How the Harmony schools
serve the Gulen Movement
by C.A.S.I.L.I.P.S. - Citizens Against Special Interest Lobbying in Public Schools
Gulen charter schools provide revenue for Gulenist businesses, and “win over” students in various ways that benefit the Gulen Movement, either by steering them towards a positive view of Turkey and Gulenist Turkish culture, or by recruiting them to perform various services for the Gulen Movement. Some specific examples for the Harmony Public Schools in Texas are given here.
Here is an outline:
1. Schools contracting to Gulenist businesses
2. Students used for political advocacy
3. Students taken on field trips that advertise for Gulenist businesses or orgs.
4. Graduates steered towards serving as future teachers in Harmony schools
5. Mysterious land deals between schools and Gulenist organizations
Details for each point are below.
1. SCHOOLS CONTRACTING TO GULENIST BUSINESSES
Public school dollars are diverted to the Gulen Movement through the charter schools’ purchases of goods and services. Clear conflicts of interest arise in many cases where school officials also have direct financial interests in the businesses.
Ace Test Prep/Preparation, Texas Gulf Institute
Harmony Science Academy Lubbock drafted a “Technology Plan” for the period 2008-2011.
Under the section dealing with the Objective 5.2 “Encourage collaboration with parents, higher education, businesses and community,” there are references to collaboration with Texas Gulf Institute. It is stated that “Facilities are available for ACE Preparation.” Note that Texas Gulf Institute also does business as “Ace Test Preparation.” It is further stated that “Adult Literacy technology training sessions will be held in the Texas Gulf Institute (TGI) training labs.” It is unclear how adult literacy could fall under the legitimate activities of a K-12 public school, but the reference to “training session logs” as “evidence” makes it clear that this has already occurred under the auspices of Harmony Lubbock.
The Texas Gulf Institute and Ace Test Prep are both Gulenist businesses. On one document from Ace Test Preparation, Kudbettin Aksoy, Ozgur Ozer and Jeannette Okur are named. All these individuals have many ties to the Gulen Movement. Connections for Aksoy and Ozer can be seen on this page; Okur has ties to the Gulenist Raindrop Turkish House. The Texas Gulf Foundation (Texas Gulf Institite) is also connected to the Gulen Movement through a loan from Cahit Gezgin; Gezgin is active with the Gulenist Institute for Interfaith Dialog.
Kudbettin Aksoy works for both Harmony Science Academy and Ace Test Prep – a clear conflict of interest. Public school officials should not be allowed to direct school money to businesses that they are stakeholders in.
Karadag Law Firm
The IRS Form 990 for the Cosmos Foundation shows $178,520 in legal work contracted to the Karadag Law Firm. This firm, according to its website, offers legal services in 3 areas: (1) Serious Injury and Wrongful Death; (2) Commercial Law (where the amount at issue is over one million dollars) and (3) Legal Consultation for Turkish Nationals on Behalf of the Consulate General of Turkey. We see no evidence that Cosmos had need of services in categories (1) and (2). It seems most likely that these legal expenses were for immigration, although this has not been officially confirmed.
Karadag Law Firm is Gulenist, as evidenced by the fact that Fatih Yigit, a Secretary and Board Member of the Cosmos Foundation, is also a case manager at Karadag. This dual affiliation is a conflict of interest. Another connection is that the firm’s owner, Yalcin Karadag, trademarked the term “Peaceful heroes” for the “Institute of Interfaith Dialog for the World Peace,” a major Gulenist organization.
The connection between Karadag and the Harmony schools is shown by an expired online job posting that says:
"Education Harmony Science Academy in El Paso , TX seeks Asst.
THE KARADAG LAW FIRM, P.L.L.C. | HOUSTON, TX
Work Type Full time
Job Description Education
Harmony Science Academy in El Paso, TX seeks Asst. Principal to plan, direct, and coordinate the academic, clerical, and auxiliary activities of charter middle and high school. Mail resumes to: Cosmos Foundation, Inc., 9431 W. Sam Houston Pkwy S, Suite 202, Houston, TX 77099, Attn: Mr. Almus. Refer to Ad #CH"
Nearly all Gulenist websites in Texas, including the Harmony schools sites, are produced by Helix Design, a Gulenist company.
Helix’s address is 10700 Kinghurst St.Houston, Texas 77099.
This is also the address of Nur International, with website showing contacts firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com The first address is clearly referring to Engin Fercan Kalkan (see Kalkan construction below). The second refers to Sebahattin Ziyanak, who has connections to the Raindrop Turkish House, as well as to the Center for Turkish Studies; both are Gulenist.
A Fatma Ziyanak works at Harmony Science Academy and may possibly be related to Mr. Ziyanak.
Nur International’s website states that “We offer a range of products including wholesale and retail of personal casual attire and school uniforms.” It appears likely that Nur supplies uniforms to the Harmony schools, all of which require them.
Construction of school buildings: Turkish companies Atlas, Ege
IRS Form 990s for the Cosmos Foundation show millions of dollars in contract work granted to Atlas Construction, Ege Construction, and “Rainbow Construction.”
Ege Construction $1,154,005
Atlas Construction $1,344,671
Atlas Texas Construction 6,709,375
Ege Construction 790,364
Atlas Construction is the US branch of a Turkish company, Atlas Grup. Their website shows that their projects have included remodeling and construction of a gymnasium for Harmony Science Academy, as well as a gymnasium for Dove Science Academy. Other clients include the Kalkan Business Center and the Raindrop Foundation in Ridgeland, Mississippi, both Gulenist.
While the other projects Atlas lists on its site have dollar amounts given, the amounts for the US school projects are not shown.
Yunus Dogan is the CEO of Atlas Texas. His connections to the Gulen Movement include his appearance at the Gulenist 2010 Turkic Fest in Houston. He is also on the board of ISWEEEP, a Houston-based Gulenist competition.
The Atlas Texas website http://atlastxconstruction.com/ is now a broken link. The address given on Cosmos’ IRS Form 990, 5065 Westheimer Rd, Houston, is at the Houston Galleria (a large shopping mall).
Ege Construction is also a Turkish company; its ties to the Gulen Movement have not been documented yet.
Construction of school buildings: Rainbow Painting
On Cosmos’ IRS Form 990 for 2006, a company named "Rainbow Construction" at 12722 Ashford Meadow Drive Houston 77082 is listed as receiving $2,343,777 in contract work. There is a company at this address called Rainbow Painting:
From the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts website:
RRM CO. RAINBOW PAINTING INC
1717 MADISON ST
CINNAMINSON, NJ 08077-2618
Status: NOT IN GOOD STANDING
Registered Agent: RABIYE KILIC
12722 ASHFORD MEADOW DR
HOUSTON, TX 77082
SOS Registration Date: April 13, 2009
K&K CO. RAINBOW PAINTING & REMODELING LLC
1717 MADISON ST
CINNAMINSON, NJ 08077-2618
Status: NOT IN GOOD STANDING
Registered Agent: OMER KILIC
8206 PRAIRIE WIND LANE
HOUSTON, TX 77040
SOS Registration Date: March 12, 2007
Note the New Jersey address. Several individuals with last name “Kilic” have lived at 1717 Madison St Cinnaminson NJ 08077. This is also the address of a company called “Four Seasons Painting.”
Based on their address and website photo, Rainbow Painting is located in a house in a residential neighborhood, which is surprising for a company that received 2.3 million dollars in contract work in one year. Clients listed on Rainbow’s website include Harmony Science Academy and Dove Science Academy. It is hard to think of a convincing justification for why Dove in Oklahoma used a paint company located in Houston, Texas.
More concerning is the fact that both Rainbow companies were registered with the Texas Secretary of State after the time period covered by the Cosmos Form 990.
The Rainbow Painting website was produced By Helix Designs, and Helix owns the rainbow-painting.com domain name as well.
Construction of school buildings: Kalkan
School construction has also been done by Kalkan Development and Construction; their website shows clients including Helix Design (Gulenist), the Texas Turkish-American Chamber of Commerce (Gulenist), and Harmony Science Academy. Kalkan even includes an advertisement for Harmony Science Academy-Houston on their website, describing it as “one of best school in Texas and in the Nation as an exemplary status,” and linking to their website. Fercan Engin Kalkan, a.k.a. Engin Kalkan, Fercan Kalkan, Engin Fercan Kalkan, is owner and corporate officer of Kalkan Development and Construction, and has many connections to the Gulenist organizations Raindrop Turkish House and Institute of Interfaith Dialog, and is moreover listed as a employee of Atlas Grup (see above).
Construction of school buildings: Solidarity
More recently, a company called Solidarity has been building Gulen charter school facilities. There are two Texas companies named Solidarity, Solidarity Contracting LLC and Solidarity Construction Services, LLC. The registered agent of Solidarity Construction Services, LLC, which is currently “not in good standing” according to the State of Texas, is Gulenist Yasar Tiryakioglu, who was President of Raindrop Turkish House as well as a corporate officer of Helix Design. The former company built the Harmony School of Advancement, the Harmony School of Art andTechnology, and is currently working on the Harmony School of Political Science.
The contact person for Solidarity Contracting LLC is Levent Ulusal, who has connections to the Raindrop Turkish House (Gulenist) and TTACC – Texas Turkish American Chamber of Commerce (Gulenist).
Solidarity’s website shows:
Recent Projects Completed - Solidarity Contracting LLC
- Harmony Science Academy - School Remodel / Houston, Texas
Dollar Value: $1,500,000 Completion: 10/15/09
- San Antonio School of Science & Technology / Corpus Christi, Texas
Dollar Value: $1,150,000 Completion: 08/20/09
Levent Ulusal's business expanded into New Mexico where it has the exact same street address as the Albuquerque School of Excellence (a Gulen charter school).
Solidarity Investments LLC
13201 Lomas Blvd NE
Albuquerque, NM 87112-7001
The magazine “Construction Leaders Today” featured Levent Ulusal in its Spring 2011 edition. The following line from the article is an admission that this business is driven primarily by Gulenist education enterprises:
“Located in Houston, Texas, Solidarity Contracting handles general contracting, architectural and engineering consulting, and structural design mostly in the area of educational facilities, including college buildings, k-12 schools and daycare centers.”
Ulusal’s experience in construction dates only back to around 2009:
“Ulusal earned his civil engineering bachelor's degree in his homeland of Turkey and came to the United States in 2000 earning an MBA in corporate finance. He worked in investment banking and accounting for eight years but has always been interested in construction.”
The article refers to the expansion of the company into New Mexico:
“The company will also work in surrounding states, with plans to broaden into New Mexico in the near future.”
This line raises the question of whether Solidarity’s main function is to collect overhead:
“Solidarity does not employ a lot of laborers and instead subcontracts out on most jobs.”
North American College is a Gulenist institution; Yuksel Alp Aslandogan is its president:
“A newly-completed building for North American College in Houston was a word-of-mouth job and is located prominently next to a major highway.”
A news article said the opening of the school was delayed because the construction was behind schedule:
"One school on a tight schedule, an arts building for the Harmony School of Art and Technology in Houston, Texas, was a design/ build job completed in about one year with a four-month design process and eight-month construction schedule."
"A current project for the Harmony School in Austin is an 81,000 sq. ft. political science building that is powerful and regal in nature with a front facade styled after the White House."
2. STUDENTS USED FOR POLITICAL ADVOCACY
The following description of a “field trip” found on a Harmony Public Schools website shows that students were used to advertise the Harmony schools to state elected officials, and to attend a political rally.
"Harmony Science Academy (HSA) Bryan/College Station took a field trip to Austin, Texas on February 9th in order to attend a charter school rally and meet with state leaders. HSA students, staff and parents met with Governor Rick Perry and Representative Fred Brown at the state Capitol. Governor Perry spoke about the importance of parental involvement in education as well as the university choices in the state of Texas. Principal Harun Karan and Cluster Superintendent Bilgehan Yasar informed Governor Perry about the mission and goals of the Harmony School System. After meeting with state leaders, HSA students and staff attended a Texas Charter Schools Association rally on the South entrance of the Capitol. Hosted by the Governer, students had an unforgettable opportunity to tell about their Harmony experience to Governor Perry."
3. STUDENTS TAKEN ON FIELD TRIPS THAT ADVERTISE GULENIST BUSINESSES
Harmony Science Academy Lubbock students were taken on a trip to visit colleges that included North American College in addition to several other Texas universities.
The other universities included on the trip, Southern Methodist University, University of North Texas, Baylor University, and Rice University, are far more well-established, and it seems the main reason North American College was included is because it is a Gulenist institution.
The description of the visit states that “At North American College, students learned that having their college education funded is not a hard feat. For students who graduate from Harmony Schools and choose teaching, they will receive a full scholarship to North American College.” Thus, the trip also involved advertising the “Grow Your Own Teachers” program, described below.
Coskun Cetinkaya, who is high-level administrator in the Harmony Public Schools system, is also Vice President for Academic Affairs at North American College, and Placement and Externship Coordinator for the associated Texas Gulf Institute. Yuksel Alp Aslandogan, who acted as a spokesman for the Gulen Movement in a PBS article that clearly connected the Harmony schools to the Movement, is President of North American College. Aslandogan also attempted to found a Gulen charter school in Illinois. This shows a major conflict of interest in Harmony schools advertising North American College, a private institution, to students.
Field trips to a business in which school administrators are stakeholders creates a conflict of interest.
4. GRADUATES STEERED TOWARDS SERVING AS FUTURE TEACHERS IN HARMONY SCHOOLS
The Cosmos Foundation has started a “Grow Your Own Teachers Program,” which aims to recruit future teachers for the Harmony schools out of the pool of Harmony students.
The program makes forgivable loans to Harmony students if they promise to “begin teaching full‐time with Harmony Public Schools the first semester immediately following graduation or in the Fall of the following school year, and continuing for a period of years as agreed upon in the initial contract.” Thus, these students are making a multi-year job commitment before they are even out of high school, and they are making it to the same private company that is running their high school.
This program follows the methodology that the Gulen Movement has already used with great success in Turkey, where students are recruited into serving the Movement through the promise of future career opportunities. As noted by researchers Dr. Joshua Hendrick and Aydin Ozipek, such opportunities are the main factor driving most people to participate in the Gulen Movement.
The following line from the information document “Participants will be selected based upon selection criteria, application review, references from high school teachers, coaches and/or sponsors and interviews with the GYOT committee and the principal,” shows that Gulenists will have complete control over which students are selected into this program.
Since the Cosmos Foundation handles the funds for all the Harmony Public Schools, it is impossible to say to what extent their revenue, much of which comes from either the state or federal government, will be used to fund this program, which is not clearly beneficial to the taxpayer.
This program is highly advantageous to the Harmony schools in several ways. Harmony graduates have already been conditioned to the way the schools operate and are likely to regard the school network favorably since they are alumni. Also, it is a psychological fact that students, even after they become adults, never completely break out of the student-teacher relationship with their former teachers. Thus, the Gulenist teachers and administration have a psychological advantage in dealing with former Harmony students, who are more likely to be compliant and to follow their guidance. There is much evidence that teachers in Gulenist schools are abused and subject to excessive pressures. We suspect that Harmony graduates would be far less likely to show resistance than teachers recruited through normal channels.
5. MYSTERIOUS LAND DEALS BETWEEN SCHOOLS AND GULENIST ORGANIZATIONS
It is not clear how following land deal benefited the Gulen Movement, but there is something strange about it:
May 28, 2008: Sky Foundation buys commercial property at 4444 N CLASSEN BLVD, Oklahoma City, for $780,000. (Sky Foundation is the charter holder for Dove Science Academy, a Gulen charter school. But it doesn't seem that this 10,700-square-foot building was ever used by Sky for a school.)
August 27, 2010: Yuksel Alp Aslandogan (Gulenist) buys the property from Sky for $1,025,000.
Dec 27, 2010: Rain Drop Foundation Inc (based in Houston; Gulenist) which runs Raindrop Turkish House buys the property from Yuksel Alp Aslandogan for $650,000.In just 4 months, the fair market value could not have dropped by $350,000.