The Anne Arundel board voted June 6 to renew the school’s charter. But it imposed a number of requirements, including that the school reconstitute its governing board; revamp its lottery system; and comply with school system policies on competitive bidding and employment of foreign nationals.
Asked by the Virginia board to explain the Anne Arundel problems, Kandil said the complaints were unfounded. The former Chesapeake Science Point principal said Anne Arundel officials had painted a skewed picture that didn’t jibe with the school’s strong academic performance.
“The climate over there is actually not strong on understanding of the charter school practices across the nation,” Kandil told the Virginia board.
“The outcomes are not justifying the allegations or accusations, and I think outcomes talk loud and clear,” he said.
More than 120 charter schools nationwide are led by Turkish immigrants, analysts say. Some scholars and critics believe that many of these schools are connected to Fethullah Gulen, an influential Turkish cleric who lives in the Pennsylvania Poconos.
Gulen preaches religious tolerance and math and science education. His followers run hundreds of schools around the world, scholars who track the movement say. Several U.S. schools thought to have ties to Gulen have come under scrutiny from state and federal officials over issues such as reportedly giving preference in contracts to Turkish-owned companies.
Leaders of the Anne Arundel school and the Loudoun charter proposal say they are not affiliated with Gulen. “We are just human beings trying to educate our students, and that’s all,” Kandil said.
Christian Braunlich, a member of the Virginia school board, said he had heard allegations of a Gulen connection to the Loudoun proposal but had no reason to believe them.
The Loudoun proposal would require all students to complete at least one information- technology career certification, such as in Microsoft or Cisco networks.
“That’s going to be so critical for our future job market,” said Sharon Inetas, a Loudoun businesswoman who serves on the proposed school’s governing board. “Maybe we can keep our kids here, keep our community.”
Eric Hornberger, chairman of the Loudoun school board, said the Anne Arundel debate would undoubtedly come up if the proposal advances past the state board.
“You have to weigh all these things carefully and thoughtfully,” Hornberger said. “But just because another school system or another school has a problem doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be the same in Loudoun County.”