The new Greenville Renewable Energy EducatioN (GREEN) Charter School held its grand opening on September 27, 2013. It will provide a more experimental, hands-on approach in the building of abstract science knowledge with elective science energy-related courses.
The name makes it clear that the school will place a special emphasis on renewable energy-oriented science through an elementary curriculum with the strategies to:
- "Encourage students to make their ideas explicit and present them with events that challenge their ideas;
- Encourage the process of hypothesizing and generating alternative inspirations of models, enabling the students to explore these alternatives in informal and non-threatening ways, particularly through group discussion, and providing opportunities for students to use their new ideas in a wide ranges of situations so that they can appreciate their utility."
The Project NEED (National Energy Education Development) curriculum and guidelines, aligned with the South Carolina science standards will be used. The purpose is "to teach children to become self-reliant, independent problem-solvers" because "science empowers students to understand our world and how it works," according to the school website.
With plans to add one grade each year through 12th grade until September 2019, the school began this year with grades K-6. Any children residing in the State of South Carolina are eligible to apply to attend the school, accepted on availability in a lottery drawing, with currently attending students having first priority for the following school year. Like all public schools, attendance at charter schools is tuition free.
The school is chartered through the South Carolina Charter School District, not the Greenville County School District. It is located at 1440 Pelham Road in 30,500 square feet of the old 40,000 square foot Pelham Oaks Shopping Center in what used to be a fitness center and grocery store. In three years, the high school will locatein a building next door, and eventually a German restaurant will become the cafeteria and a gym will be built in the current soccer field. A greenhouse building has already begun in order to provide school lunch vegetables and learning experiences.
By the school charter, class size is limited to 16 students with 32 students per grade. Principal Adem Dokmeci, who was principal of River City Science Academy in Jacksonville, Florida in the 2012-2013 school year, says this is not just a school for the privileged, although over 60 percent of the current six-grade qualifies for the gifted and talented programs. Out of 272 attending students, 20 percent based on family income qualify for free or reduced lunch. About one-fifth of the students are Asian, one-fifth African American, and the remainder Caucasian. It is a rigorous college prep school with classes taught above grade-level and is modeled after the Jacksonville, FL charter school.
In a FOX Carolina investigation about Dokmeci (from Istanbul) opening similar charter schools in Florida and New York, the Gülen Movement involvement came up. Read also the transcript from the May 13, 2012 CBS News 60 Minutes entitled U.S. charter schools tied to powerful Turkish imam. Fethullah Gülen, the Turkish Islamic cleric who reportedly does not leave his residence in the gated Pocono Mountains retreat in New York, "tells his followers that to be devout Muslims they shouldn't build mosques - they should build schools." In sermons on the web he says "Studying physics, mathematics, and chemistry is worshiping God."
The charter schools are "founded and mostly run by immigrants from Turkey who are carrying out the teachings of" Gülen. David Dunn, Texas Charter Schools Association, says in the interview with Leslie Stahl, that "because of a deficit of qualified Americans, the schools bring in math and science teachers from Turkey, as this list of visa applications indicates," but it seems strange that some of the visas are for English teachers.
Read what fired teacher Mary Addi says about her Turkish teacher husband having to give 40 percent of each paycheck back in cash and that the schools are created "Because it's a great money-making operation." She gave documents to this effect to federal authorities who told 60 minutes that they are looking into allegations of immigration fraud and misuse of taxpayer money, whether it is being funneled to the Gülen movement.
Per the IRS Form 990 for the 2010-11 fiscal year, the River City Science Academy's charter holder corporation shows total revenue of $5,879,039. The total in all the United States Gülen charter schools for total enrollment of 44,727 that year was $402,823,326. Added schools like GREEN Charter School will increase that figure. The Gulen Charter Schools Weebly site says "While the Gulen charters have obtained a few grants from private sources, the vast bulk of their funds comes from local, state and federal government sources."
View the list of proposed Gulen charter schools on the Citizens Against Special Interest Lobbying in Public Schools website. They quote a May 29, 2010 column from the Turkish newspaper Sabah, "If 600 schools are bought this way in the United States – and that’s what the members of the Gülen movement are striving to do, - and if 200 students graduate from each one of these schools, then 120 thousand sympathizers of Turkey join the mainstream out there every year." See Arizona Daily Star journalist Tim Steller's blog for morre details.
GREEN Charter School is partnering with Upstate institutions like the Shi Center for Sustainability at Furman University and I-CAR of Clemson University. Dr. Abdul Kadir Yildirim is a member of Furman University faculty and Chair of the GREEN Charter School Planning Committee.