LOW-SCORING STUDENTS TOLD TO LEAVE; September 5, 2009, San Antonio (TX) Express-News
Joe Garcia knew his son was struggling with math but never imagined the problem would lead to his being forced to withdraw from a local charter school.
Garcia and another parent allege that Harmony Science Academy, deemed “exemplary” by the state, pushed their children out because of low performance.
“They tell us, ‘You need to come withdraw your son because he didn't pass the TAKS test,” Garcia said, recalling a call from an office receptionist last summer.
Superintendent Soner Tarim and Principal Irfan Turk deny the allegations. Turk has since been reassigned...
Harmony Science Academy schools — there are 25 in Texas — have a solid academic record. Virtually all the 19 campuses rated last year received “exemplary” or “recognized” ratings, the state's top two ratings. The school, which opened in 2006, concentrates on math, science and technology.
The learning environment is atypical of charter schools, which do not receive state money for facilities. It has two cafeterias, a gymnasium and computer lab. Lockers line spacious halls and visitors are welcomed by stone tile and high-backed sofas.
“The building, the environment — that is the proof of how much we value education,” said Zekeriya Yuksel, an area superintendent who has an office on campus.
Garcia and Darlene Lerma, the other parent who says she was forced to withdraw her daughter, praised Harmony's environment and academic record.
Their primary issue with the school was the phone calls they received last summer.
Garcia's son failed the sixth grade TAKS math. Under school policy, students in grades sixth through eighth must pass TAKS to be promoted. Yuksel said the school administered another test to Garcia's son to determine whether he would be promoted. He failed that test, too.
Shortly after, Garcia said he received the call, not from the principal, but from a front-office receptionist.
Lerma said she received a similar call around the same time, after her daughter failed the eighth-grade TAKS the third time.
“I was like, ‘No, what are you talking about?” Lerma said. “I said, ‘I want to talk to the principal. There's no way. I'm not withdrawing her.'”
Both parents said Turk would not meet with them initially to discuss the issue and that they withdrew their students at the time because they didn't know what else to do.
Garcia called TEA, prompting state officials to look into the matter. Tarim assured the agency he would investigate and call all students who had failed TAKS and were no longer enrolled at the school to invite them back, TEA's Marchman said.
Turk now runs the Laredo campus, but Tarim said Friday his new assignment was unrelated to the incident...