Two Houston charter school pioneers seeking new campuses

Feb 13, 2019 by

Former leaders of the Harmony and YES Prep public schools networks each want to start new charter ventures in the Houston area, potentially enrolling thousands of students.

Soner Tarim, CEO of Harmony Public  Schools talks to Saen board Wednesday January 18, 2017

Soner Tarim, CEO of Harmony Public Schools talks to Saen board Wednesday January 18, 2017

Organizations led by Soner Tarim, the co-founder of Harmony Public Schools, and Jason Bernal, the one-time CEO of YES Prep Public Schools, are among the 14 Houston-area nonprofits seeking to obtain approval to create charter networks in the region, according to applications submitted to the Texas Education Agency.

The requests will be reviewed in the coming months by TEA officials, who have approved about 16 percent of applications in recent years.

Although both since have left their positions, Tarim and Bernal remain among the most notable education names in the Greater Houston area.

Tarim helped open the first Harmony campus in 2000, overseeing the network’s expansion to 50-plus campuses enrolling 33,250 students across the state. Tarim stepped down as CEO in 2017, the year he was honored as “Leader of the Year” by the Texas Charter Schools Association, to focus on advocacy.

Harmony Science Academy aka Harmony Schools are NOT high performing, Dr. Soner Tarim is no educator he is a Gulen puppet master. Through their non profits like: Turquoise Council, Gulen Institute, Raindrop Turkish House and more, they were able to bribe in politicians – send them to their native Turkey (when they were allowed entry) and stuff these politicians pockets full of thousands. Some of their receipants are: Sheila Jackson Lee, Alma Allen and Al Green., Soner Tarim also has tried to branch out into Alabama with LEAD Academy application that failed its approval – Soner is trying to latch onto non Turkish people to be his front person. Just this week the lead Gulenist Kemal Oksuz was sentenced on his bribery case that included many politicians from Texas allowing this group to control the largest publicly funded network in Texas and create a sub group called Science and Technology School (5) they operate their own construction firms, busing, catering and uniform they make billions off of Texas taxpayers but the worst is they got bonds voted in that are secured by the taxpayers of Texas. Should Harmony skip out on their bond payment and flee the country (as many Gulenists have) the taxpayers of Texas will be left holding the bag. All the Gulen schools claim to be high performing only they are not, we have several lawsuits and dis-satisfied families coast to coast. As well as former Teachers some Gulenists some not who have filed EEOC lawsuits.

Harmony schools last year averaged a state accountability score of 84, equivalent to a “B” grade, with several campuses earning among the highest marks in the state. The network educates students from a wide array of ethnic, racial and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Tarim now leads a group seeking to open Royal Public Schools, which would serve students in the Greater Houston and Austin areas. The network would seek to gradually open two elementary schools, one middle school and one high school in the same Houston area, located near the Sam Houston and Westpark tollways. At capacity, the Houston enrollment would total about 2,400 students.

Tarim and others involved with Royal Public Schools unsuccessfully sought a charter last year, missing the cut following the TEA’s application review.

Bernal started at YES Prep as a teacher in 1998, rising to CEO of the widely-lauded network in 2011. He resigned in 2015 and joined Houston ISD as then-superintendent Terry Grier’s “transformation” officer, responsible for raising achievement at 47 of the district’s longest-struggling campuses. Bernal served as a schools support officer under subsequent superintendents, overseeing fewer schools.

Bernal and Neighborhood Schools Inc., a newly formed nonprofit comprised of alumni from the KIPP charter school network, are seeking approval for single campuses on Houston’s north side and west side. They anticipate serving 725 students in 2020, with a final capacity of 2,800 students.

Five other applicants are fellows of Building Excellent Schools, a Boston-based organization that trains future charter school leaders. The TEA last year approved two applications from Building Excellent Schools fellows to open networks in the Houston area.

Two other notable names in Houston education circles, former Houston ISD school board president Michael Lunceford and charter school leader Lois Bullock, lead a group seeking approval for two charter schools in the Beaumont area.

Lunceford served on the HISD board for eight years before declining to seek re-election in 2017. Bullock has operated in-district HISD charter schools since 1998, currently overseeing eight campuses with a combined enrollment of 4,150 students. One of Bullock’s charter networks sought to take control of 10 HISD lowest-performing schools as part of the district’s effort to stave off state sanctions in April 2018, but HISD trustees never voted on the proposal following backlash over the arrangement.

Source: Two Houston charter school pioneers seeking new campuses – Houston Chronicle

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