On the heels of an FBI raid of several Horizon-Concept charter schools in Ohio, several former teachers and employees have come forward to make shocking allegations of inflated test scores and falsified attendance records, racist and sexist behavior by Turkish teachers and administrators, and sexual harassment and abuse that went unreported by administrators. At a State Board of Education meeting last week, former employees described not only low educational standards, but also an atmosphere of intimidation — American teachers feared Turkish administrators who fired teachers at the first sign of disloyalty while Turkish teachers were promoted, often despite poor job performance. The charter schools, associated with the Turkish Gülen movement and its controversial leader, Fethullah Gülen, promote Turkish language and culture and many of the schools are known for their academic excellence.
Richard Storrick, who taught at Horizon Science Dayton High School for two and a half years, told members of the state school board about a “sex game” that went on in the middle school classroom of a Turkish teacher, saying that standards differ “whether you are from Turkish descent or of American descent.” Storrick said that no action was taken when the director of the school was informed about the game and in fact, the teacher was re-hired the next year and given additional responsibilities.
Storrick also said that Turkish students were treated differently than American students. “If you were a Turkish student, you knew you could get away with misbehavior, including fighting, and be back the next day. Turkish students were permitted to skip class or school with no repercussions,” Storrick said. Turkish teachers called African American students “dogs” and “monkeys.” Another teacher at the same school, Timothy Neary added, “Racism was an issue. Black kids would be disciplined much more severely than Turkish students. If there was a fight in school, the Turkish students would be back the next day. Many of the black students would get severe consequences.” He also said that sexism was a problem. “It was almost gross how they’d talk to women. They’d tell them to not talk or cut them off in midpoint,” Neary said, adding that the majority of teachers fired were women.
Kelly Kochensparger, who served as the Dayton charter school’s public communications director in addition to her teaching duties, said that middle school students were caught on tape engaging in oral sex. School administrators notified neither the parents nor the authorities, preferring to focus on maintaining the school’s positive image instead, she said.
Matt Blair, a former teacher at the Horizon Academy in Dayton, alleged that there was cheating on state achievement tests. “School officials were filling in bubbles on standardized tests. They claimed that it was because students didn’t fill in circles dark enough.” Richard Neary, who taught at the same school said, “Even though standardized tests are supposed to be taken and locked in a secure place, that did not always occur, if ever.” Neary added, “All the tests would go into one room, with one Turkish administrator behind a locked door and nobody would ever see the tests again.” Board member Mary Rose Oakar noted that most of the Concept schools had very high test scores. “If would be very disturbing if there was cheating going on to get these ratings,” she said.
Neary also said he suspected the school was falsifying attendance records. “School administrators clearly lied about attendance. I can honestly tell you never once did I have a full classroom with my roster with every single student, yet they reported to you a 97% attendance rate,” he said. “I guess that’s an easy one to fudge.”
State Senator Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering), who was in attendance at the state school board meeting, asked what percentage of the teachers were Turkish, noting that she had never seen any during her visits to the schools. One of the teachers explained, “They come over on visas that say they need to teach math and science. Yet they’re teaching gym, they’re treasurers, they’re administrators, they’re guidance counselors, they’re IT. Since when did we have a lack of gym teachers in the state of Ohio?” he asked. One teacher explained, “Sometimes they hide behind — I’m being honest — in closets that are made into offices. So no, you wouldn’t have seen them. And many times when people — dignitaries — come in and things like that , they would ask one of [the American teachers] to be the hand shakers and introduce people and talk.”.
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