My stories on Sunday generated plenty of discussion, I see. Since I've collected reams of information about Sonoran Science Academy and about the Gülen Movement, I thought I'd share some of it with you, largely as attached PDFs.
First are the answers that Superintendent Ozkur Yildiz sent me. We corresponded completely by email. Initially I asked him only about why the schools request so many H-1B visas. After doing a lot more research, I asked him in more detail about the visa question and about Gülen. He also sent me a list of the schools' achievements.
Then there are a pair of journal articles, one by Joshua Hendrick and another by Bayram Balci. Both are key English-language works in the study of Gülen and the schools he's inspired.
Finally, a smattering of other information, including SSA's most recently filed 990 tax form, for the year 2007. Here's a Web site that is probably the leading one critical of Gülen schools in the United States. And below you'll find a copy of an email sent by Mr. Fatih Karatas, the principal of SSA's local middle and high school, in response to yesterday's stories.
First I want to say something about the schools' quality. The Sonoran Science schools have won a lot of awards and score well on tests. I've made no argument about their quality in my stories. Rather, I've raised some other questions. Here are some key ones:
1. Is there really a need to hire so many teachers from other countries when other schools perform as well without them and when teacher layoffs are occurring?
2. Are some people using our charter school system and taxpayer money to establish a cultural foothold in the United States and/or promote a religious-political movement?
3. Are the schools and their parent company pursuing an agenda other than education?
You can argue the ends justify the means, which is more or less what Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne did in the main story. But I obviously think (since I wrote the stories) that these questions merit consideration.
Now here's Mr. Karatas' email, sent Sunday:
Approximately a month ago, we had a guest from Arizona Daily Star (Mr. Tim Steller) who visited our school and was quite impressed by great things happening at SSA. In addition, he interviewed almost all founders, some staff members, many parents, some students, ADE Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne, and many other individuals.
Well, today, the news article by Tim Steller has been published on AZ Daily Star. As you will see it for yourself, the story raises issues related to immigration and international teachers who have valid (and fully legal) visas and also touches the school's possible affiliation with the Gulen movement. The reporter merged multiple sources of information he received into an article.
Dr. Yildiz (our Superintendent) had provided our schools' official responses to all questions raised by Mr. Steller during his research. As a member of SSA family, no one knows our school better than you. Let me reiterate the point that our schools have no institutional affiliation with ANY non-educational organization. Our focus is excelling educational practices and academic success. And what makes SSA great is our hard working faculty, staff and students. We salute and highly appreciate the genuine efforts and enormous contributions of our teachers, regardless of their RACIAL background, to make SSA an excelling school.
The story touches very sensitive topics and raises numerous allegations. Even though it does not make any definitive claims, it attempts to raise suspicions. We shall stand tall and keep doing our best to help our students learn and excel.
We have a lot of great academic projects that continue to keep us busy (which is great). We don't let this distract us from our stated goals stipulated in our charter. We aim high and continue to work hard to reach them with your support, our dear parents. With this in mind, I leave the interpretation and judgment of the story to you.
I just wanted to share this news with you. You can read the full article, or voice out your thoughts if you wish, by visiting this url: