County Says No to New Magnolia Charter Plan
The many speakers arguing that Magnolia shouldn't be closed only confused the issue.The hearing's purpose was considering the proposal for the new charter, not continuing Magnolia's;which in any case isn't being closed. Its lease with SCUSD for the Central Park school is expiring, and the County Board has no role in district contracts. When it was signed, Magnolia was told it was likely the district wouldn't renew it because, as turns out to be the case, the school is needed to relieve over–crowding at other SCUSD schools, and the district plans to reopen it for the 2016–2017 school year.
The County Board unanimously denied SVSA'spetition for the same reasons that SCUSD did when Magnolia/SVSA presented the identical proposal in January: that "The petitioners are demonstrably unlikely to successfully implement the program set forth in the petition."
The reasons include inadequate financial plans, identification of start–up funds,and description of the school's K–5 program(Magnolia is grades 6–12). Further, because in its three presentations Magnolia made such a point of its high–achieving students, Board members expressed skepticism that SVSA could meet legal requirements to serve students at all ability levels.
Board President Leon Beauchmanalso said that the fact that none of the students who spoke had been at Magnolia more than two years gave him "an uncomfortable feeling about the viability of the school in its current configuration.
"It's difficult for us to separate Magnolia from the STEM Academy," he said. "A lot of the petition cites Magnolia as a reason to approve [SVSA]. I would remind folks that the charter law gives preference to schools targeting underperforming students. What that means is you have a higher bar."
Because Magnolia is a county charter school, the district isn't obliged to provide facilities unless more than half its students are SCUSD residents. The district gets $500,000 in lease payments, but must give Magnolia $1.2 million for the Santa Clara students that attend.
Shortly after the school's request to extend the lease was refused last June,Magnolia administration and parents presented aproposal for a district charter, SVSA. When this SCUSD turned it down, Magnolia took its petition to the County Board.
In 2008, Magnolia wanted a county charter "to facilitate the provision of instruction in a multi–site setting ... As schools of choice, Magnolia Foundation schools enroll students from wide residence areas ... [and] from many different school districts, private schools and home–schooling families." SVSA's proposal is to enroll mainly SCUSD students.
"From the get–go you came to us and said Magnolia was going to be county–wide and acted like a [county] destination charter," said Board Member Anna Song. That made it difficult to reconcile the new positioning as a district school. "Now today we're being asked to consider a petition for a new school, the STEM Academy.
"We're coming back again and again to Magnolia," she continued, referring to the fact that Magnolia has needed emergency help more than once. "They said they didn't need Prop 31 [district facilities], they had sites lined up. When this contract was signed it was clear there was no opportunity to extend. It would have been much better to come to us a year ago as Magnolia and ask us for help. [Now] you comein the 11th hour. I would like to see this succeed. But to do that, you have to be more transparent."
Magnolia's Chief Growth Officer, Frank Gonzalez, who's been on the job two months, said Magnolia has asked for classrooms in Milpitas, Sunnyvale, and had contacted private schools for space. "I'm up here two, three days a week. [One problem is] the high cost of real estate here. I have been meeting with Stan Rose [SCUSD Superintendent] to submit a [request for a lease] extension.
All Magnolia is asking is a year's extension."
One reason for the County Board's concern – and one reason why Magnolia principal Yilmaz Ak may be seeking to disconnect from the Magnolia Public Schools (MPS) organization – is the closure of two Magnolia schools last June by Los Angeles Unified after an audit uncovered financial mismanagement.
The audit found thatMPSwas insolvent; with some schools operating at a deficit and profitable schools lending money to the parent organization. In addition, auditors found that MPS paid $200,000 for non–employees' immigration fees and lawyers. MPS also paid a company with interlocked board membership, Accord Institute, a third of its budget for services overlapping its own operations. MPS disputes these claimsand recently hired a new CEO.
As a result of the LAUSD audit, the California State Auditor launched a statewide audit of the Magnolia Education and Research Foundation (MERF) and Magnolia Science Academies, expected to be complete in May.
Magnolia Santa Clara got its start in 2008 under the auspices of MERF as part of a chain of more than 100 U.S. charter schools, widely believed to have ties to a wealthy Turkish theologian and media mogul, Fethullah Gulen, who lives in seclusion in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains.
Gulen is founder of a modernist, largely philosophical variant of Islam, sometimes called Hizmet ("service"); emphasizing education and tolerance in a civil society. He's a political enemy of Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who tried unsuccessfully to extradite Gulen.
Gulen–linked schools have predominantly Turkish staffs and offer Turkish language classes and cultural events.
The schools are sometimes accused of being training grounds for a Gulen fifth column –– much as Catholic schools a century ago were believed by some to be training grounds for a Vatican fifth column.
1. March 2009: Santa Clara County Board of Education approves the charter petition for Magnolia Science Academy-Santa Clara, a countywide charter. The charter was approved for a three-year period (July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010). The school did not open as planned in fall 2009. In early 2010, the charter was revised.
2. Fall 2010: Magnolia opens MSA-Santa Clara at a site in Sunnyvale (1095 Dunford Way). This is the first of three charter schools for which a 3-year charter was granted to them by the board of the Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE).
3. Fall 2012: MSA-Santa Clara moves into the campus at 2720 Sonoma Place in Santa Clara which belongs to Santa Clara Unified. This site was the longtime home to a historically important Santa Clara school, John Millikin Elementary School. The lease agreement is for three years only: 2012-13, 2013-14, 2014-15 (exp. June).
4. Jan. 2013: SCCOE grants a five-year renewal to Magnolia despite the district finding it has a negative cash flow, poor fiscal accounting and a problem with internal controls. Anna Song is the only trustee who dissented. Also, Magnolia never opened its promised other two charter schools in Santa Clara County.
5. May 2013: SCCOE issues a Notice of Concern to MSA-Santa Clara, citing "failure to meet generally accepted accounting principals." pdf
6. June 2014: With MSA-SC's lease due to expire at the end of 2014-15, Magnolia makes its first request to Santa Clara Unified for a lease extension. It is denied.
7. Oct. 2014: Petition for a totally brand new charter school, the STEM Academy of Silicon Valley (SASV), was submitted to Santa Clara Unified. Seeing the writing on the wall (that MSA-SC will have to close if it cannot get its lease extended or find another site) -- and with the Magnolia organization in turmoil in LAUSD, etc. -- principal Yilmaz Ak and a group of individuals attempt to open a brand new charter school for 2015-16. Supposedly this school would not be operated by Magnolia, but it clearly would be a reconstituted version of MSA-SC that could enroll its soon-to-be-school-siteless student body. Clearly they did this with the hope that the new charter school would qualify for a Santa Clara Unified site under Prop 39. And/or maybe they could have qualified for some start-up grant that would help them lease a space.
8. Jan. 2015: The SCUSD board unanimously votes against the SASV proposal.
9. Feb 2015: SCCOE hearing on SASV (at some point Yilmaz Ak, et al, submitted the same proposal to the Santa Clara County authorizer)..
10. Mar. 4, 2015: Yilmaz Ak submits letter to SCCOE urging them to call a special meeting to decide on SASV asap. He explains that he has applied for Prop 39 facilities and must have the charter approved by March 15th. He closes the letter with, "I would like to avoid having to turn to the courts to settle this issue."
11. March 6, 2015: For the 3rd time, the Magnolia community comes to a Santa Clara Unified meeting to try to persuade the school board to extend their lease for the campus on Sonoma Place (sometimes called the "Central Park" site).
12. March 11, 2015: SASV was unanimously denied its charter application by the board of SCCOE.
13. March 17, 2015: Magnolia CEO Caprice Young comes up to the Bay Area. Holds a town hall meeting w/MSA-SC families and meets with and/or threatens who knows?
Magnolia Science Academy is without a doubt a Gulen Managed charter school
The Gulen Movement is fantastic at advertising, PR, and bestwowing fake honors on their students, politicians, local media and academia. The Parents4Magnolia blog is NOT American parents it is members of the Gulen Movement in damage control mode. Magnolia Science Academy, Pacific Technology School and Bay Area Technology is the name of their California schools. They are under several Gulen NGOs: Pacifica Institute, Willow Education, Magnolia Educaiton Foundation, Accord Institute, Bay Area Cultural Connection. Hizmet aka Gulen Movement will shamelessly act like satisifed American parents or students. They will lie, cajole, manipulate, bribe, blackmail, threaten, intimidate to get their way which is to expand the Gulen charter schools. If this doesn't work they play victim and cry "islamophobia". Beware of the Gulen propagandists and Gulen owned media outlets. DISCLAIMER: if you find some videos are disabled this is the work of the Gulen censorship which has filed fake copyright infringement complaints to Utube