Magnolia Schools charter management organization

Note: The Magnolia Schools are Gulen schools.

This post has four sections:

  • Background information about the approval of a petition for a charter school in Santa Clara County, California. The school, Magnolia Science Academy – Santa Clara, is slated to open in Sunnyvale for the 2010-2011 school year and is currently enrolling students.
  • Revealing excerpts from an email exchange sent to me by a reader who, as a prospective parent, was in communication with a representative of the new MSA-Santa Clara school.
  • Evidence which clearly contradicts the representative’s statements.
  • Why so much about Turkey and Turkish?
PART 1: Petition approved!
In July 2008, the San Mateo Union High School District rejected a charter school petition submitted by the Magnolia Educational and Science Foundation [aka Magnolia Educational and Research Foundation]. As the San Francisco Examiner explained:

“Undeterred by the district decision, the Magnolia Foundation turned to the California Board of Education and received authorization to open 10 new charter schools anywhere in the state during the next six years. The foundation can locate its schools within any district without seeking approval at the local level, according to Joseph Hurmali, the foundation’s president.” [Joseph Hurmali may be an AKA for Huseyin Hurmali who has "led many study tours to Turkey" including this Gulenist promotional tour.]

In March 2009, three Magnolia Charter Schools were approved (5-2) by the Santa Clara County Board of Education.
But because the Magnolia Science Academy-Santa Clara (MSA) did not open as planned in fall 2009, the Santa Clara County Board of Education sent a Notice of Violations in February 2010. “Administration defers recommendation to the Board’s legal counsel.”
In April 2010, the board members reviewed the status of the charter school’s remediation of the violation and voted (4-2-1) to approve the recruitment and enrollment revisions.
PART 2: Answers given
This is a prospective parent’s May 2010 email communication with a staff member fielding questions about the school. Note the lines I've highlighted in bold.
Subject: can we enroll?

even though the school is run by the Gulen Islamic movement, we are a Christian family would it be OK to enroll our children?

From: B...@...

We have no affiliation with the movement. Some of our staff may have unofficial affiliation with the movement, though we do not question our teachers' affiliations with any political party or religious organization…
I believe you are misinformed by internet conspiracy theories. Let me correct a few things you mentioned in your email…
1. There is no country as "Islamic Republic of Turkey." Turkey is a secular country about to join European Union… [According to the U.S. Department of State, Turkey is officially known as the Republic of Turkey and is 99 percent Muslim]
3. We have no affiliation to Beehive or Chesapeake so I don't know their case. I just checked on the internet and it says they were closed because they had low enrollment and not enough financial security…
6. Turkish language is only offered at one Magnolia school as an elective out of nine schools. And that was due to demand from parents. We offer Spanish as primary foreign language. Based on demand from parents we have opened Chinese, Japanese and French in some of our schools. 8 out of 9 of our schools have never offered Turkish language…


Thank you for your reply, but we were told that the Gulen schools teach Turkish language, dance, singing - they have a Turkish American Club and then take a Trip to the Islamic Republic of Turkey…

From: B...@...

…Some of our international teachers are Turkish. They probably organize cultural events with Turkish food. But I am very sure there is no religious concept mentioned or discussed with students. Baklava and shish kebab hardly constitutes a cultural enforcement…

PART 3: Evidence clearly contrary to the staff member's claims
Eleven schools are listed on the home page of the Magnolia Schools Web site, two of which will be opened in the Fall of 2010. ALL of the active schools feature formal and institutionalized activities for students which give an intense exposure to Turkish culture and travel. I encourage you to follow the progressions and explore.
1. Magnolia Science Academy 1 – Reseda; Varol Gurler, principal
  • Home page>Europe Trip: “MSA had a wonderful trip to Turkey with 4 students and 2 teachers during the spring break.”
  • Home page>Arizona Trip and Turkish Contest [April 1-4]: “MSA had a trip to Arizona with 13 students, 3 parents and 4 teachers for four days during the spring break. We went to Grand Canyon. The following day we went to Phoenix for the Turkish Competiton [sic]. Our students competed in poem, skit and special talent categories.”
  • Gallery>2008 Turkish Olympiads, 16 pictures
  • Documents>After School Programs>Turkish club with Mr. Yilmaz
2. Magnolia Science Academy 2 – Valley; Erdal Kocak, principal
  • Social/Fun Clubs> “TURKISH CLUB - Students will have the opportunity of learning Turkish culture beside Turkish language and songs. Students will taste various Turkish food, make cultural filed [sic] trips and watch movies.”
  • Gallery>2007-2008 Album>Trips>Turkish Class Six Flags
  • Gallery>2009-2010 Album>Trips and Camps>After School Clubs>Turkish Folk Dance Club
  • review for MSA2: “…They have a good foreign language program which includes Spanish, Turkish, and Russian…”
3. Magnolia Science Academy 3 – Carson (formerly Gardena); “Matt”/Metin Demir, principal
  • Left vertical bar>Turkish Contest: April 3-4th Mesa Arts Center In Phoenixs [sic], AZ Thanks to all the students that participated! Our trip to Arizona headed out Friday, April 2nd at 9a.m. The weekend was full of not only Acticvties [sic] during the Contest but also visiting the Grand Canyon, Raw Hyde, and Flagstaff. Students enjoyed sight seeing, Snow Ball fights, and Go Cart Racing. Nevertheless the Turkish Language & Performing Arts Contest was the highlight and main event of our trip. We had a total of 11 participants representing our school this year…Our very own [student name] won First Place in the Special Talent Category. Five states participated in the West Coast and we had the only winner in the state of California! Lets [sic] all congratulate everyone that participated.
  • Left vertical bar>Anatolian Festival>Gallery page labeled “Anatolian Cultures and Food Festival,” 34 pictures
  • Gallery>2009-2010 Albums>Turkish Language & Art Contest, 43 pictures
  • Gallery>2009-2010 Albums> Europe Trip 2010, 85 Pictures: Photographs reveal a trip to Turkey, complete with minarets and a Turkish flag flying on a pole (see image above).
4. Magnolia Science Academy 4 – Venice; Mustafa Sahin, principal
  • Msa4 News, April 2010>Page 5>Arizona Trip: “The ext [sic] day, early in the morning, we went to the Mesa Art Center to watch the Turkish contest. Our friend November participated in the contest. She sang a Turkish song and we supported her.” And “On the last day, we watched the finals of Turkish Contest and many students performed singing, dancing, skits and poetry. That was unforgettable!”
  • Msa4 News, April 2010>Page 6>Europe Trip: “The Europe Trip was an unforgettable journey to France and Turkey. The students went there over Spring Break. They flew into France, and stayed there for two days. On the second day, they headed to Turkey by flying over Europe. It was a total of eleven days and packed with many events to do and see. There was also a choice of just going to Turkey for nine days. Mr. Gurcan arranged all the trip details…After Paris they took a flight to Turkey, Istanbul for three days. They stayed at Ufuk School…They took another flight to Turkey, Izmir and stayed there for two days. They stayed at Marla Hotel. While they stayed at Marla Hotel they met the parents of one of the teachers from MSA6, Mr. Koray…
  • From reviews for MSA4: "…They have Turkish, Ethics and Art classes too. Many of the teachers are Turkish. They go on field trips every month. There is also a yearly trip to Europe and Turkey…"and "…I don t [sic] like how many Turkish teachers there are because some of their accents are hard to understand..."
5. Magnolia Science Academy 5 – Hollywood; Dr. Suleyman Karaman, principal
  • Gallery>Year 2008-2009>Europe Trip>Turkiye, 21 pictures)
  • Gallery>Year 2008-2009>Trips>Anatolian Cultures and Food Festival, 31 pictures
  • After School>Club Descriptions: “TURKISH CLUB Students will have the opportunity of learning Turkish culture beside Turkish language and songs. Students will taste various Turkish food, make cultural filed [sic] trips and watch movies.”
  • Documents>December 2009 Newsletter>MSA Student Parent Handbook: “Europe trip is scheduled for the spring break, in between March 25 and April 5. For more information, please see Mr. Emin”*
  • Documents>MSA Student Parent Handbook: “Field Trips offer exciting ways to learn. MSA students will have the opportunity to go on field trips at various times throughout the school year. MSA plans many field trips, weekend getaways, summer camp, and our infamous Europe Trip during spring break.”
6. Magnolia Science Academy 6 – Palms: “Ike”/FNU Ozis, principal**
  • Gallery>Europe Trip 2010, 10 Pictures: Photographs of kids standing in front of famous French and Turkish landmarks
  • Gallery>Arizona Trip 2010, 12 Pictures: Photographs of kids doing various activities along with a photo of students on stage at the Turkish Language Institute sponsored Turkish Language & Performing Arts Contest.
  • Documents>MSA Student Parent Handbook (same as above for MSA5): “Field Trips offer exciting ways to learn. MSA students will have the opportunity to go on field trips at various times throughout the school year. MSA plans many field trips, weekend getaways, summer camp, and our infamous Europe Trip during spring break.”
7. Magnolia Science Academy – San Diego: “David”/possibly Durmush Yilmaz
  • Gallery>Field Trips and Camps>Turkish Cultural Trip (Jan ’08), 19 pictures: Photographs of a small number of kids (6) on an outing to a beach and eating in someone’s home (Turkish-style floor seating around a short table)
  • Gallery>Field Trips and Camps>International Trip (Apr ’08), 27 pictures: Photographs of kids (same three students) posing at famous Turkish landmarks
  • Gallery>Academic Activities>Turkish Language & Performing Arts Contest (Apr ’10), 30 pictures
8. Magnolia Science Academy 8 – Bell (LA County): Opening in 2010-2011
9. Magnolia Science Academy – Santa Clara: Opening in 2010-2011
10. Pacific Technology School – Orangevale*** (Sacramento County, opened September 2009)); Mahmut Altun, principal
  • After School>Academic Clubs & Teams: “TURKISH CLUB Students will have the opportunity to learn Turkish culture and language. Students will taste various Turkish foods, go on cultural field trips, and watch movies.”
11. Pacific Technology School – Orange County***; “Steven”/FNU Keskinturk, principal

  • Gallery>Europe Trip, 51 pictures: Photographs of kids posing at famous French and Turkish landmarks and eating a meal “Turkish-style.”
  • Gallery>Trip to Anatolian Festival, 27 pictures: Photographs of kids posing at famous French and Turkish landmarks and eating “Turkish-style.” [it appears the Anatolian Cultures & Food Festival was sponsored by the Pacifica Institute]

*NOTE: Images of the Europe trips never include countries other than France and Turkey
**FNU = first name unknown
***These schools earned the classification of Statewide Benefit Charter schools. From the California Department of Education: "The State Board of Education may authorize a five-year charter for the operation of a charter school that will provide instructional services of "statewide benefit" that cannot be provided by a charter school operating in only one school district, or only in one county. Statewide benefit charters must adhere to all other charter laws with the exception of geographic limitations. They must open at least two new sites/schools in different counties in areas with struggling schools. After the first two sites have operated for two years and met performance objectives, operators may open two additional sites each year."
PART 4: Why so much Turkish? And other curiosities.
As a world language, Turkish ranks fairly far down on the world language popularity list:
  1. Mandarin
  2. English
  3. Spanish
  4. Hindi
  5. Russian
  6. Arabic
  7. Portuguese
  8. Bengali
  9. French
  10. Malay
And at long last there is Turkish at #22.
And as for the claim of only a remote connection to Turkey that simply involves exposing students to baklava and shish kebab, much more is going on and it is apparent if you watch this video of the 2009 California Turkish Olympiads produced by Ebru news (a Gulenist TV station):

160 students from 17 schools contested in 5 different categories in this years Turkish Language Olympics organized by the Pacifica Institute which is based in California. The students displayed their skills in singing, poetry, folklore, talent and sketch categories; however, some others contested in grammar and essay categories. [student name] from Sonoran Science Academy was awarded with 1st place in the poetry contest, while [student name] from Magnolia Science Academy in California took second place and [student name] and [student name] from Coral Science Academy in Nevada took the third place. In the sketch category, students from the Bay Area Technical School took the gold medal while the students of Sonoran Science Academy Broadway took the silver. The gold medal and a lot of applause went to Brandon Thandi from Sonoran Sunset Arizona displaying his masterful art of the water marbling. He simply painted two tulips next to American and Turkish Flags.Coral Academy of Science Nevada team of folk dancers got the gold medal and the cup.Every year Pacifica Institute organizes a Turkish Language and Performing Arts Contest. Students from all across the US compete in categories as varied as singing, poetry, sketch and folk dance.

Ebru is also the name for the Turkish craft of paper marbling.
For a review of this network of 100 U.S. charter schools, see U.S. Fethullahci charter schools.
B.Y.’s denials about the connection of Magnolia schools to Utah’s Beehive School of Science & Technology can also be easily challenged. From The Salt Lake Tribune (November 2009):

In 2007, Beehive received a $61,000 loan from Murat Biyik, who at the time was the school's vice principal. The loan was equivalent to Biyik's salary. Biyik is now principal at Magnolia Science Academy in Hollywood, Calif., part of a chain of charter schools once overseen by Erdogan.
And the foundation overseeing the Magnolia schools is home to another Beehive benefactor, Mustafa Keskin. Keskin is secretary of the foundation and loaned Beehive $49,000.
Other loans to Beehive include $20,000 from Buyamin Karaduman, and $30,000 from Suleyman Bahceci [Executive Director/CEO of Magnolia Schools], who both work for the Accord Institute in Tustin, Calif. [south of LA, near Santa Ana] The institute contracts with Beehive on curriculum design and performs teacher evaluations for the school.
Incidentally, Tustin, California is also the home of Ted Mitchell, the president and chief executive officer of the New Schools Venture Fund, an organization which exists to fund charter start-ups. Mitchell was appointed to the California State Board of Education in 2007 by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and is currently serving as the Board’s president.


The Perimeter Primate said...

From from the U.S. Department of State re: super-critical and critical language needs @

-Arabic (Modern Standard, Egyptian, and Iraqi)
-Chinese (Mandarin)

-Arabic (forms other than Modern Standard, Egyptian, and Iraqi)
-Chinese (Cantonese)

The Perimeter Primate said...

Commentary from a friend:

To me the structure of approving charter schools at local, county and state
does not work. It does not work in California when its State Board of
Education has overwhelming number of appointees linked to charter schools while
many county boards of education have no knowledge of charter schools, or
support the concept of providing competition to public schools without a
thought of what might go wrong with providing a charter to petitioners that are

In addition, there is bias built into rejection of charter schools
that requires the governing body rejecting charter schools to show cause. A
situation that makes petitioners that are strangers advantaged. The outcome is
to destroy the meaning of public while the public funds strangers and taxes of
the public can be paid from federal, state, and with passage of local parcel
taxes the local level.

The oversight on how the money is spent becomes
practically impossible because this new charter schools is privately managed
and poorly regulated. When the oversight is by the county and/or state board
of education as in California oversight is even more poorly regulated.

Finally, when the State Board allows granting of a charter that allows a
petitioner to open a charter school anywhere in the state and in multiple sites
there is the poorest of oversight.

State charter school laws like California with multiple jurisdiction, bias for
approval, and not allowing for rejection of strangers or evidence of financial
harm to a school district is very poor public policy.

The Turkish connection
established below is troublesome because it is in the shadow. And, because
even if a charter is connected to a religion or a cult or a political agenda,
California charter law makes it hard to prove and governing boards seldom have
knowledge of such connections when petitioners are strangers. Even if
petitioners are from a cult, that is not of itself grounds for rejection.

Anonymous said...

What is the concern, that they are primarily muslim? Is that a problem for you? I don't blame them for being evasive regarding the religious beliefs of some of the founding members, it's not easy being something other than Christian in the US. This site demonstrates that.

The Perimeter Primate said...

Whenever members of the GM or their sympathizers present the above argument on a comment board, it is yet one more piece of evidence of part of their defense strategy which will be completely ineffective.

The defensive attack tactic of trying to paint this site as Islamophobic is a pathetic attempt to counter the crystal clear picture of the Gulen movement which is definitely emerging before the eyes of the American public. Like a photograph in the process of being developed, the GM's unflattering and even repulsive image is well underway and cannot be stopped.

The concerns and information about GM charter schools that is presented on this site is strictly about the deception and outright lying being perpetrated by members of the Gulen Movement. The issue is regarding ONE SPECIFIC secretive, controversial, and politically-minded religious cult that emerged in recent decades, and which has become ONE subgroup in the variety of groups practicing Islam in Turkey. This subgroup is NOT thought of highly by a large number of people in Turkey.

I have no problem with people of various religions working at schools and think students are better off getting an exposure to a wide range of people. However, this particular group (GULENISTS, aka CEMAAT, aka THE COMMUNITY, aka FETHULLAHCI, etc.), are engaging in an extreme level of collusion in order to gain access to American taxdollars and students' minds, as well as faking the rationale for bringing more Gulenists to the U.S.

The saddest and very much most regrettable consequence of the secretive strategy F. Gulen has been having his followers pursue is that it is causing poorly informed and highly reactionary Americans who can't distinguish differences between subgroups to view all Muslims negatively. Don't his followers realize they have been instructed to shoot themselves in the foot?

If they are people who truly believe in doing good, The Community needs to stop with the phoniness and come clean asap, then deal as best they can with the rubble that will be created when the walls fall. But if the Gulenists have foul ulterior motives in mind, they will never come clean.

Either way, the longer deception of U.S. citizens is perpetrated by the Gulenists, the worse the response is going to be.

Anonymous said...

These defenders of these Charter Schools need to look at their facts. There is a network of these Charter Schools nationwide and they share many common trains: Predominately Turkish staff (which many of them speak really broken English and there was one teacher who got interviewed on 60 minutes who you cannot understand what he was saying, LOL), where they have heavy emphasis of Math and Science, force kids to dance in stupid lame "Turkish Olympiads" and all the Turkish descent staff kick their salaries off to mysterious places. There is a YouTube account called "GulenCharterSchools" and the people who run these schools and defend them, whether Turkish or Non-Turkish, deny the fact that there are really obvious links to this movement. I also have seen clips of YT where a little girl who attended this school got viciously harassed by the Turkish staff working there because of how she wore a Catholic Rosary Necklace. Also, teachers at these Charter Schools also even invite kids to sleepovers (I wonder what those teachers do at the sleepovers too). I also heard stories about how people at those charter schools forced 1st graders to Scrub Toilets. I also heard cases of teachers also raping students as well. I also know the stories about how they hire teachers from Turkey via H1B Visa Fraud and they lie about the fact not many American teachers are into teaching Math and Science. LIES LIES LIES. There are plenty of qualified American Math and Science teachers who are unemployed because there are a bunch of teachers from Turkey who is linked to a movement where they worship a man who is more dangerous and radical then Khomeini. Trying to use Teachers of all ethnicities are just simply a smokescreen to cover up the facts and the realities. These schools either need to be shut down, or they need to fire all the Gulen supporting staff. The Gulen movement is no different then the 4th Reich and is bent up in world domination and Sharia Law. These people use smokescreens to claim "ohhh you are Islamophobic" and "ohhh you are against Turkish Culture." Look, how could I be racist when I am from Turkish descent myself. WE NEED TO STOP THESE SCHOOLS AND INTERFAITH PLACES, PERIOD!

Anonymous said...

As an American parent at MSA Santa Clara, it's very true. There are people of Turkish descent who are clearly not qualified to have their jobs.
There is also a prayer room. Not okay.
They cater to their Muslim students and the American students have to conform or be booted.
Very questionable.