Magnolia Science Academy is without a doubt a Gulen Managed charter school

The Gulen Movement is fantastic at advertising, PR, and bestwowing fake honors on their students, politicians, local media and academia. The Parents4Magnolia blog is NOT American parents it is members of the Gulen Movement in damage control mode. Magnolia Science Academy, Pacific Technology School and Bay Area Technology is the name of their California schools. They are under several Gulen NGOs: Pacifica Institute, Willow Education, Magnolia Educaiton Foundation, Accord Institute, Bay Area Cultural Connection. Hizmet aka Gulen Movement will shamelessly act like satisifed American parents or students. They will lie, cajole, manipulate, bribe, blackmail, threaten, intimidate to get their way which is to expand the Gulen charter schools. If this doesn't work they play victim and cry "islamophobia". Beware of the Gulen propagandists and Gulen owned media outlets. DISCLAIMER: if you find some videos are disabled this is the work of the Gulen censorship which has filed fake copyright infringement complaints to Utube

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Gulen "inspired" Magnolia Schools out bid / bribe to SDUSD by $2.2 million - epic failed

Scott Barnett ex SDUSD board member turn lobbyist for
Gulen "inspired" Magnolia Schools (Magnolia Science Academies)

It didn’t take long for former trustee Scott Barnett to clash with his old colleagues at San Diego Unified.
Just a month after stepping down from the school board, Barnett told San Diego Unified he’d be representing a charter school in its land sale negotiations with the district. The district objected. Now, Barnett’s out of the deal, but the tensions sparked by the squabble probably won’t die down anytime soon.
On Jan. 13, the school board voted 4-1 to sell the property where Magnolia Science Academy, a charter middle school in San Carlos, currently sits. The district estimated it could make $5.8 million from the sale, City News Service reported.
Facilitating such a deal was an unexpected move from Barnett, who’s been the district’s loudest land sales critic for the past four years.
Barnett doesn’t see it as a contradiction. He said that when Magnolia approached him after he left the school board, he thought he could help strike a deal that could be a win for all parties.
“This doesn’t change my view that selling property for one-time revenues to pay ongoing expenses is poor public policy,” Barnett said.  “But if the district was going to sell, I thought they should sell to Magnolia.”
On Jan. 4, Barnett sent an email to Superintendent Cindy Marten telling her he would represent Magnolia in its ongoing negotiations with the district.
San Diego Unified should sell to Magnolia, he wrote, because it would allow the district to meet its real estate sales goal without having to find a new space for Magnolia’s 370 students. Plus, San Carlos residents could keep a school in their neighborhood – which wouldn’t happen if the property went to a residential developer.
Barnett also upped the ante: If the district were to amend Magnolia’s charter and allow it to add an elementary school, he told Marten, Magnolia could increase its offer from $4 million to $6.2 million.
But to the district, Magnolia’s offer wasn’t the problem – it was the fact that Barnett was doing the talking.
Days after Barnett wrote Marten on Magnolia’s behalf, the district’s general counsel, Andra Donovan, emailed Magnolia, cautioning school leaders to tread lightly when dealing Barnett.
Donovan said that because Barnett potentially has insider knowledge about real estate negotiations with Magnolia, the appearance of impropriety could endanger the deal, either legally or politically. A rejected bidder could sue, or the sale could be overturned.
Even though Barnett is no longer on the school board, a court could determine that he had some involvement in discussions leading up to the deal, Donovan wrote.
The district can’t bar Magnolia from working with Barnett. It can choose not to negotiate with Barnett directly, but beyond that its power is limited.
The district’s ethical guidelines advise a cooling period – meaning employees shouldn’t immediately go work for companies that have dealings with the district – “to mitigate concerns about the appearance of a ‘revolving door’ where public offices are sometimes seen to be used for personal or private gain.” But the policy isn’t legally binding, and doesn’t specify a timeframe. Spokesperson Ursula Kroemer even said the district doesn’t expect all former employees or board members to adhere to the policy.
Still, Donovan seems to believe Barnett’s involvement wouldn’t look good.
“At the very least, an accusation that the transaction is tainted and would likely generate significant public criticism; particularly at this time, given recent scandals in the Sweetwater and San Ysidro Districts,” Donovan wrote.
Barnett said he never attended any deal-making meetings about Magnolia. And by the time Donovan sent the email to Magnolia, he’d already informed the district that he’d changed his mind and wouldn’t be representing the school in the deal.
In Barnett’s view, Donovan overreached and cost him money. He’d planned to establish a long-term relationship doing consulting for Magnolia, he said. But shortly after the school received the email from Donovan, it decided to sever ties with Barnett altogether.
Moving forward, he said he’s worried the situation will damage his reputation and make it more difficult for him to get clients.
“I’m absolutely astonished that the general counsel would reference my name and my consulting activity in the context of the criminal convictions of elected officials in Sweetwater school district.” Barnett said. “I’m just trying to earn a living so I can pay my bills.”

Did new CEO Caprice Young have knowledge of these underhanded backroom deal?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Magnolia Schools has new leadership Caprice Young a controversial last ditch effort opportunist

Controversial Caprice Young
new CEO of Controversial Magnolia Science Academy
Magnolia Schools has removed Turks from the
front line and added gavurs for an image change.
"Lipstick on a Pig" will not make the court hearings
or Statewide audit of  Magnolia schools go away.
A local charter school group that is battling for survival has turned to a well-known and sometimes controversial education figure to take charge. Magnolia Public Schools, under fire for money management and other issues, has hired former L.A. school board President Caprice Young as its new chief executive.
Magnolia, based in Westminster, operates eight schools within the L.A. Unified School District, but three face closing after district officials decided last year not to renew them. A court injunction is keeping them open.
 Charters are free, publicly funded schools that are exempt from some rules that govern traditional campuses.
A recent L.A. school district audit concluded that Magnolia Educational and Research Foundation was $1.66 million in the red, owed $2.8 million to the schools it oversees and met the federal definition of insolvency. In addition, the audit found fiscal mismanagement, including lack of disclosure of debts, weak fiscal controls over the principals' use of debit cards and questionable payments for immigration fees and services, among other issues.

Young said Magnolia is not in financial trouble, but suffers from weak management and a lack of transparency — problems she said would be corrected in an effort to win support from L.A. Unified.
“We will go through all the finances,” she said. “These schools are doing a really great job for kids … and I think they can do an even better job. But none of that matters unless they’re managing taxpayer resources transparently and effectively. That is job one.”
Caprice has spoken for the Gulen Movement Pacifica Institute

Long time education reform advocate, Caprice Young, is taking over the troubled Magnolia Public Schools charter network, but it won’t be official until a set of test results come in.
“I’m waiting to get my tuberculouses results,” she said, laughing on a phone call from her office. “Then I can actually set foot on a campus and be around children.”
Young, who is a divisive figure in California education politics for her strong advocacy for charter school expansion, says she’s excited about the opportunity to turn around the controversial charter school organization with 11 public charter schools serving close to 4,000 students in Los Angeles, Orange, Santa Clara and San Diego counties. She is taking the reigns from interim CEO, Murat Biyik, who held the post for less than six months.
“I’ve done this work before,” she explained, referring to her efforts that made Inner City Education Foundation Public Schools, a network of charters she’s credited with saving from imminent closure.
A financial audit by LA Unified last year concluded that Magnolia Public Schools doesn’t have the cash-flow necessary to be solvent, owing more money than it costs to continue operating all eight of its campuses within LAUSD. As a result, two schools had their charter renewal applications denied but are operating under a court injunction, while a third campus will close at the end of the school year.
Young’s response? “It’s not uncommon for charter schools that have grown a little quickly to have financial problems or organizational problems. But those are very fixable. And I’m coming in to fix that.”

Another issue that has dogged the schools’ operator in the past has been its ties to the Gulen Movement, a Turkish Islamist group that has founded schools, think tanks and media outlets around the world.
At an LA Unified board meeting in March, Inspector General Ken Bramlett confirmed claims of the association, “We have done some looking into that allegation and there is some evidence that some members of the Magnolia organization do have ties with the Gulen movement, but we have not found anything currently that would be grounds for denial.”
That’s not an issue for Young, either.
“I haven’t seen a connection but, I’m not in the habit of asking people about their religious beliefs,” she said. She acknowledges that Magnolia has “had Turkish leadership form the start” but says, “my impression of them is that they run great schools.”
And if there is a questionable relationship to Gulen, Young contends she was hired by the board, in part, “because they knew I wouldn’t allow anything to go forward that wasn’t appropriate.”
Young will leave her job as President of the National Charter Resource Center in the spring. “I’ve made several commitments that I have to see through,” she said.
But she did not specify if that included continuing to work with the Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District, a tiny rural school district under fire for approving charter schools outside its borders. LA Unified is suing the l district for opening three charter schools within the LAUSD boundaries.

Caprice Young and her many "bios"

Young, Caprice

President, Education Growth Group, LLC
For over two decades, Caprice has been at the forefront of education reform, inside and outside the system. She served as the reform president of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board during a time of intense struggle over the future of the city’s schools, and, along with Superintendent Roy Romer, was instrumental in making gains across the district in student achievement and launching an ambitious program of school facilities renewal that continues today.
Following her service to Los Angeles, Caprice founded the California Charter Schools Association, uniting three state and regional charter groups, and grew it to become the nation’s most powerful state association, accelerating the growth of charter schools, encouraging and supporting diverse leadership in the movement, and advocating strongly on behalf of charters and choice. Sensing the transformative power of technology in education, Caprice then took on the post of CEO of KC Distance Learning and Vice President of Business Development and Alliances for Knowledge Universe Education (KUE) U.S. More recently, Caprice took on the job of rescuing the financially troubled Inner City Education Foundation (ICEF) and its portfolio of fifteen high-performing LA Charter schools.
Through all of these experiences, Caprice has kept her eye firmly on the goal of transforming public education so that it serves all children well. Caprice was former Vice President for Education at the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.

Caprice Young, Ed.D., Senior Advisor to the CEO
Caprice is the former Vice President for Education of the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. A nationally respected education innovator, she has also served as the Assistant Deputy Mayor of the City of Los Angeles, manager in IBM’s eBusiness consulting practice, founding CEO/President of the California Charter Schools Association, CEO of the Inner City Education Foundation Public Schools and CEO/President of EnCorps, a non-profit organization recruiting and training new STEM teachers. Caprice has served on numerous boards, including the Board of Education of the Los Angeles Unified School District, the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Education Excellence (California), the Fordham Foundation, and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, She is a recipient of the Coro Foundation Crystal Eagle Award for Achievement in Public Service. High school was a big adventure for this ADHD kid, and included Birmingham High School (Van Nuys, CA), the United States Senate Page School (Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.), Valley Alternative School (Van Nuys, CA), and C Leon King High School (Tampa, FL)… where she “finished early” to spend half of her senior year in India and Mexico. Caprice earned her bachelor’s degree from Yale University, Masters of Public Administration from the University of Southern California, and Doctorate of Education from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Schools are for profit Caprice Young
When Capricious Young says no experience required, she requires no experience
"We are told that this 'reform' alliance of everyone from Rupert Murdoch to the Walton family to leading hedge funders spends huge amounts of money pushing for radical changes to public schools because they suddenly decided that they care about destitute children, and now want to see all kids get a great education." — David Sirota

Caprice "Capricious" Young, Privatization Princess, CORO Fellow, CCSA Alum, ICEF Flunky, and Poverty Pimp.In Los Angeles, nobody has been more adept at stuffing public money into their pockets via charter-voucher sector windfalls than Caprice Young. Her early career showed a trajectory of opportunism and greed that would place her in ever more lucrative positions as time progressed.

As a young Coro Fellow she worked under Republican Mayor Richard Riordan like fellow education privatizer Ben Austin. Deep pocketed interests aligned against public education saw her as the perfect privatization minded candidate and backed her successful campaign for the Board of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). Her mean spirited anti-community and even stronger anti-labor stripes couldn't have been more apparent during her corporate reform oriented tenure. Voters soon saw her true intentions and clear motives, hence she promptly and ignominiously lost her position on the LAUSD Board after a single term.

Young was then approached by the racist, bigoted, anti-immigrant nativist Steve Poizner and the two of them founded the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) in order to grow charter-voucher market share and create more profitable opportunities for their fellow privatizers. She did so at a dizzying pace, boasting of nearly doubling the number of lucrative privately run charter schools in California during her tenure. Poizner and company compensated Young quite handsomely:

"Jed's predecessor, Caprice Young, made over $250,000 for her work at the CCSA. Check out the cast of characters on CCSA's board of directors. Until recently, a Broad COO, Kevin Hall, and Kevin Johnson served on the groups board as well." — Kenneth Libby (Schools Matter)

Shortly after she did a stint working for predatory capitalist and junk bond felon Michael Milken at his highly profitable Knowledge Universe. Young is also closely associated with the Broad Residency Program.

Young's husband, Mark Dierking, is no stranger to making boatloads of cash from the dwindling trough of the public commons either. He's the Director of Real Estate Planning/Strategy at Knowledge Learning Corporation, a firm with revenues of $8.4 Billion. How big is the charter-voucher school real estate bubble? Big enough to attract big names like Goldman Sachs, Andre Agassi, Citibank, and Richard Riordan to the lucrative land grab ventures. Big enough that Gloria Romero was rewarded with a cushy six-figure job as CEO at Democrats for Education Reform in California for her servile gift the privately managed charter industry called SB 592, which hands public school property over to charter corporations. That's a Kids first agenda.

Young went on to found a K-12 equivalent of predatory for-profit colleges like Kaplan, University of Phoenix, and American Career College. Her successful swindle was called KC Distance Learning, which she sold off in the Summer of 2010 to fellow flimflam artists K12 Inc. for an astonishing $63.1 Million. That decision, like every move in her entire calculated career, was for the kids and the kids alone. Young's old buddy Dick Riordan then tapped her to try to save the sinking ICEF ship, but she was replaced by fellow privatizer Parker Hudnut in short order.

Given how busy Young has been, and how wealthy she has gotten over the years, one would think she would take a break. Yet it turns out her insatiable lust for money and power never ceases, nor does her hatred of educators and organized labor. A reader sent me an email about her latest venture, and their analysis says so much about Young and the corporate school privatization putsch's designs on deprofessionalizing teaching altogether.


I looked up Caprice's new job.... "CEO" of a newly-formed company... "EnCorps".

I'm trying to piece this together, but it appears that the charters in L.A. and San Francisco are hard up for Math and Science teachers, but the bosses don't want to have to deal with fullly-credentialed teachers, and their accompanying demands for a decent wage, decent benefits, decent job conditions, etc.

They want desperate, compliant, cheap labor that can teach those hard-to-place subjects of Math and Science.

Enter... EnCorps... a sort of Teach for America for career-changers with Math and Science backgrounds in the private sector, and who are desperate for any kind of work.

The FAQ's page seems strikingly familiar to TFA... i.e. the questions being asked of candidates, are almost identical to the TFA application.  Here it is:

What's bothersome is that having a teaching credential... not just in California, but anywhere in the country... ELIMINATES YOU FROM EVEN BEING CONSIDERED TO BE AN EnCorps FELLOW ???!!


It's like an organization is out to recruit people to staff hospitals that are desperate for qualified doctors and nurses, but they then say that anyone with an M.D., or a B.S/M.S in nursing is then disqualified from being recruited into that same organization.

Check this out:  (bold highlighting is mine, NAME REDACTED)

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
How do I know if I am eligible for EnCorps?
EnCorps Educators come to us from a diverse range of backgrounds.  In order to meet basic eligibility requirements, a candidate must meet the following criteria:
·       Must be a science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) professional
·       Fully eligible to work in the United States
·       Able to pass a background check
·       Have a Bachelor’s degree with a GPA of 2.50 or higher
·       Not be in possession of a teaching credential (in California or any other state with a reciprocal agreement)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

A little farther down, it has the following FAQ's:

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
If I already have a teaching credential can I apply?
No.  Our program is designed to assist math and science professionals in their transition to teaching careers.  If you are already a credentialed teacher, you are Not eligible to apply.

If I am credentialed in another state can I apply?
No.  California has reciprocal credential agreements with nearly all other states.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

And that's a bad thing?  I mean there are thousands of fully-credentialed MATH/SCIENCE teachers without a job right now in California.

I'm at a total loss to come up with a good, defensible reason why an organization whose "mission" —to use their own words—is "focused on closing the achievement gap by recruiting math and science professionals" to teach "in high-need schools in low-income communities as our mission dictates" would then turn away those "professionals" most qualified and able to do so.

When you read on, however, you start to get an idea as to why.  The goal of EnCorps'"Boot Camp" training program is to produce teachers who are "CEO's of their classrooms".

Ay carumba! as Bart Simpson would say.

There's the market-based model at work.

However, if you're a parent in a low-income community—or any community, for that matter—do you want your kids to be taught by:

1) fully-credentialed Math/Science teachers with possibly years/decades of actual teaching experience;


2) totally inexperienced, uncredentialed people just out of a dubious, short "Boot Camp" that trained them into being "CEO's of their classrooms"?

I don't know about you, Robert, but that's not a close call.  Any fully-informed parent would be irate that their principal procured their Math/Science teachers from EnCorps instead of hiring the countless experienced, fully-credentialed teachers who are out there available to work at that parent's school.



"CEO's of their classrooms" indeed.

No experience required? No, it's required that you have no experience. We wouldn't want the bevy of fully qualified experienced professionals applying for their old jobs back now would we? After all, these days all it takes is five weeks to become a master at anything. Right?

The board of the vile EnCorps, Inc. features the usual suspects, including charlatan Ted Mitchell of NewSchools Venture Fund. None of EnCorps board members or staff are strangers to the profitable school privatization faction. They are all about educating poor kids on the cheap.

Celebrated education professor and author Dr. Diane Ravitch once said:

"The Obama administration is using its unprecedented billions to advance a strategy of deregulation and deprofessionalization."

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Magnolia Science Academy and the game of "switcharoo"

From it's early history of their first charter application which listed the applicant as "Dialogue Foundation"  Magnolia Science Academies, Magnolia Public Schools, Magnolia STEM have been changing names of officials to names of their partner in lobbying on the west coast Pacifica Institute.
These schools would never be approved under today's closer scrutiny of charter schools. 

The Gulenist operated schools are good at changing people's names or schools creating confusing, especially when under investigation.  Currently the last Turkic players "Mehmet Argin" and "Umit Yapanel" and the handful of Turkish principals and teachers are strategically playing the "mouse" game.  They are silently put to the side and more Hispanic Tools like Oswaldo Dias are put forward center.  Oswaldo thinks he is some sort of "image maker" and has had some continual dialogue with the district offices to save whatever is left of Magnolia Science Academies.

Oswaldo Dias was hired 2 weeks before the last board meeting in a last strategic effort to distance Magnolia from the Turkish Mafia aka Gulen Movement.  In light of the fact there is ongoing investigation, and a impending court cast that probably was a wise move.  Nevertheless it is lipstick on the pig and doesn't change anything about Magnolia Science Academy being part of the USA nightmare network of Gulenist owned and operated charter schools. 
They should be using their time wisely and fighting their charges in Turkey of being declared a National Security Threat and the current Arrest Warrant filed for Gulen and impending extradition that is going to get ugly.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Magnolia Science Academy #8 Denied renewal despite DESPERATE attempt to accomodate LAUSD

Magnolia Science Academy #8 in Bell, CA has only been open since 2010, they knew showing up to the 11/18/2014 LAUSD board meeting the recommendation would be DENIED.
On November 6, 2014 the PTF sat with the local representatives of the California Charter School Association (CCSA) on what points to drive home to reverse the impending DENIAL.
The school also tried to invoke the help of local politicans who will be "educated" on these schools.

DENIAL Announcement from LA School Report

Video of LAUSD here
Visable absent were ALL TURKS.  Mehmet Argin is no longer the CEO Murat Biyik is interim CEO
at 52:00 Jerry Simmons is the Magnolia Attorney he has submitted changes in writing to LAUSD.  "They are willing and able to make ALL necessary changes to keep the school open"
1) Will terminate contracts with Accord Institute
2) Stop all immigration hiring
3) Hired new director of Finance (See 1:00 "Mr. Dias)
4) that there is $9+ million in banking account and the schools are "solvent"
5) They agree to no longer transfer funds between central offices and the schools
6) Magnolia agrees to drop all court proceedings of Magnolia #6 and 7
Attorney Jerry Simmons of Young, Minney and Corr, LLP

55:36 Alfredo "School Director" aka Principal
mentions how their first year they had 48 school suspensions and how much they have improved in
just 4 short years. 
59:18 Kim Onisko (Hired liar) accountant
We will and have made all changes necessary to keep the schools open
$9+ million in checking account at Magnolia they are "solvent"
Mr. Onisko would you care to let taxpayers know where the $9 million deposit came from and if $6 million is from the state of California Facility grant received on 7/1/2014 and if the rest could possibly be money deposited by Accord Institute, Turkic American Alliance and TUSKON (All Gulen Front Groups) ACCOUNTABILITY Mr. Onisko, TRANSPARENCY.
one just doesn't become solvent overnight. 
1:00 Esualdo Dias, New Financial Director hired 2 weeks ago submitted new business plan
met with staff of LAUSD. 
1:04 William Grey History Teacher and Assistant Principal "blah blah'
1:09 to 1:29 a series of students, parents and 1 grandmother spoke some needed translators
1:29 Parent mentions that her kid's teacher is Turkish
1:50 Monica (Fat Ass) Garcia, LAUSD board member- brings up that the Denial has nothing to do with the amazing job they have done but a "Litigation" that cannot be discussed.  Dr.Cortines asks "if there is any kind of re visiting based on the changes the school claims they are making? Charter School Division speaks about the process of appeal.  Steven Zimmer played devils advocate that the renewal could be revisited should they find those changes have happened but the litigation is findings of fact.  That the denial doesn't effect the current school year,  but the 2015-2016 so they can finish up the current school year.
Magnolia Science Academy is desperate.  The court proceedings on #6 and 7- will continue and it will find they acted negligently and that LAUSD was just in denying their renewal and suspension. 
Magnolia is not in a position to be making "deals" with LAUSD it's now at the state level auditors office.
To Kim and Jerry, please continue billing Magnolia Science Academy for services and deplete their checking account of the $9 million. 
Sayanora, adios, Good bye!!!!!   

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Magnolia Science Academies part of the Gulen Movement Business Empire - Apex Educational Technology E Rate Technology Grants

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.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Magnolia Science Academy makes a weak attempt to answer LAUSD and OIG charges

Gulen Movement is the catalyst for the charter schools
and the charter schools are the BUSINESS catalyst for Gulen Movement
Magnolia Public Schools responded this week to a report which accused the charter school operator of financial mismanagement and insolvency.
An attorney and an accountant for Magnolia admitted there had been bookkeeping errors but argued most of the discrepancies could have been cleared up if Los Angeles Unified school district officials had given them an opportunity to respond.
“We don’t want to get into a big fight with the organization that funds us. We want to get back into a dialogue so we can clear up some of these things,” said Kim Joseph Onisko, a certified public accountant representing Magnolia. “There’s no reason organizations with these type of academic results should be put out of business for bookkeeping boo boos.”
The school board voted in March 2014 to conditionally approve two Magnolia schools – Magnolia Science Academy 6 in Palms and Magnolia Science Academy 7 in Northridge.
On June 27, district staff sent a letter to Magnolia stating the charters for the two schools had not been renewed. The letter cited the findings of a forensic investigation by Vicente, Lloyd & Stutzman, although the full report was not released until last month.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Luis Lavin granted an injunction in July, allowing the schools to remain open. Lavin said the non-renewal decision should have been made at a public meeting.
The investigation summary focused on funds passed between schools and to the Magnolia Educational and Research Foundation, the charter operator. The summary also questioned the organization’s solvency due to “deficit spending.”
Onisko denied the schools were ever financially insolvent. Magnolia Public Schools has $9 million in net assets, he said, and none of the schools had deficits as of June 30, 2014.
“A lot of the financial issues in dispute between the parties relate to a question of whether Magnolia Public Schools should be treated as one single entity or whether it should be treated as 11 separate public schools and a separate charter organization,” said attorney Jerry Simmons.
Magnolia views the transfer of funds between schools the same as moving money from one department to another. Simmons said this is consistent with how other charter management organizations and other school districts operates. Simmons said they file one tax return and operate as a single entity for all other purposes.
The report also showed the school spent more than $200,000 for immigration fees over five years. The report stated the school paid for six non-employees, although Magnolia says it was only three.
Under federal law, the school is required to pay visa expenses for potential employees, so the immigration expenses for non-employees were for potential teachers who were denied visas. Magnolia has 20 foreign teachers.
The forensic review also raised questions about a field trip taken by students at two Magnolia schools. The school purchased the airline tickets and booked the hotels to save through collective purchasing, but all expenses were paid by student fundraising, according to Magnolia.
School officials also defended their relationship with the Accord Institute for Education Research which provides a variety of services, including curriculum development and professional training. Magnolia has paid approximately $3 million to the vendor. The auditors said the fee was 30 percent of the schools’ budget, although Magnolia states it is only 4 percent of the overall budget.
The schools have also faced accusations that they use their vendor agreements to pay for services they did not receive in order to support the controversial Gülen movement led by a Turkish Islamic scholar.
“Individual employees are free to do what they want on their own time, but as an organization, we have no association with any religious sect or movement and they have never received any funds from the school,” Magnolia stated.
Simmons and Onisko claim LAUSD did not follow state law when it conditionally renewed Magnolia’s charters. The Charter Schools Act only allows the board to vote for or against renewal, Simmons said. He argues the board should have renewed the charters and then started revocation procedures if new evidence was discovered.
Simmons said the revocation procedure would have allowed them an opportunity to respond at public hearings. Onisko said it is also unusual for an organization being audited to not have an opportunity to respond to the findings.
“It’s troubling if it’s true they relied on the report that wasn’t even issued until September to make a decision in June,” he said.
Although the school board voted in August to support the decision not to renew the charters, the Los Angeles County Office of Education stated the charters will remain renewed as long as the injunction remains in place. At this point, the district has not expressed any plans to ask the judge to drop the injunction. School board member Tamar Galtzan declined to comment due to the pending court action.
Magnolia now faces more investigations. LAUSD has expanded its probe to include all nine of Magnolia’s LA County schools, including Lake Balboa and Reseda. The state is also conducting an audit which is expected to take six months.