Thursday, December 12, 2013

FBI removes boxes from Gulen-linked charter school in Baton Rouge, Times-Picayune

The organization "requires the teachers to kick back up to 60 percent of their salaries to Gülen’s Hizmet movement." 

12/12/13, "Kenilworth (La.) charter school, subject of apparent FBI inquiry, has ties to Turkish education movement,", Times-Picayune, Diana Samuels

"FBI and Kenilworth Science and Technology Charter School officials aren’t saying why the FBI converged on the Baton Rouge school’s campus Wednesday evening, carting off boxes.

But the school has ties to a controversial education movement inspired by a Turkish Muslim scholar, Fethullah Gulen. And other schools connected with that movement have reportedly been investigated by the FBI.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported in 2011 that the FBI was investigating whether employees of charter schools affiliated with the Gulen movement were kicking back part of their salaries, funded by taxpayers, to the Turkish Muslim movement of “Hizmet.” The Inquirer reported the investigation was “nationwide,” but coordinated by prosecutors in Pennsylvania, where Gulen lives.

Kenilworth’s ties to the Gulen movement aren’t direct or publicly advertised. Kenilworth Superintendent Tevfik Eski has previously denied to | The Times-Picayune any connection between Gulen and the school.

But in 2011, | The Times-Picayune reported that Pelican Educational Foundation, the nonprofit group that runs Kenilworth, does have various connections to the movement.

For example, Karen Fontenot, vice president of Pelican’s board, spoke in 2010 at a conference on the Gulen movement and said, “I’m on the advisory board of the schools --the Gulen schools in Louisiana.”

The Pelican Educational Foundation also oversaw Abramson Science and Technology Charter School in New Orleans, which was abruptly shut down by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in 2011. Among other issues at Abramson, the state was investigating a reported bribery attempt where the state’s academic advisor for charter schools was on Abramson’s campus, and was approached by an executive of a construction company, Atlas Texas Construction and Trading. The Atlas executive offered the state official $25,000 to “help fix this problem,” potentially referring to complaints made about the school by a group of teachers.

Pelican disavowed any association with Atlas. But Atlas had done building work at an Oklahoma charter school that was led by Mustafa Guvercin, who later went on to be principal at Abramson.
Atlas is described as affiliated with Gulen in a classified State Department cable that was published by Wikileaks.

Gulen himself is a reclusive Turkish imam who has lived in the United States since 1999. According to the CBS news program 60 Minutes, he urges followers to build schools instead of mosques, and teach science instead of religion. He denies being a leader of a movement, but people he has inspired have gone on to form more than 1,000 schools around the world. 

There is no indication that Gulen schools have been pushing a religious doctrine in the classroom. Gulen also emphasizes the need for peace, distancing himself from any hard-line Muslim sect and terrorism.

Pelican has run Kenilworth under a charter with the Recovery School District since 2009, and its contract was just renewed for another five years.

FBI officials would only say Wednesday that the issue is not a matter of public safety." via Atlas Shrugs


Autumn 2012, "Who Is Fethullah Gülen?", Claire Berlinski
"Controversial Muslim preacher, feared Turkish intriguer—and “inspirer” of the largest charter school network in America."


7/22/11, "Abramson charter group's ties to Gulen movement come to surface," Times-Picayune,

"Karen Fontenot rose to address the room last year at a conference on the Gulen movement, a strain of Islamic thinking inspired by the Turkish Muslim scholar Fethullah Gulen. She recounted how she got involved in the movement back in 2005 and made reference to her role as a board member for a group of charter schools associated with it. 

"I'm on the advisory board of the schools -- the Gulen schools in Louisiana," she explained. Indeed, Fontenot is vice president of the board at the Pelican Educational Foundation, a nonprofit group that runs Abramson Science and Technology Charter School in eastern New Orleans and Kenilworth Science and Technology Charter School in Baton Rouge. Pelican is now under investigation by the Louisiana Department of Education because of numerous complaints from students and teachers at Abramson, as well as an alleged attempt by someone associated with the group to bribe a state official last year.

Pelican's CEO, Tevfik Eski, has denied any connection between Gulen and the foundation's schools. But the links that Pelican shares with the Gulen movement, as well as Turkish-run businesses and charter schools in other states, are at least partially out in the open, in video clips and documents available on the Internet as well as records made public by the state."...


Gulen Politicians - aka "Useful tools of Gulen"


The organization "requires the teachers to kick back up to 60 percent of their salaries to Gülen’s Hizmet movement." 

8/12/11, "FBI probe of Gülen may include Abramson, Kenilworth," louisianavoice.cim, tomaswell
"There is a common thread that links the Louisiana Recovery School District (RSD), former RSD Superintendent Paul Vallas, RSD-North Superintendent LaVonne Sheffield, Ph.D., and the Fethullah Gülen network of 155 charter schools scattered throughout 28 states, including at least two in Louisiana.

That common thread is the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Sheffield, who headed the RSD-North from June 2009 to July 2010, was brought to Baton Rouge by Vallas at a salary of $200,000. She previously worked under Vallas as Chief Accountability Officer for the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) from June of 2004 to July 2008.

She was an unsuccessful candidate for the position of superintendent of East Baton Rouge Parish schools in January of 2009 and was hired as superintendent of the Rockford, Illinois, Public School District later in 2009. She resigned in April of this year halfway through her contract.

While (Sheffield was) working for Vallas in Philadelphia, an audit by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) determined that nearly $138.4 million in grant funds were either unallowable or inadequately documented. The audit also determined that SDP should return almost $17.7 million in unallowable costs to DOE.

Before that, Sheffield was employed as Chief Academic Officer for the Detroit Public School System from February 2002 to July 2003. While there, she ran up thousands of dollars of charges to her district-issued charge card while on her wedding trip to Las Vegas, records show.

She also worked from December 1993 to May 2000 as Chief of Staff to Cleveland Mayor Michael White and also served as Director of the Department of Port Control and as manager of the $1.4 billion Cleveland Hopkins International Airport expansion project. While there, both she and White were implicated but never charged in an FBI investigation into widespread bribery in the city administration, including the port and airport project.

Both she and Vallas have departed the Louisiana RSD, but the presence of the FBI lingers. Reports indicate the agency is conducting another investigation, this one into recent revelations about the Abramson Science and Technology Charter School in New Orleans and the Kenilworth Science and Technology Charter School in Baton Rouge.

Both schools were operated by Pelican Education Foundation
in New Orleans until Abramson’s charter was revoked last month. Pelican is affiliated with Atlas Texas Construction and Trading of Houston. Atlas also operates 38 charter schools in several Texas cities through Cosmos Foundation under the auspices of Harmony Public Schools.

Atlas and Cosmos are all linked to Fethullah Gülen and his network of schools that operate under such innocuous names as Magnolia, Sweetwater, Pioneer, Horizon, Noble, Dove, Bluebonnet, Beehive, Truebright, and, of course, Pelican and Harmony.

The federal investigation, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, does not involve links to terrorism, but centers on charges that the organization uses taxpayer money to bring teachers to this country from Turkey and other countries who are members of the religious group and then requires the teachers to kick back up to 60 percent of their salaries to Gülen’s Hizmet movement.

The Gülen-run schools receive taxpayer funding and also receive private financial support, much of it from the Walton Family, owners of Wal-Mart. The Walton Family Foundation, for example, provided $230,000 in funding for Abramson as recently as 2007.

Gülen, who was forced to flee his native Turkey in 1998 after being charged with attempting to overthrow the secular Turkish government, now resides in a mountain fortress in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.

He was granted a permanent residency visa as an “alien of extraordinary ability” and as “a leader of award-winning schools for underserved children around the world,” according to his attorneys, even though he does not hold a high school diploma. Now, however, in an effort to ward off investigations, he claims that neither he nor his movement have an affiliation with the charter schools.

The investigations of Gülen and his organization, which federal officials have refused to confirm or deny, are being coordinated by prosecutors in Pennsylvania’s Middle district in Scranton, and involve hundreds of Gülen charter school members nationwide.

Ostensibly, that would include the two Pelican-run schools in New Orleans and Baton Rouge."


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