I WORKED FOR A GÜLEN MOVEMENT SCHOOL
Jenna Perry* was fresh out of college and looking for her first teaching job. She applied for a job teaching at a charter school. She was surprised and grateful to be hired on as an assistant dean of students.
Jenna knew things were a little off when she interviewed but she needed a job in her field. “I remember going to their website to see a faculty list and there was none, so I googled the school.” Numerous articles popped up about the school’s ties to the Gülen Movement, a recently developed sect of Islam based on the teachings of Fethullah Gülen, the Turkish imam who has been living in exile in Pennsylvania (The same man Michael Flynn was allegedly offered $15 million dollars by the Turkish government to kidnap or deport). One of Gülen’s fundamental teachings was that the study of math and science glorified God and so his followers had begun founding schools to do just that.
Many of the articles agonized that the schools were religiously indoctrinating students, but Jenna never encountered that. However, the school she worked at was not as well funded as other Gülen schools, and it appeared to be run by the seats of administrators’ pants. “I had no business being hired for that job, but my boss worked at a dentist’s office for 6 years before becoming a dean of students so it didn’t seem to matter.” A high degree of nepotism was apparent in the hiring.
Jenna describes not being included in administrative meetings and receiving harsh disciplinary measures for things she could not control. Even as she was rattled by her own treatment, she was distraught over the treatment of the students.
Black students were suspended in huge numbers over other students and Jenna describes an incident in which a Haitian student bumped into a teacher. “The teacher freaked out and reported it as sexual assault.” The student was disciplined with a two day suspension, but his parents beat him so badly he couldn’t go back to school until two days after his suspension ended.
Jenna left after two years. “I couldn’t work for people who not only didn’t care about the kids we were supposed to be nurturing, but actively tried to hurt them.” While what Jenna describes was a terrible experience, she says that having such a bad experience actually had an upside to her. “I can advocate for myself much better, since I got so much practice doing it for kids. And I can now truly not sweat the small stuff because I know where I am now is so much better.”
*A pseudonym has been used to protect privacy.