Concept’ s rebuttal of recent news stories in Ohio

May 19, 2011
To our Faculty, Parents, Friends and Supporters:

Recently, there have been news stories on local channels in Ohio about Concept managed schools; Horizon Science Academies and Noble Academies. Those stories use Ron Regan’s story on Cleveland’s Channel 5 that aired on Monday, May 16, 2011 as a reference. As often happens with television news, those stories, including Ron Regan’s Channel 5 story, are edited in a way that, in our view, mislead viewers about the operation of Horizon Science Academies in Ohio. As those stories seem to revolve around a few same issues I am writing to set the record straight and clarify any confusion raised by those reports.

First, such reports attempt to sensationalize the repayment by Horizon Science Academy employees of certain immigration fees and expenses as documented in various school audits.

As most people know, charter schools in Ohio are audited annually by the Auditor of State’s Office. Back in 2001 when Betty Montgomery was the Auditor of State, several Horizon Science Academies voluntarily disclosed to the Auditor’s Office certain expenses associated with the immigration of math and science teachers from Turkey who were going to teach at our new schools in Ohio. Horizon Science Academies were founded by Turkish mathematicians and scientists who wanted to raise the bar for math and science education in Ohio. At the time, there was a nationwide shortage of math and science teachers, so we recruited some highly qualified math and science teachers from Turkey. Just as the Cleveland Municipal School District did when it recruited teachers from India in the 1990s and paid for their travel and immigration expenses, so did we. Additionally, we paid these expenses for the spouses and children of our new employees, just like any private company would. The Auditor of State’s Office permitted the expenses for the employees but not their dependents. Audit reports from 2001 show that three Horizon Science Academies, Cleveland High School, Toledo High School, and Columbus High Schools, paid these expenses for 19 employees and some of their family members totaling up to about $13,000. All of these funds were reimbursed at the time the Auditor’s Office made its ruling, not recently as suggested by Mr. Regan and other reporters. Some stories do not even mention the fact that these funds were reimbursed on a timely and swift manner once the auditors brought it to our attention.

Second, these reports raise concerns about hiring out of state teachers and the issuance of H1B visas to some of our employees. These visas are issued to certain workers with skills in short supply in the United States. The Federal Government determines the criteria for issuing these visas. The Horizon Science Academies simply took advantage of a federal visa program at a time when math and science teachers were in short supply. Currently, less than 9% of the workforce in all of the Horizon Science Academies are participating in this government authorized program. Whenever it makes sense, Horizon Science Academies hire Ohio teachers and support staff.

Third, Mr. Regan’s report on Channel 5 Cleveland, which is used as a reference in other stories, included an interview with a disgruntled former employee named Mary Addi who was terminated in 2009 after she was discovered working a second job on company time. She later filed a complaint with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, which was investigated and denied.

Fourth, such reports raise concerns about the Horizon Science Academy in Dayton, which is leasing its facility from an Ohio limited liability company that is owned by a Turkish businessman who was willing to take a risk on the development of this property as a school, when Dayton area banks and others were not. The Dayton school leases the property for $3.78 a square foot, which is a bargain compared to medium grade office space in Dayton, which is leased for $10 a square foot or more. News stories that make this sound like hundreds of thousand of dollars go oversees is nothing but part of an agenda of sensationalizing their stories.

Fifth, some of those reports raise concerns about borrowed money that was repaid to individuals overseas. When our first school opened in Cleveland in 1999 there were financial challenges. The State of Ohio does not provide any facilities funding for charter schools and banks as a rule will not lend to start up charter schools. After attempting to obtain funding in Cleveland, the founder of Horizon Science Academies, Taner Ertekin, reached out to businessmen in Turkey to find short-term non-interest bearing loans. The school paid the loans back. A portion of the loan ($36,000) was paid back via wire transfer. The Auditors never raised any questions about the loan. Instead, the Auditors questioned the method of repayment. We provided the loan documents to the Mr. Regan at Channel 5 Cleveland. It is ridiculous to present this repayment of a non-interest bearing loan as “practice of spending Ohio school tax dollars overseas” and is far from objective and true journalism.

There are 17 Horizon Science Academies and 2 Noble Academies in Ohio. Together they educate about 5000 students each year. More than 95% of Horizon Science Academy students graduate from high school 100% of those students are accepted to college. Our results speak for themselves with Blue Ribbon Awards, “Excellent” and “Excellent with Distinction” ratings, demand by parents and students, and most importantly 100% college acceptance for many years.

Charter schools including ours are high regulated with increased accountability and autonomy. Annual audits by the state auditors and ongoing reporting and oversight is in place. All of the Concept managed schools are not-for-profit organizations with transparency. All of our records and documentations are available for public review. We take pride in the diversity of our community and are proud of every single of our employees, as they are the ones making unprecedented differences in urban communities. What has made successful is our uncompromising focus on our students not on adults as a diverse community. We assure everyone that we will continue doing so and not let anything take away our focus from student achievement.

Should you have any concerns or questions, please do not hesitate to contact me via e-mail, ucan@conceptschools.org or phone, 224 388-9953 (cell).
Sincerely,
Salim Ucan
Vice President

Below find two support letters from Ohio Coalition for Quality Education and Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools of Concept Schools regarding aforementioned.

Ohio Coalition for Quality Education’s support letter for Concept Schools
Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ support letter for Concept Schools