenty of qualified teachers are available for jobs being filled by the foreigners, especially since about 40,000 are still without teaching jobs because of the recession.
Concept officials defend the practice. They say it's the only way to find qualified math and science instructors, adding that the international teachers add to the cultural experience of students.

"These teachers are hired legally and are here legally," company vice president Salim Ucan said. "It's not like we're sneaking them across the borders. These are highly qualified people who have gone through the legal process to come here and make a difference in the lives of kids."

Academically, Concept students perform no better or worse than children at the nearly 300 other charter schools in Ohio.

Ten of the Ohio Concept schools – more than half – received Ds on the state's most recent performance index, a measure of how many students passed key achievement tests.
Horizon Science Academy was one of the schools getting a D.

Other districts use H-1B visas, but not so many as Concept
H-1B visas have been around for nearly 50 years, created as part of a major immigration overhaul in 1965.
Essentially, they're work permits allowing foreigners to live in the U.S. for three years so long as they're employed by companies in positions pre-approved by the U.S. Labor Department, State Department and Immigration and Customs Service.

Contrary to popular belief, most employers don't have to prove that there is a shortage of qualified U.S. workers to apply for an H-1B visa.Each visa can be extended three years for a total of six. After that, a worker must obtain permanent residency status through a green card application, gain U.S. citizenship or return home.

The U.S. issues about 85,000 H-1B visas per year. Nearly 2,300 were issued for Turkish immigrants in 2012-13, an Enquirer analysis of U.S. State Department data shows.

In Ohio, at least 80 other public districts or private schools used H-1B visas between 2005 and 2013, including Cincinnati Public Schools and systems in Columbus, Akron and Cleveland. Those districts each use about one or two immigrant teachers a year, primarily to teach language skills. CPS hired one teacher using an H-1B visa in 2007.
Concept, on the other hand, this year employs 69 teachers on H-1B visas in Ohio – about 12 percent of its teaching staff. Almost all came from Turkey, and the few who didn't originated from surrounding countries.

"Concept may or may not be bending any rules, but the rules were written poorly in the first place," said Ron Hira, an immigration policy critic and professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. He shared with The Enquirer federal H-1B data he obtained from the Immigration Department through an open records request.

"It seems clear from the data that these schools are favoring H-1B workers from a single source country, Turkey," Hira said. "American workers, as well as foreign workers from other countries, did not have a legitimate shot at getting these jobs."

Concept's Ucan acknowledged that Concept targets Turkish workers, but only because "we're from Turkey, and that is where we have comfort."

"The founders of this organization are Turkish and are established Turkish-Americans," said Ucan, who said he originally came to the U.S. on an H-1B visa and is now nearly finished applying for U.S. citizenship.
"Because of that relationship, it is much easier to recruit from Turkey. It would be much more difficult to go to China or other countries because we do not have the relationships here."

The use of H-1B visas for teachers has proven problematic elsewhere.
A criminal investigation is underway in several suburban Dallas school districts for immigration abuses involving H-1B teachers.

Maryland's Prince George's County banned the practice after its school system was fined $1.7 million and ordered by the Labor Department in 2011 to repay $4.2 million in back wages improperly withheld from H-1B teachers.
"Not every employer or the program itself is problematic, but there have definitely been abuses," said Denise Gilman, co-director of the Immigration Clinic and law professor at the University of Texas.

Many students have trouble in conventional schools.Cincinnati's Horizon Science Academy sits in a converted small college building near a major industrial center in Bond Hill. The school is clearly sectioned off to separate upper and lower grades, older and younger students. About 88 percent of this year's 448 students students are black, and 5 percent are Hispanic.

More than 91 percent qualify for free or reduced lunch, so the school provides free breakfast and lunch to all students.
Like all charter schools, Horizon is run by a private company using state funds diverted from the local public school system. Many charter students have trouble learning in conventional public or private schools. Others seek an alternative to public schools, which may have their own performance or discipline issues.

Some parents at Horizon say they sought out the school for its emphasis on math, science and technology.
The school opened as an elementary school for the 2004-05 academic year, just four years after the Ohio General Assembly approved the use of charter schools. It soon expanded to include a middle school and then a high school.
The school interior appears bright and clean. A well-equipped computer lab features several desktop PCs, 30 laptops and 30 iPads. Separate art classes are decorated with the kids' latest work, with well-supplied baskets surrounding the rooms.Almost all the classrooms are equipped with electronic smartboards, a touchscreen version of a chalkboard.

Administrators and parents say strict discipline is enforced – highlighted when a line of kindergartners and first-graders held their fingers over their mouths in the "shhh" pose all the way back to the classroom after a visit to the restroom. On a separate visit a day later, police forcibly removed one student while another parent came by to pick up another troublesome child.

Coy Johnson of Bond Hill said the school sent his 5-year-old grandson home after a fight in class, a disciplinary action he supported. "And when you have small classes like they do here, it makes everyone feel involved," Johnson said.
School officials say Horizon's low test scores reflect the "transient nature" of the student population.
"We don't turn any kids away, even the ones that aren't really wanted elsewhere," said Michael Bidwell, the school's instructional coordinator. "Some of these kids have been at multiple schools, sometimes within the same school year. But we're not going to give up on you."

Difficult students can prove a challenge to incoming Turkish immigrants such as Yasin Kusan. The first-year high school math teacher is originally from western Turkey, but moved to the U.S. this summer from a different teaching gig in Papua, New Guinea, with his wife and 9-month-old baby.

"The type of students are tough in terms of discipline," Kusan, 30, said through a moderate accent. "I didn't know what to expect. I was disappointed by the economic level of the students, but I am trying my best not to let it hinder me ... especially considering the life standards of where I came from."

Like most of the Concept immigrant teachers, Kusan and fellow Turkish colleague Bilal Urkmez are younger and male. Most of the Turkish teachers are assigned to high schools or technology classes; Americans primarily staff the elementary grades, Ucan said. Both men paid their own travel expenses to the U.S., while Concept paid the nearly $1,000 in fees for the visas.

"It has always been my dream to teach," said Urkmez, 29, who is in his second year as a high school math teacher at Horizon Cincinnati. "My models were my teacher and my father, who was also a teacher." Questions over licensing, reassigning H-1B immigrants.

The glowing reports are not universal.

In May and June, the FBI raided 19 Concept charter schools, offices and other businesses in at least four states, including the Cincinnati Horizon and three other schools in Ohio. The raids came as part of a multistate investigation into possible financial fraud involving a federal Internet technology-funding program.

Ohio education officials, meanwhile, are weighing whether to launch a full-scale investigation into whether Concept Schools is using unlicensed foreign teachers. At a state hearing in Columbus in July, several former Concept teachers complained that some Turkish teachers were working without the required licenses.

"We're concerned about any situation where a teacher has not received the proper licensing. That is not appropriate," Education Department spokesman John Charlton said. "But it is incumbent on the school ... to give a quality education. And if we find anything improper or have questions, we will put pressure on the appropriate organization."
One former Concept teacher and a former administrator from a separate Concept school previously have said publicly that unlicensed teachers were common at their schools.

Mustafa Emanet said he was hired in 2006 as an IT administrator at Concept's Horizon Academy in Cleveland but soon was transferred to teach, without a license, at another Cleveland Concept school (Horizon-Denison). That's a potential violation of not only state education standards, but also of U.S. immigration policy. H-1B workers are normally assigned to one location, and cannot be moved or transferred without prior federal approval.

"It was pretty awful. I couldn't even understand when the kids wanted a Kleenex or tell them to stop chewing gum," Emanet said in an interview with The Enquirer, referring to the language barrier. He taught computer science to middle-schoolers before leaving Concept in 2009. "There was a big gap there. But it wasn't like I could leave."

Amy Britton-Laidman told a similar tale from a different perspective. A Cleveland native, she was hired as a secretary at Noble Academy in Cleveland in 2006, and she quickly became the school's enrollment coordinator as well. Britton-Laidman told The Enquirer that several teachers from Turkey entered the classroom barely able to speak English, and she was told not to ask questions about it.

Later in 2011, she said she ran across an email that discussed bringing in someone to replace her, and two months later she was fired. "I still maintain that someone's friend needed a job, so it became my job on the line," Britton-Laidman said. Ucan denied those claims, saying they were made by "disgruntled former employees."

Reclusive cleric inspires school company's founders
Concept Schools was founded by followers of a controversial religious and social movement led by Turkish cleric Fethuallah Gulen, currently secluded in the U.S. Through his sermons on the Internet, Gulen preaches that the way to true enlightenment and the betterment of society is through education for all, although the movement has drawn criticism for its secrecy and lack of financial transparency worldwide.

Hundreds of private schools affiliated with Gulen have been opened in countries including Russia, China and Indonesia, according to an expert in the movement.

The concept of charter schools also provided a unique opportunity in this country.
"Here, you can do it (create schools) through charter schools and use public money and thereby reduce the amount of capital you need," said Joshua Hendricks, a sociology professor at Loyola University and author of the book "Gulen: The Ambiguous Politics of Market Islam In Turkey and the World."
"Now you are dealing with 27 different states with 27 different levels of oversight," Hendricks said.

Several Concept Schools administrators and officials acknowledge a personal affinity to Gulen's teachings, but they say that it does not influence any business dealings or the schools themselves.
Concept vice president Salim Ucan also denies any direct financial ties between Concept and Gulen.
"We are a nonprofit organization running public schools," Ucan said. "Yes, one of the teachings of Gulen is to spread education throughout the world. And that inspired me and others to be teachers. What can be wrong with that?
"But we never let it enter the curriculum or influence what we are teaching."

One former teacher at a Cleveland Concept school, however, has said he was forced to pay tributes under the table to the movement and was even required to visit Gulen at his residence in the Poconos in northeast Pennsylvania. Mustafa Emanet told The Enquirer of being required to pay back some of his salary in cash to school administrators during his stay between 2006-09.

Emanet was hired on an H-1B visa as an IT network administrator. But after he arrived, he said he was presented with a "secret" contract that required a tribute to the Gulen movement.

He said his initial H-1B visa called for him to be paid about $44,000 annually. When he arrived, he was told he would be making less than $30,000 a year.

Later as his pay rose, he said he was required to give up to 40 percent of his salary back to school administrators in cash as a "himmet," or a tribute to Gulen and the overall movement. "It got to the point where I was paying $900 to $1,000 a month," said Emanet, who eventually got his green card and is now a software developer in the Cleveland area.

Ucan dismissed Emanet's claims as being from a "former disgruntled employee" and says there is no such pressure or secret contracts or tributes at any of the company's schools.

Two local Turkish teachers interviewed by The Enquirer said they have felt no such pressure and have made no such required payments. Yasin Kusan, who immigrated to the U.S. in July, said he donates voluntarily to the local Turkish cultural center when he can. Second-year high school math teacher Bilal Urkmez said he sends any extra money home to his family in Turkey.

Hendricks, who spent five years studying Gulen organizations in Turkey and in the U.S., said, "It is understood that once you are gainfully employed, you give back ... and everyone gives according to their means.
"Those inside have an expression that 'the movement reemerges from itself.' So you see the money funneled into startup capital for Turkish businesses, as well as for cultural organizations and such. There is definitely a wealth redistribution within that community."

Another immigration expert said federal authorities may have started asking questions after "60 Minutes," the New York Times and other national media outlets did stories on the movement and its possible ties to Turkish-run charter school operations.

Texas-based Harmony Schools, the largest charter school management company in the U.S., also was created by Turkish immigrants and has been linked to Gulen.

More about Concept Schools

Charter schools are run by private organizations and funded with public money as an alternative to traditional public schools. Chicago-based Concept Schools is one of the most established charter companies in Ohio, having been created by Turkish expatriates in 1999 in Cleveland as Ohio moved to allow the creation of charter schools.
Concept has become the fastest-growing charter school operator in Ohio – growing to 18 schools from only two a decade ago. In the 2012-13 school year, Concept schools enrolled 6,329 Ohio students in kindergarten through high school, drawing about $45 million in state funding a year. Overall, it operates 31 schools in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Missouri.

Concept also is Ohio's second-largest charter school operator, trailing only Akron-based White Hat Management. White Hat operates 29 schools in Ohio with an enrollment of 6,660 in the 2012-13 school year. That company received $53.2 million in public funding that year.

Unlike Concept, White Hat does not use H-1B visas to fill teaching positions, White Hat chief executive Thomas Barrett said. "Still, we respect the fact that each management organization or independent school has its own philosophies and practices with respect to hiring. That's consistent with the fundamental concept of charter school autonomy," Barrett wrote in an email to The Enquirer.

Ohio is among 27 states nationally that have some version of a charter school program. Kentucky is not one of them.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Concept Schools (Horizon Science Academy) hired felon, unqualified administrators

Progress Ohio has reported that in Columbus, Ohio's Horizon Science Academy refused Muhammet "Matt" Yildiz a teaching license after learning he was arrested for leaving his 1 year old in the car while shopping.  The article below for Harmony Science Academy tells of a similar incidence in the Gulen Movement's Texas schools
Concept Schools Hired Felon, Unqualified Administrators
New Evidence of Test Tampering Surfaces
COLUMBUS — In 2002, state regulators refused Muhammet “Matt” Yildiz a teaching license after learning that he left his 1-year-old in a car while he went shopping. In 2010, the Ohio Department of Education gave him a principal’s license to run a Columbus middle school.
In 2006, a Dayton school put a convicted felon in charge of student discipline.
And the Dean of Students at a Cleveland school had “no educational certifications or experience,” according to a federal judge.
In each instance, the hires were made by institutions managed by Concept Schools, the Chicago-based non-profit that manages charter schools with ties to Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.
FBI raids of Concept schools in Ohio and two other states, coupled with explosive testimony from teachers who worked for Gulen-affiliated schools in Ohio, have the schools’ aggressive marketing experts working overtime to insist the schools are top-notch academic institutions and the critics who say otherwise are engaged in what one called “a smear campaign.”
ProgressOhio Executive Director Brian Rothenberg, a leading critic of the schools, released a report Monday that raises new, more serious questions about the schools’ hiring practices and teaching methods.
The report, Concept Schools: Poor Results, Worse Oversightalso adds to the growing evidence that Horizon schools have tampered with standardized testing or used other nefarious means to try and improve their academic ratings.
A PDF copy of the study is available online here.
A man who puts his own child in danger has no right to run a primary school,” Rothenberg said.  “Concept needs to stop insisting its schools are well run and focus instead on either fixing the problems or closing its doors.”
Amy Britton-Laidman, a former administrative assistant from Cleveland’s Noble Academy, said the school routinely found reasons to expel some of the worst-performing students before standardized tests were to take place.  And although the school is supposed to take all students, she said it used entrance exams to cherry pick higher-achieving students, then lied to parents of low-achieving students by saying the school had a waiting list.
Her comments follow reports of routine test tampering at the Horizon Science Academy of Dayton, and a study suggesting test tampering at Horizon’s Columbus high school.
Ohio is home to 19 Gulen-affiliated schools that market themselves as preparing students for college by emphasizing math and science.
Despite the emphasis on college preparation, just 2 of the 19 schools – high schools in Cleveland and Columbus — received an A rating for meeting 9 of 10 performance standards, according to state report cards released last week.  Both schools received an F the previous year.
Another key measurement of a high school’s success is whether it graduates students within four years.  All of Horizon’s high schools received a D or F grade for four-year graduation rates, new state report cards show.

Harmony Parent the TRUTH: Harmony Science Academies hired Math Teacher that ...

Harmony Parent the TRUTH: Harmony Science Academies hired Math Teacher that ...: Recently t...

Friday, September 12, 2014

Gulen Schools in Chicago DENIED because of unsuitable conditions of buildings.

Standing water from a leaky roof.
Visible mold and a pungent smell that hangs in the air.
Floor tiles made of asbestos.

Those were just some of the problems Concept Schools had to contend with before getting a school building near Chatham ready for kids next month after scrambling to find a new location this summer, according to documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.
Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett last week announced she’s not letting the school open because the South Side building, which once housed a private school, won’t be ready for students next month.
“Mold is visibly evident throughout many of the classrooms. The mold and mildew is so bad, that a handful of the classrooms cannot be accessed due to the noxious, overwhelming, suffocating scent,” an inspector wrote for CPS officials in July.
The property that was to house Concept Schools’ Horizon Science Academy-Clay Evans is made up of two buildings. One of the buildings is in “dire condition” mostly because of a leaking roof, the inspector wrote.
“Water infiltration is so prevalent throughout most of the classrooms there is standing water, both on the floor and in the light fixtures in the ceiling,” according to the inspection report. “Carpets in many of the classrooms are soaking wet, and tiles in specific communal areas are peeling. The majority of the acoustical ceiling tiles have been removed or fallen to the floor. Mold is visibly evident throughout many of the classrooms.”
The other building is in “fair” condition, he wrote, recommending cosmetic changes and accessibility upgrades.
Additionally, asbestos material was found in some of the flooring and it had to be removed and replaced.
The roof also had to be fixed, records show.
“Concept Schools, which our board had approved, has been unable to secure a safe and viable facility for the Clay Evans campus and so we will not be allowing the school to open for very obvious reasons — there’s no facility,” Byrd-Bennett said Thursday.
“We thought we could make the necessary investments,” Concept Vice President Salim Ucan said Friday.
The charter school planned to open in September and use just one of the buildings while work was finished by October, records show.
Now Ucan said the focus is finding schools for more than 400 enrolled children and 40 teachers and administrators hired to staff the Clay Evans campus.
“We are working with the area charter schools to see if they have openings for the respective grades,” he said. “We are trying to see if we can transfer them to our existing schools.”
Concept, whose Des Plaines headquarters were raided by the FBI in June, lost out on its first facility, a building owned by an arm of a church headed by the Rev. Charles Jenkins.
It then proposed the former school building location, which is being foreclosed on by Urban Partnership Bank. David Vitale, the president of the Chicago Board of Education, is chairman of that bank.
Chantay Moore had shed tears of joy, relieved to have a new charter school open near her South Side home.
But on Thursday, Moore was anything but happy when she learned the charter school operated by beleaguered Concept Schools won’t be allowed to open next month near Chatham.
The building that was to house Concept Schools’ Horizon Science Academy-Clay Evans will not be ready for the first day of school, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said Thursday. 

“Concept Schools, which our board had approved, has been unable to secure a safe and viable facility for the Clay Evans campus and so we will not be allowing the school to open for very obvious reasons — there’s no facility,” Byrd-Bennett said.
The decision — first reported by Early & Often — was made after Concept, whose Des Plaines headquarters were raided by the FBI in June, lost out on its first facility, a building owned by an arm of a church headed by the Rev. Charles Jenkins.
The second facility chosen for the school at 9130 S. Vincennes needs to be renovated and won’t be ready next month, Byrd-Bennett said. At this point, a lease for the former private school building has not yet been signed, said Jack Elsey, who heads the department that oversees charters for CPS.
Concept Schools officials, in an emailed statement, said they have gone to “great lengths to prepare this location for families in the Chatham community.”
“Though our original site plans changed, we quickly identified this location and moved forward with numerous structural, security and safety upgrades at the school to ensure a successful start to the school year,” the statement said. “We share the same disappointment our parents have expressed with the decision made by CPS. We are even more disappointed that this decision impacts students and families just days before the school year begins.”
The FBI investigation, which federal documents show is focused on many of the politically connected charter-school operator’s top administrators and companies with close ties to it, had nothing to do with the district’s decision to scratch the school, Byrd-Bennett said. Concept’s charter has not been revoked and the South Side school has simply been “delayed” for likely a year, she said. No other Concept campuses are affected by CPS’ decision to scratch the Clay Evans campus.
But local Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) said the federal investigation “clearly had to weigh into” it.
“It’s a combination of everything. The plug was pulled from Pastor Jenkins’ location because of the investigation and I don’t know that they ever had enough time to recover and find another location that would be suitable,” Brookins said.
Concept Vice President Salim Ucan said earlier this week that Jenkins’ location was scrapped because Concept couldn’t finish the renovations in time for school.
The second location, on Vincennes, generated controversy after the Sun-Times reported earlier this month that David Vitale, the president of the Chicago Board of Education, runs a bank that would have benefitted if Concept had opened the school in that building.
Vitale is chairman of Urban Partnership Bank, which has filed suit to foreclose on the building. The building’s owners owe Vitale’s bank $2 million, court records show.
A CPS spokesman has said Vitale was not involved in the selection of the property.
Meanwhile, CPS staffers will notify the parents of the more than 400 kids enrolled in the school about the scrapped plan and will help parents find other school options, Byrd-Bennett said.
Brookins said he has been assured that the displaced students will be offered the chance to return to their original public schools. If that’s not acceptable, CPS will work with families to find an acceptable alternative, he said. “There were concerns that Concept didn’t have their act together going forward. It’s best that CPS get out ahead of it if they weren’t going to be ready and assist those kids to get into a school of their choice so they can start on the first day of school and have no interruption, he said.
On Thursday afternoon, Moore said she had not yet heard from the district.
She said she spent the last year trying to find an alternative to the private school her 5-year-old daughter had been attending.
“I can’t afford the tuition any longer,” said Moore, 30. “To have this option taken away again, what am I to do?”
Avalon Collier, who was hoping to send her 8-year-old grandson to the Clay Evans campus, said she’ll try to get him enrolled into CICS Longwood, the charter school he attended last year, though the commute is inconvenient and that school has already started its year.
“It’s horrible,” the 65-year-old grandmother said when she learned the Concept School won’t open. “I’m going to call his school to see if they’ll take him back. If not, I won’t have another alternative but to put him back in the neighborhood school. I would hate to do that; he did so well in the other school.”
Concept, which also plans to open a new charter in Gage Park for the coming school year, operates three other charter schools in Chicago that serve about 1,275 students. As with other charter schools in Chicago, they are funded with CPS tax funds.

Gulen operated Quest Charter Academy part of FBI raid attempts charter renewal

PEORIA — As Quest Charter Academy begins the re-application process to extend its five-year contract with Peoria School District 150, the charter school board is grappling with declining enrollments in its upper grade levels.
Total enrollment is 499, Principal Ali Kuran reported at Tuesday’s board meeting. The school’s budget and reimbursements from District 150 are based on an enrollment of 525. Seven more students may enroll soon, Kuran said.
“So we’ll be 20 students short, that’s $160,000,” said board Chairman Glen Barton, estimating the amount of state funding that could be lost as a result. District 150 passes on a portion of its state funding to the charter school, based on enrollment.
The enrollment figures sparked a discussion among the charter school board members about the reasons students leave as they reach the high school level and how it can be remedied.
Quest’s enrollment goal is 75 students a class in grades fifth through 11th. The 10th-grade class currently has 60 students and the 11th-grade class has 45. Opened in 2010, plans evolved to add a grade each year until Quest had 650 students, from fifth to 12th grades, spread over two buildings.
Though the school has a waiting list of students who would like to attend, it does not accept students in the 10th and 11th grades, where the shortages are. When board member Tom Fliege suggested revisiting that rule and possibly admitting more students in the upper grades, others reminded him that students can only be admitted through a lottery.
“If we’re going to be creative, we have to be creative in a way that doesn’t mess with the culture of the school,” warned board member Kristie Hubbard, adding that students who may want to transfer to Quest in high school already may have been struggling in other high schools.
The enrollment drop also means the board’s finance committee must revise the five-year projections included in the application renewal to District 150. Academic achievement, the additional cost of maintaining two schools and technological upgrades also will be key features in the final application to extend the school’s charter for another five years.
Board members also discussed the new agreement with Illinois Central Bus Co., which includes using school property for bus parking and providing office space within the school. The board previously approved a contract with Illinois Central for nine buses at $285 a day per bus, a jump from the $250 a day the board had budgeted for transportation — and a much bigger jump than the $150 a day Quest paid Illinois Central last year.
Another school bus has been donated to the school by an anonymous benefactor, Barton announced.
Read more:

Horizon charter schools no longer can be protected, they are exposed GULEN

Sabrina Joy Stevens is the executive director of the national nonprofit advocacy organization Integrity In Education.
Charter schools were originally conceptualized as a small-scale experiment, where administrators, parents, teachers and students could come together and try innovative approaches to educate local students. Sadly, in recent years, this idea has been overshadowed by the private interests of a charter school industry now rife with fraud, waste and abuse.
In Southwest Ohio, it’s been no different. In June, as reported by The Enquirer, the FBI raided Horizon Science Academy as part of an ongoing investigation into its improper relationships with technology vendors.
In 2009, a state audit of Horizon Cincinnati warned that questionable financial practices could result "in more than a remote likelihood that the School's internal control will not prevent or detect a material financial statement misstatement." Yet, for unknown reasons, nothing was done and the school just kept on trucking forward.
Horizon is part of Chicago-based Concept Schools, which has 19 different campuses in Ohio, 6,700 students and has taken a whopping $48.5 million in taxpayer money, including $3.3 million for the Cincinnati Horizon School. All of Concept’s schools are currently being investigated by the State Department of Education and Auditor Dave Yost for “alleged sexual misconduct and tampering with test and attendance records.”
Under what circumstances should such malfeasance be tolerated? With both student safety and considerable sums of taxpayer money at stake, how could any lawmaker justify not taking immediate action to curb the potential for more such abuses?
A partial answer to these questions might be found in a different charter industry conflict, and the silence of influential politicians like Attorney General Mike DeWine. Quietly, as a battle between the for-profit White Hat Charter Management Co. and the state over who gets to keep and should pay for equipment such as computers and textbooks purchased with taxpayer money makes its way to the Supreme Court, DeWine has made himself scarce.
Yet, two years ago, when White Hat first made this argument, DeWine rightly called it “bad public policy,” even going so far as to accuse them of trying to violate Ohio law. But something changed, and DeWine’s seemingly principled advocacy for Ohio taxpayers vs. corporate greed somehow became worthy of abandonment.
What could have happened to so change his outlook?
Interestingly, White Hat’s owner is Akron-based industrialist David Brennan. He gave large donations to both DeWine and the Summit County Republican Party’s candidate fund, from which DeWine received hundreds of thousands of dollars, including $95,000 in 2013 and $40,000 in April.
So, to get this straight, a major DeWine donor stands to gain millions by winning a Supreme Court case, and Ohioans stand to lose millions in public funds. With this equation in mind, suddenly DeWine has other things to do with his time than protect Ohio taxpayers. Meanwhile, as Ohio’s charter schools close at a record rate, and the very same Ohio taxpayers are owed $31 million dollars, DeWine has only collected $500,000 of it, or 1.6 percent.
Elected officials such as the attorney general need to do their jobs to protect students and taxpayers, regardless of the ideological preferences of their donors or potential to profit. Ohioans, like all Americans, deserve a public school system that works, isn’t rigged to enrich the few at the expense of the many, and is run honestly and transparently.
In Ohio, this is one test that DeWine and the charter school industry have both failed.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Details of Search Warrant for Concept Schools, Horizon Science Academies and 19 schools Gulen Charter Schools

Concept Search Warrant The recent FBI raid at the Des Plaines headquarters of Concept Schools focused on many of the politically connected charter-school operator’s top administrators and companies with close ties to Concept, according to federal documents obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times. Authorities last month said FBI agents carried out raids at 19 Concept locations in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio as part of an “ongoing white-collar crime matter” but declined to provide further details of their investigation. Copies of the search warrants that FBI agents served in Des Plaines and a subpoena seeking records show investigators went hunting for a wide range of documents pertaining to Concept president Sedat Duman, founder Taner Ertekin and other current and former executives of the fast-growing charter network. The investigators also sought documents about companies that were hired by Concept to perform work under the federal “E-Rate” program, which pays for schools to expand telecommunications and Internet access. Concept is linked to the Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania, and has developed strong relationships with many local politicians, including state House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago). Four of Concept’s 30 publicly financed schools are in Illinois, including the 600-student Chicago Math and Science Academy in Rogers Park and two campuses that opened a year ago in the Austin and McKinley Park neighborhoods. Chicago Public Schools officials approved another two Concept schools on the South Side for the 2014-15 school year. For one of the two newest Concept sites, in Chatham, more than $528,000 in public funding was earmarked to pay rent for the coming school year to an arm of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church. The church’s pastor, the Rev. Charles Jenkins, gave the invocation at Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2011 swearing-in and served on Emanuel’s transition team. Work on the Chatham project stopped recently, although Ald. Howard Brookins – who initially supported the new school in his 21st Ward – said Jenkins told him federal authorities were probing an outside vendor of the charter network and “not investigating Concept itself.” The federal documents obtained by the Sun-Times, however, reveal that the FBI is taking a close look at the operations of Concept. Federal law enforcement authorities in Cleveland, who are leading the probe, sent a grand-jury subpoena to Concept on May 30. The subpoena gave the charter chain’s administrators until June 17 to provide a long list of records. Concept did not receive the full time to turn over the records. Instead, shortly after 2 p.m. on June 4, a federal judge in Chicago approved three warrants to raid the charter network’s headquarters at 2250 E. Devon in the O’Hare Lake Office Complex. Later that day, after normal business hours, agents arrived at the office park in Des Plaines where Concept has three suites. The warrant gave agents the right to take any documents relating to Concept’s involvement in the E-Rate program as well as “all bank records,” “all general ledgers,” “all calendars,” “all documents related to employee travel” and “all telephone records, telephone lists and contact lists.” At 9:29 p.m. on June 4, a Concept executive gave the key to a storage unit on Mannheim Road in Des Plaines to FBI agent Brian Murphy. From the storage unit, the agent seized “48 boxes of vendor records, business records and documents,” records show. According to court records, investigators also were looking to take every record related to 13 Concept employees and companies. They included Duman, the current Concept president; chief information officer Huseyin Ulker, and Ertekin, who founded the charter chain in Ohio in the late 1990s. He now works in the United Arab Emirates, according to his online LinkedIn profile. The warrant goes on to specify that the federal agents wanted “all personnel documents for Huseyin Ulker and Sedat Duman, including but not limited to documents reflecting their compensation packages.” Among contractors mentioned in the warrant were: •Advanced Solutions for Education of Schaumburg and company founder Ozgur Balsoy, who used to be administrator of a Concept-run school in Columbus, Ohio. The company was the consultant to Concept on applications for E-Rate funding, according to the federal program’s records. •Arlington Heights-based Core Group Inc. and its president Ertugrul Gurbuz. Core is described in federal records as performing much of the work for Concept under the E-Rate program. •Signature Maker Inc. of Hoffman Estates and president Ergun Koyuncu. •Cambridge Technologies of Chesterland, Ohio and owner Stephen Draviam. Balsoy and Koyuncu declined to comment Monday, Gurbuz did not return calls, and Draviam said he had been contacted late last year by FBI agents. He said he provided records regarding E-Rate work his company performed for Concept more than five years ago, but the agents did not indicate the target of their investigation. The federal government's guidelines for E-Rate state that schools must choose companies to do work under the program through a "competitive bidding process" that is "open and fair." Vicki Anderson, a special agent in the FBI’s office in Cleveland, declined to comment on the warrants. At the time of the June 4 raids, Anderson had said all documents related to the investigation were sealed from public view. The Sun-Times obtained the warrants and other documents from the raid in Des Plaines through a state Freedom of Information Act request to Concept. Concept officials have said they were cooperating with the investigation and would not make any further comment.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Horizon Science Academy expanded investigation announced by Ohio State Auditor

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 Sch

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Ex Horizon Teachers, parents and pupils discuss test cheating, sexual scandal and more with Ohio Board of Education 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

New Gulen School Horizon Science Academy in Chicago, IL put on hold due to FBI raid.

A new charter school won’t open as planned next month in a South Side building owned by a politically connected pastor’s church because of a federal investigation involving charter operator Concept Schools, a consultant for the project said Thursday.

“The project is on hold,” Hermene Hartman said, citing the “legal difficulties.”

But Concept officials said they “are moving forward with our plan to open a new school and exploring which location at this point makes the most sense for the coming school year.”

In January, Chicago Public Schools officials approved the proposed Concept school at 8522 S. Lafayette Ave. in Chatham.

According to plans submitted by Concept, more than $528,000 in CPS funding for the school was to go toward rent for the 2014-15 school year to the landlord, an arm of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church. The Rev. Charles Jenkins, Fellowship’s pastor, gave the invocation at Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2011 swearing-in and served on Emanuel’s transition team.

Last month, the FBI and two other federal agencies raided Concept’s Des Plaines headquarters and 19 of its charter schools in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, including Concept’s Chicago Math and Science Academy in Rogers Park.

Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), who had been a supporter of the proposed Concept school on South Lafayette, said Thursday he has withdrawn his backing for now “pending the outcome of the federal investigation.”

“There needs to be some clarification that they’re not investigating Concept itself, that it’s just a vendor, as I’ve been led to believe” by Jenkins, Brookins said.

He said 250 kids are signed up for the school.

FBI officials have said the investigation involves an unspecified “ongoing white-collar criminal matter.”

Chicago school officials have given permission for Concept to open another new school for the coming school year, on the Southwest Side, and are considering plans to increase enrollment at the Concept school in Rogers Park.

CPS spokesman Joel Hood said: “We continue to monitor the situation with Concept.”