A message from Robert Amsterdam

More than 40,000 parents and concerned citizens in school districts such as Chicopee, Agawam, Holyoke, Westfield, and West Springfield have viewed our open letter regarding the proposed expansion of the Hampden Charter School of Science to a new campus in Westfield, which will be up for a vote before the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on Monday evening, February 27.

Many were surprised and outraged to learn of Hampden’s connection to a nationwide network of foreign-controlled charters known for abusive practices, and we’ve received numerous emails from parents who say they intend to fiercely resist the growth of this school network.

This morning, the Boston Herald published a brief article (about these concerns regarding Hampden, and – unsurprisingly – the school’s administration flatly denies any connection to the organization of Fethullah Gülen.

Not only is Hampden’s denial almost comically incredulous, it is also a hallmark of how Gülen schools misrepresent themselves constantly – what some academics describe as their culture of “strategic ambiguity.”

Ignore the emotions around this and just look at the public records. According to the charter application, the school’s founders are Volkan Yesilyurt, Recai Yucel, Maral Charyeva, and Tunzala Eynula, several of whom are tied to previous applications to open Gülen affiliated schools, and one who used to work for a subsidiary of Apple Educational Services, the landlord and main service provider to the school.

Speaking to the Boston Herald, Dominic Slowey, spokesman for the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association, said that any attempt to bring “loose inferences” needlessly discredits the schools’ educational mission, denouncing what he calls “campaigns based on innuendo and xenophobia.”

But there is absolutely nothing “loose” about Hampden’s connection to Pioneer Charter Schools of Science, which was identified as a Gülen school by a Boston Globe investigation in 2013.

Hampden and Pioneer are closely affiliated with each other through a series of contracts and property deals—in fact, the Pioneer CEO Barish Icin wrote a letter of support for the new Hampden campus discussing how Hampden and Pioneer had already collaborated in key areas, including governance structure, culture, and the establishment of a management structure and network office. Hampden also has a management contract with Apple Educational Services, a company that almost exclusively services Gülen schools throughout the Northeast.

This is a classic example of “double dipping” by this charter operator, as a subsidiary of Apple Educational Services, Johnson Road Properties, is the landlord for Hampden, putting the same parties on both sides of the transaction.

It is offensive and damaging to the taxpayers of the State of Massachusetts for Mr. Slowey and others to give cover to Hampden’s abusive practices under the false claim of persecution, as though these inquiries were xenophobic or “anti-Islam” (never mind that my client, the Republic of Turkey, also happens to be a country of majority Muslim population).

The problem here is NOT religion or national origin – the problem is that the Gülen schools are abusing the public education system to unlawfully siphon away millions of dollars. We have presented documents to the Massachusetts Board showing the many ties between Hampden and the Gülen schools, and highlighting some of the troubling relationships between landlords and service providers.

Please do not take my word for it. Read the exposé recently published by the independent investigative journalists of the New Jersey Record, which discovered that these schools have collected more than $60 million from taxpayers to fund their growth.

So don’t be fooled by Hampden’s attempts to misrepresent their affiliations, and don’t buy into the excuse that they shouldn’t be accountable because of “xenophobia.” Take a close look at the facts, and make your minds up for yourselves. I believe you will agree that it is in the interest of your communities and your students that the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education rejects this application.

-Robert Amsterdam