Charter chief says school met needed benchmarks

Truebright CEO Bekir Duz. ( Steven M. Falk / Staff Photographer )
Truebright CEO Bekir Duz. ( Steven M. Falk / Staff Photographer ) (Steven M. Falk)
Posted: April 28, 2013

The chief executive officer of a North Philadelphia charter school that is fighting to remain open testified during a Philadelphia School District hearing Friday that the school met the state's academic benchmarks for 2012.

Bekir Duz of the Truebright Science Academy Charter School testified during a two-hour hearing at the district's headquarters that focused on whether the school's operating charter should be renewed.

Duz also said his school had a curriculum and offered an Advanced Placement biology course in the 2011-12 academic year.

Duz's comments countered statements from Susan Farley-Ellison, a former administrator. She testified this month that Truebright lacked a curriculum and said that in the charter-renewal application filed in 2011, it offered Advanced Placement courses that did not exist.

Farley-Ellison, who had been the supervisor of curriculum and instruction in 2010-11, left Truebright in July 2011.

Duz said that shortly after he arrived at Truebright in the fall of 2011, Regenna A. Jalon, the former head of the school's English department, gave him a thick binder containing Truebright's English curriculum for seventh to 12th grades.

He said most of the material had been downloaded from the School District's website but some came from the state Department of Education's site.

Jalon, who worked at Truebright for four years, has a civil rights suit pending in U.S. District Court that alleges that the Turkish-run charter discriminated against employees based on gender and national origin.

Truebright is one of more than 130 charter schools that have been linked to Fettulah Gulen, a controversial Turkish imam who lives in the Poconos.

Truebright's board, top administrators, and a third of its teachers are Turkish. Many are working in the United States on nonimmigrant visas.

Duz has denied that Truebright has ties to Gulen.

During his testimony Friday, Duz said that the College Board had authorized Truebright to offer AP biology in 2011-12.

Under questioning by Miles Shore, the district's assistant general counsel, Duz said only two of the 12 students who signed up for the class last year took the AP exam, which allows students who successfully complete the course to earn college credits. He said neither student passed.

A year ago, the School Reform Commission took the first step in closing Truebright by voting not to renew its operating charter on 18 grounds, including poor academic performance, lack of certified teachers, and allegations that the charter's board did not respond to concerns of staff or parents.

Truebright appealed, triggering a hearing that gives the school an opportunity to present its case for staying open.

The hearing is scheduled to resume May 2 at 10 a.m.


Contact Martha Woodall at 215-854-2789 or martha.woodall@phillynews.com

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