Turkey, Americas

Alabama residents blast FETO charter school project

Woodland Prep faces fierce opposition in Washington County

Vakkas Doğantekin   | 11.04.2019
Alabama residents blast FETO charter school project

ANKARA

Residents of Washington County in the U.S. state of Alabama have strongly rejected plans to establish a charter school in the area under a project run by the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO).

In an article published Wednesday on the Alabama Political Reporter’s website, columnist Josh Moon raised several concerns about the project to build Woodland Prep.

The article -- "How a Washington County charter school failed at every step, and was approved anyway" -- drew attention to the project's failure to meet basic educational standards, the objections of local community leaders, and financial fraud at other FETO schools.

"Its land is owned by a shady Utah holding company. It will be managed by a for-profit Texas company that doesn’t employ a single Alabamian. It will pay the head of that management company around $300,000 per year — up front," Moon said in the article.

"Its application was rejected by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, which Alabama pays a hefty sum to review and approve charter applications. Woodland’s management plan failed to meet basic standards for approval in any of the three plan areas reviewed by NACSA," added Moon.

The article cited Betty Brackin, an employee of the Washington County school system and outspoken opponent of Woodland.

“We never thought this school would be approved, Brackin said.

“The rest of this county is not for this, and we’ve let everyone know it.”


Terror connection

Moon said that one name -- Soner Tarim -- had caught his attention in emails sent to him by local opponents of Woodland Prep.

"Tarim is the CEO of Unity School Services [USS] and was the founder of Harmony Schools in Texas. Tarim and Harmony also have their very serious problems, not least of which is their ties to a Muslim cleric and controversial preacher from Turkey, Fetullah Gulen, and his Gulen Movement," Moon wrote.

In questioning Woodland’s operational plan, NACSA reviewers were concerned over its hiring of USS to perform management and education services, the article said, adding it was unclear why the company was selected, whether it could do the job and what expertise it had.

"A copy of the USS contract with the Woodland Prep board shows that Tarim will make 15 percent of all federal, state and local funds received by Woodland. If Woodland’s projected enrollment of 260 students is accurate, Tarim will make more than $300,000," said Moon.

“He’ll be the highest paid man in Washington County,” wrote one county official who asked not to be identified, according to Moon's article.

Moon said other legal questions have been raised about Harmony and Tarim’s use of the schools to exploit a visa program and to skirt hiring laws in order to give contract jobs to Turkish workers and teachers.

"There have also been other, education-related problems, such as a massive grade-change scandal at Harmony in Texas and financial fraud allegations related to grants at other Gulen schools,” he said.

Moon explained FETO's interest in rural Alabama with one word: "Money".

FETO and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen orchestrated the defeated coup of July 15, 2016 in Turkey, which left 251 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.

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