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Empire of Deceit – the Ohio Connection

September 29, 2017

 A new book, Empire of Deceit, shows a nationwide pattern of abuses at schools linked to Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen. It’s available online here:

Abuses at the chain’s Ohio-based schools, which operate here under the names Horizon Science Academy or Noble Academy, have been well documented over the past 4 years. Education allies and journalists have uncovered everything from visa abuses to test tampering to a school so out of control that its own Dean of Students wrote a memo complaining of condoms in the hallway and sex in the in-school suspension lab.

The new book highlights those problems but also offers new details of abuses with school building leases.

The chain commonly pays inordinately high rent to companies owned by, or affiliated with, the charter operator. Gulen’s for-profit real estate company, Breeze, Inc., buys  properties for the charter network. New Plan Learning was created later and now acts as the non-profit umbrella organization for Breeze and several others. New Plan Learning and its subsidiaries have made an estimated $18.75 million in profits, according to the book.

In his blog, Bill Phillis explains how the scheme has worked:

In 2005, the founder of Breeze Inc. purchased property and three parcels of land for $1.25 million. In 2005, the founder of Breeze Inc. and Concept Schools Management Company signed the lease with Breeze Inc. on behalf of Horizon Science Academy Cincinnati. Science 2005, the charter school has paid $3.6 million for rental fees for only one of the three parcels purchased for the original price of $1.25 million.

This money-making or laundering scheme is squarely on the backs of school district pupils whose districts are forced to pay for the charters.

Despite mounting evidence of problems at the schools, state regulators have a pattern of looking the other way – and even occasionally advancing the schools’ abuses.

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 2010, the Ohio Department of Education gave Muhammet “Matt” Yildiz a principal’s license to run a Gulen middle school in Columbus even though in 2002, state regulators refused him a teaching license after learning that he left his 1-year-old in a car while he went shopping.

In 2014, teachers who used to work at a Gulen-affiliated school in Dayton gave explosive testimony before the state school board and said they witnessed test tampering, an in-class groping game and Turkish teachers who called black students “dogs” or “monkeys.’’

The Ohio Department of Education’s response to the testimony evolved over time. Initially, they asked prosecutors to investigate the teachers.  In a tweet, ODE’s spokesman advised departmental critics to “take a break from muckraking’’ and added  …. Maybe you can get laid.’’

After furor from those responses died down, ODE did a sham investigation into the teachers’ testimony and said their information was too old or too vague to verify. Investigators ignored newer, more detailed information.

Time will tell whether ODE will ignore the book.



Where are the Gulen Charter Schools in Ohio?

Horizon Science Academy – Columbus (high school)

Horizon Science Academy – Cincinnati

Horizon Science Academy – Cleveland (high school)

Horizon Science Academy – Cleveland Middle School

Horizon Science Academy – Columbus Middle School

Horizon Science Academy – Dayton (elementary)

Horizon Science Academy – Dayton Downtown

Horizon Science Academy – Dayton High School

Horizon Science Academy – Denison Elementary School

Horizon Science Academy – Denison Middle School

Horizon Science Academy – Elementary School (Northeast Columbus)

Horizon Science Academy – Lorain

Horizon Science Academy – Springfield

Horizon Science Academy – Toledo

Horizon Science Academy – Youngstown

Noble Academy – Cleveland

Noble Academy – Columbus

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Melissa’s Story

I am Melissa Marini Švigelj-Smith, a parent activist from Cleveland who’s very concerned about excessive testing- so concerned that I spoke to the Board of Education of the Cleveland Metropolitan Schools and requested that the board adopt a policy that accommodates families who refuse to allow their children to participate in high stakes standardized tests. Without hesitation, I conveyed this sincere message to the Board:

As evidenced by the easy passage of the last school levy, this community and its parents support Cleveland schools, and that respect and support deserves consistent reciprocity. I don’t believe that I need to rehash recent media reports in order to justify bringing attention to this issue.

As I briefly share some reasons why families have refused to allow their children to participate in high stakes standardized tests, I hope that you will consider adopting a policy that is respectful and supportive of families who express the desire to direct their children’s education, as protected by the 14th amendment.

This is why we refuse…

Because children should not have to attend a school labeled “failing,” or labeled anything at all.

School buildings shelter children with vast amounts of untapped potential. Not failures.

FAILURE should never be the name of a monster hovering over a school building making children afraid of how they will do on a test.

Children shouldn’t have to be afraid of how their teacher will be hurt by their performance on a test.

Or how their school or community or city will be labeled because of how they do on a test.

What sort of sane society that supposedly cherishes its children puts that sort of pressure on a child?

We refuse because without the data, they can’t label our children or anyone else’s children.

We refuse…

Because we know that standardized test scores have only been good at proving one thing: children’s life experiences and backgrounds far outweigh the impact that a school or teacher has on their test performance.

We refuse…

Because we don’t want our children’s privacy violated, and we don’t want test companies profiting from our children.

Because we know that things like art, music, gym, and recess have been shown by research to increase academic success and shouldn’t be reduced or eliminated because kids need to take or prepare for more standardized tests.

We refuse…

Because we know that the emotional and social growth of children in school is not measured on a standardized test.

Because the teacher who delivers groceries to a family in need, advocates for a student, or becomes a student’s confidant, counselor, or role model will never have that data show up in test results, and we trust our children’s teachers to assess their progress.

We refuse…

Because struggling students should not be made to feel like less than the developing human beings that we ALL started out as, because tests are used to label.

We know that the long term consequences of labeling and retention are profound.

NONE of our children are “limited,” “basic,” or “common.”

Words that label can and do. Hurt and Divide.

We refuse…

Because over 2000 education researchers, experts, and professionals signed a letter pleading with our President and Congress to stop relying on high stakes standardized testing to improve education – we have a decade of data proving that it doesn’t work.

Because there are mountains of research that provide more effective and research proven methods to educate our children and to evaluate teachers and schools.

We refuse…

Because when we look at our children, we see their smiles, their talents, their goofiness, the crumbs around their mouths, the dirt on their skin, and the hope in their eyes.

And when we look at our kids,

We never see them as data or test scores…

And neither should you.

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