Truebright, which opened in 2007, is one of more than 130 charters nationwide run by followers of a Turkish imam, M. Fetullah Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in the Poconos.
The FBI and the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education are looking into allegations of kickbacks by Turkish teachers at the charters nationwide, according to sources.
One-third of Truebright's teachers and administrators are Turkish, and most are working in this country on nonimmigrant visas. Those teachers appear to have kept their jobs at the school, which will continue to operate during at least the 2012-13 school year.
The teachers who received certified letters July 3 saying they had lost their jobs were U.S. citizens.
Many of the American instructors Truebright let go were among nine teachers and administrators who filed complaints last year with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging they were being paid less than noncertified Turkish staffers. Those cases are pending.
Teachers and staff members at the publicly funded charter school are not unionized. All are at-will employees with one-year contracts.
Brian Leinhauser, Truebright's attorney, declined Thursday to confirm the number of employees who were not being rehired or to detail the reasons.
"First, the school does not discuss personnel matters publicly regarding individual employees or the number of employees that are offered continued employment," he said in an e-mailed statement.
"However, all decisions related to renewal of employee contracts are based on employee's performance and no consideration is given to the nationality or national origin of the individual teacher. Finally, the school will comply with all of its obligations under state and federal law to maintain appropriate ratios of certified teachers."
Teachers said the letters they received ending their employment cited "issues" they said had never been mentioned in performance reviews or did not pertain to their jobs.
According to the School District's charter-school office, only 60 percent of teachers were certified.
During the SRC hearing that began Tuesday, Leinhauser challenged that rate. He said the staff list Truebright sent to the state Department of Education for the certification calculation mistakenly included administrators and a security guard who were not required to be certified.
He also questioned the district's assertion that Truebright had a high rate of administrative turnover because the school has had two CEOs and one interim CEO in its five-year history.
Bekir Duz, a Turkish national who became Truebright's chief executive in August, has denied that the school was part of a Turkish charter network or under federal investigation.
He also has said Truebright has not discriminated against American-born teachers. He told The Inquirer in the spring that the school adopted a salary scale after the EEOC complaints were filed.
Current and former staff members said the sudden departures of so many teachers would shock students.
"This is not going to benefit the kids at all," said one.
Some former teachers say they plan to attend the SRC hearing on Truebright's charter when it resumes Aug. 20.
Contact Martha Woodall
at 215-854-2789 or email@example.com.