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« Reply #30 on: November 20, 2011, 02:39:26 PM »

Scientology amped up donation requests to save the Earth starting in 2001

By Joe Childs and Thomas C. Tobin, Times Staff Writers
In Print: Sunday, November 20, 2011



PART 3

Scientology amped up donation requests to save the Earth starting in 2001 - Synthia!  http://www.tampabay.com/news/scientology/article1201989.ece
Documents - http://www.tampabay.com/specials/2009/reports/project/pdfs/kr-2005-bert-lynn.pdf
http://www.tampabay.com/specials/2009/reports/project/pdfs/kr-2006-luis-garcia.pdf

Church of Scientology responds: Parishioners donate 'because they enthusiastically support their chosen faith'
http://www.tampabay.com/news/scientology/article1202000.ece

Some Scientologists give until they're bankrupt
http://www.tampabay.com/news/scientology/article1201990.ece
All the savings I had - http://www.tampabay.com/specials/2009/reports/project/pdfs/talerico-acct-statement.pdf
Church of Scientology runs afoul of widely accepted best practices for fundraising
http://www.tampabay.com/news/scientology/article1201998.ece
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« Reply #31 on: November 21, 2011, 11:53:15 AM »

Giant 'Super Power' building in Clearwater takes a pause, yet millions keep flowing in

By Joe Childs and Thomas C. Tobin, Times Staff Writers
In Print: Monday, November 21, 2011

http://www.tampabay.com/news/scientology/article1202006.ece

http://www.tampabay.com/
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« Reply #32 on: November 21, 2011, 01:47:30 PM »

                    IRS should review Scientology tax-exempt status

In Print: Monday, November 21, 2011

http://www.tampabay.com/opinion/editorials/article1202497.ece
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« Reply #33 on: November 21, 2011, 07:20:11 PM »

Tax experts: Church's money-raising practices don't appear to threaten tax-exempt status

By Joe Childs and Thomas C. Tobin, Times Staff Writers
In Print: Monday, November 21, 2011

http://www.tampabay.com/news/scientology/article1202009.ece
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« Reply #34 on: November 26, 2011, 02:41:45 PM »

               The OC Couple Who Gave More than $1.3 Million to the Church of Scientology--Only to Leave
By Gustavo Arellano Fri., Nov. 25 2011


Over the past couple of weeks, the St. Petersburg Times has been publishing their latest blockbuster series on the Church of Scientology, that ever-mockable collection of has-been movie stars and good people being driven to donate more and more money just to realize an intergalatic overlord name Xenu is the problem behind it all. Two of those good people are Luis and Rocio Garcia, who gave more than $1.3 million to Scientology since 1982--but left the church last year because they feel the current hierarchy is corrupt beyond belief. Ya think?
The St. Pete profile is here, but Luis penned a fascinating post of his own on the blog of leading Scientology dissenter Marty Rathburn that has a lot of juicy details about how Scientology operates. You should read the entire post, because there is a lot of juicy gossip regarding Scientology's 2006 purchase of a building in downtown SanTana, historically the Masonic Lodge, and restored to its original splendor by evil landlord Mike Harrah before selling it to the Xenu zoo. It's been virtually empty ever since, to the point where the Co$ couldn't even pay their water bill, but Garcia also claims that church volunteers have been forced to sleep in the building every night since 2007 as impromptu security guards, since the area where it stands, as Garcia puts it, "is not precisely Beverly Hills."

Garcia continues to believe in the tenets of Scientology--just not in the Church. Let's hope he reveals more juicy gossip soon...

http://blogs.ocweekly.com/navelgazing/2011/11/luis_and_rocio_garcia_scientology.php
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« Reply #35 on: December 03, 2011, 11:01:11 AM »

Ruth Eckerd Hall calls off Scientology event to benefit Capitol Theatre

By Drew Harwell, Times Staff Writer
In Print: Friday, December 2, 2011

CLEARWATER — A planned Scientology fundraiser benefiting Ruth Eckerd Hall was abruptly canceled by the venue Thursday after an avalanche of criticism by hall supporters.

But a Scientology spokeswoman said late Thursday the church would still host the Jan. 7 benefit, disregarding the "hate mail" and pledging to still pass along all proceeds.

The benefit, Ruth Eckerd's first ever hosted by Scientology, would raise funds for the renovation of the historic Capitol Theatre downtown near Scientology's spiritual headquarters.

A fundraising drive for the theater, owned by the city but managed by Ruth Eckerd Hall, has been stalled for several years.

Only a day after invitations for the Scientology event went out, a "significant number of negative comments" led hall leaders to reconsider, Ruth Eckerd president and CEO Robert Freedman said Thursday afternoon. He said the benefit at the church's Fort Harrison Hotel, including a show by a Scientologist musician, would not go on.

Scientology's announcement that it would still hold the benefit came Thursday evening.

The hall's cancellation of the event was only the latest example of long-standing local tensions over Scientology, an unavoidable presence downtown that some have blamed for its demise.

But it also raises new questions about just how Ruth Eckerd will jump-start the Capitol Theatre renovation campaign. Renovation of the theater and an active performance schedule there have been identified as central to the city's effort to revitalize downtown.

The benefit, an invitation stated, would have included a buffet reception and an "unforgettable performance" of "Chaplin: A Life in Concert" by David Pomeranz, a singer-songwriter who cut the ribbon for the church's first mission in the Philippines.

Reservations would have cost $50, or $75 for better seats and a dessert with Pomeranz. The church had offered to host and underwrite the event, Freedman said, so all proceeds could benefit the theater.

But only eight hours after the invite was sent to a Ruth Eckerd mailing list, the hall began to do damage control. Freedman responded to complaints with a notice saying Scientology had no "ownership or financial interest" in the theater. The church, he added, would not gain access to the personal information of Ruth Eckerd Hall members.

One response came from John Tischner, a Dunedin retiree and Ruth Eckerd supporter who attended a Frank Sinatra tribute at the hall on Sunday and who has tickets to two more shows this winter. He said he couldn't understand why the popular venue would align with an organization surrounded by so much controversy.

"It's blowing their reputation," Tischner told the Times. "I told them, 'I might be reluctant to support you in the future because of this.' "

Clearwater's biggest venue — Ruth Eckerd — and its most visible downtown entity — Scientology — have done business before. In 2007, a crowd of Scientologists, including Tom Cruise and John Travolta, filled Ruth Eckerd for the grand unveiling of "The Basics," a $3,000 volume of digitized scriptures.

But taking financial help from the church, long accused of strong-arm marketing tactics, would represent an unprecedented step for hall leaders struggling to fund restoration of the Capitol, one of Florida's oldest theaters.

When Clearwater bought the Capitol in 2008, Ruth Eckerd pledged to raise $3 million for renovations and $5 million for an endowment fund. Though leaders said that goal would take two years to meet, the campaign remains stuck in stasis.

"Fundraising has been practically nonexistent," said Bill Sturtevant, chairman of the Clearwater Downtown Partnership. "Maybe it's a sign of the times. ... I just don't think it has gone very well."

Katie Pedretty, a Ruth Eckerd spokeswoman, said the canceled benefit would not "have any effect whatsoever" on fundraising.

Freedman will retire at the end of this month after 13 years at Ruth Eckerd, ceding the reins to veteran promoter Zev Buffman.

In applying for the job, Buffman said the Capitol Theatre's renovation was a top priority, and that he wanted "to be part of the growth of downtown."

Contact Drew Harwell at (727) 445-4170 or dharwell@tampabay.com.

http://www.tampabay.com/news/scientology/ruth-eckerd-hall-calls-off-scientology-event-to-benefit-capitol-theatre/1204431

http://www2.tbo.com/news/breaking-news/2011/dec/02/6/scientology-fundraiser-for-clearwater-theater-canc-ar-329800/

http://www.myfoxtampabay.com/dpp/news/local/pinellas/ruth-eckerd-hall-cancels-scientology-backed-benefit-concert-120
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« Reply #36 on: January 03, 2012, 08:43:22 AM »

                      In new year's message, Scientology insider blasts 'extreme' fundraising

By Thomas C. Tobin and Joe Childs, Times Staff Writers
Posted: Jan 01, 2012 03:58 PM

The new year brought a big surprise for the Church of Scientology: One of its most respected and widely known figures went public in dramatic fashion, calling for internal reforms and decrying heavy-handed fundraising practices she says have allowed the church to amass reserves of more than $1 billion.

With an email blast to thousands of current and former Scientologists late Saturday, Debra J. Cook quickly emerged from a quiet private life in San Antonio, Texas. Her message contained a bombshell of a letter urging parishioners to start pushing back against the church's aggressive money demands.

Cook was a prominent figure in the church's Clearwater operation for 17 years. Her strong reputation within Scientology brings new credibility to a growing movement, now more than two years old, to reform the church.

She declared that Scientology staffers are pressured by church managers to engage in "extreme" fundraising campaigns for unnecessarily "posh" new buildings and to enrich the church's membership group, the International Association of Scientologists, known as the IAS.

She said the church is hoarding "well in excess of a billion dollars" in IAS donations, in violation of policies written by church founder L. Ron Hubbard. The money was supposed to be used to disseminate the religion, she said in the letter.

"Only a tiny fraction has ever been spent. ... Only the interest earned from the holdings (has) been used very sparingly to fund projects through grants."

The church did not respond Sunday to requests for comment.

Most of Cook's topics were covered in a recent Tampa Bay Times series, "The Money Machine," in which dozens of church members described coercive selling tactics and deceptive practices used by the church's religious workers.

The members said Scientology workers made unauthorized debits to their internal church accounts and relentlessly pressured them to donate, often blocking them from leaving fundraising events, showing up unannounced at their homes and threatening to slow their spiritual progress if they didn't give.

The series also revealed the scope of the church's money making operations: At least $100 million a year from the Clearwater entity Cook once headed; more than $250 million raised by the IAS just since 2006; and millions more raised annually from book sales and building donations.

Cook said in her letter that the dominance of church leader David Miscavige as the sole source of power in Scientology violates a system of checks and balances put in place by Hubbard before he died in 1986. She said top church executives who could check his authority face "long and harsh" discipline programs and have been absent from their posts for years.

Cook, 50, was the face of Scientology's worldwide spiritual headquarters in Clearwater, known as "Flag." As Flag's "captain" from 1989 to 2006, she acted as the church's local CEO but also was known and respected throughout Scientology. She was the top Clearwater officer in the Sea Org, Scientology's military-style religious order.

A fixture in Flag's magazine, Source, a smiling, confident Cook was always pictured in her formal blue uniform with an upbeat message for parishioners.

She later moved to the church's international management ranks in California, but left the staff in 2008. Cook and her husband, Wayne Baumgarten, also a former church staffer, run a San Antonio-based business consulting firm specializing in Internet marketing, web design, social media, financial planning and other areas.

Cook's pronouncement is a rarity in a church that works hard to keep its secrets and controls former staff long after they leave. While some former church executives have spoken out after defecting, Cook wrote her letter while still a full-fledged insider.

She has stayed in regular contact with practicing Scientologists since her departure from the staff, according to her Facebook page and company website Many are her customers.

She said in her letter she has remained in good standing with the church and was writing fellow Scientologists as someone who remains "completely dedicated" to Scientology and Hubbard.

"However," she added, "there is no question that this new age of continuous fundraising is not our finest moment."

Cook's status in Scientology is sure to change. Typically the church views open criticism as a "suppressive" act and moves to banish violators from church activities while quickly cutting their business and personal ties with practicing members.

Cook could not be reached Sunday for an interview, having emphasized in her letter that she was appealing directly to fellow Scientologists. She told them she did not want to involve the media.

The letter promises to send shock waves through the community of Scientologists loyal to the church after more than two years of unflattering media reports about church management from allegations of violence in the top ranks to repeated stories about the church's controlling nature.

Other high-ranking figures have left in recent years and spoken out. Most notable were Mike Rinder, the former church spokesman, and Marty Rathbun, a top executive who worked for years at Miscavige's side.

But Cook was far better known among average parishioners and she enjoyed an impeccable image, linked as she was to the church's desire to make Flag an upscale and spiritually uplifting destination for all Scientologists.

Some of her Scientologist friends reacted positively on her Facebook page. Others reacted angrily, saying the online discussion was unseemly and should be handled quietly within the church. Still others said they didn't believe it, insisting Cook's Facebook and email accounts had been hacked by church critics.

As the debate simmered on Sunday, Cook pulled the discussion thread from her Facebook page. She also posted this message to the page: "Dear Friends. Yes, the e-mail was written by me. No I am not connected to anyone not in good standing. I did it because of my love and respect for LRH (L. Ron Hubbard) and the desire to see us correct situations that need correcting within our group."

Cook referred in her letter to the church's recent publicity troubles, saying Scientologists had weathered many storms. "I am sorry that I am the one telling you, but a new storm is upon us. Its waves are already in the media and the world around us."

She encouraged parishioners to make their voices heard by paying only for Scientology's religious services and challenging church staffers who press for extra donations to show where their request is supported in Hubbard's writings.

She cited several Hubbard writings that she said conflicted with the church's current fundraising practices. She said the heavy emphasis on meeting fundraising quotas was a distraction for the church and that dedicated staffers have been dragged into the task.

Rathbun, now a leading figure in a movement for Scientologists to practice independently of the church, said the impact of Cook's letter would be huge, but it would take time for Scientologists to accept and absorb it.

"Over the next few weeks and months, you're going to see a lot of prominent Scientologists who are going to make themselves known," he said in an interview. "This could be one of the more significant developments in some time."

http://www.tampabay.com/news/scientology/in-new-years-message-former-scientology-executive-blasts-extreme/1208723
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« Reply #37 on: February 01, 2012, 03:25:41 PM »

Scientology's First Amendment rights and wrongs

In Print: Wednesday, February 1, 2012

                             Tampa Bay Times.  (New name of St Petersburg times)


The Church of Scientology relies heavily on First Amendment religious freedoms to shield itself from scrutiny in this country, but it is awfully quick to suppress freedom of speech that enjoys the same constitutional protections. The same church that raises the specter of Nazi oppression whenever it faces inquiry from German and French officials, expects its former, hardworking employees in the United States to sign away their free speech rights for as little as $500 in severance. The First Amendment is not a buffet where some rights are recognized and other inconvenient ones are ignored.

The hypocrisy is clear in the church's latest retaliation against a former employee who dared to speak out even as she attempted to provoke reforms from within. Debbie Cook, the church's former longtime leader in Clearwater, is now facing a lawsuit in Texas for allegedly violating her 2007 severance agreement. On New Year's Eve, her letter urging Scientologists to work internally to reform the church's aggressive fundraising tactics and other practices reached thousands of church members via email and became widely publicized, including in the Tampa Bay Times.

But Cook and her husband, in order to receive $50,000 each in severance, had signed a nondisclosure clause apparently a standard operating procedure for the church. Cook had been a Sea Org employee for 29 years, 17 of which were as the top Clearwater official where she presided over an operation that brought in more than $100 million annually for the organization. Several former church members told the Tampa Bay Times' Joe Childs and Thomas C. Tobin that severances of $500 to $5,000 were more common but also frequently required nondisclosure agreements.

Previous Times stories have detailed how Sea Org members have extraordinary work schedules for little pay and how the church's fundraising tactics have included encouraging church members to borrow thousands of dollars, hit the limit on their credit cards and mortgage their homes to pay for church texts or courses. Yet First Amendment religious protections have blocked serious, formal scrutiny. Just two years ago, the church escaped allegations it violated labor laws and engaged in human trafficking and forced abortions when a federal judge dismissed two lawsuits by former Sea Org workers, saying the suits would violate the First Amendment's guarantee of free exercise of religion. And the church also benefits from tax-exempt status, another manifestation of the First Amendment's religious protection.

The lengths the church goes to protect its secrecy is remarkable. Cook and her husband had an additional clause in their agreement with the church that they could be liable for at least $100,000 for each disparaging Internet posting, television broadcast or newspaper article. If this case moves forward, the judge should ensure that all depositions, court filings and court hearings are public. The public should be able to observe how the Church of Scientology seeks to wrap itself in First Amendment protections to avoid scrutiny and strip those protections from members of the church who were seeking to reform it.

http://www.tampabay.com/opinion/editorials/scientologys-first-amendment-rights-and-wrongs/1213244
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« Reply #38 on: February 27, 2012, 11:17:20 AM »

    Front page today      (St Petersburg Times is now called Tampa Bay Times.)

http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/TBTimesFront3.JPG

               Controversy over Scientology influence clouds future of Pinellas charter school

By Drew Harwell, Times Staff Writer
In Print: Sunday, February 26, 2012

http://www.tampabay.com/news/education/controversy-over-scientology-influence-clouds-future-of-pinellas-charter/1217239

http://www.svherald.com/associatedpress/251004


          Charter school could be forced to close after 'promoting Scientology to students'

By Daily Mail Reporter

Last updated at 6:50 AM on 27th February 2012

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2106991/Life-Force-Arts-Technology-Charter-school-connections-Scientology-parents-furious-kids-recruited-religion.html#ixzz1nZ8uOIsl


   
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« Reply #39 on: February 28, 2012, 11:36:04 AM »

                FEBRUARY 27, 2012

              Florida education news: Scientology charter school, FCAT , graduation rates and more

             Plenty to see here...

http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook/content/florida-education-news-scientology-charter-school-fcat-graduation-rates-and-more
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« Reply #40 on: February 29, 2012, 07:10:34 PM »

            Pinellas school district officials sour on new charter for Scientology-affliated Life Force school

By Drew Harwell, Times Staff Writer
In Print: Wednesday, February 29, 2012

DUNEDIN Pinellas County School District officials on Tuesday delivered a blow to a charter school tied to Scientology, recommending the School Board vote against a proposal that could keep the school open through 2016.

Life Force Arts and Technology Academy leaders asked the district last month to amend the embattled school's charter to provide for a fresh start.

But amid concerns that the tax-supported elementary school uses "study technology," a Scientology teaching method criticized as a covert recruiting tool, superintendent John Stewart recommended the School Board reject the charter amendments at its meeting March 6.

Rejection would not close the school or cancel its charter, which was approved in 2008 and expires in June 2013. But it could set the stage for future sanctions and prove disastrous in bankruptcy court, where a judge is considering the school's Chapter 11 reorganization.

Overseen by proponents of Scientology and members of the black supremacist group Nation of Islam, Life Force's focus on "study tech," a methodology devised by Scientology's late founder L. Ron Hubbard, worried parents and former teachers. Their frustrations over school mismanagement and secrecy were reported in Sunday's Tampa Bay Times.

On Tuesday, Stewart released a memo and an appended evaluation that reiterated many of those concerns, criticizing everything from a top-heavy administration reluctant to meet educational standards to a school staff made "unstable" by faculty firings and resignations.

Louis Muhammad, who chairs the school's board of directors, said he did not want to comment. Hanan Islam, whose private company, Art of Management, runs the school, did not return messages late Tuesday.

Run by their own boards of directors, charter schools receive public tax funding based on enrollment. They are monitored by the school district but freed of some requirements of regular public schools, allowing them to offer unconventional curricula.

With nearly all of its 100 students qualifying for free or reduced-price meals, Life Force received extra funding through federal grants. Last year, audits show, the school earned more than $800,000 in public funds, a per-student rate higher than the state and county average for all schools.

Life Force's proposed 209-page amendment is, in effect, a new charter, establishing a new budget, curriculum, leadership structure and name: the SMART Academy.

But Stewart's memo and the staff evaluation suggested the amendment faced insurmountable odds:

The school's new curriculum would be provided by Bright Sky Learning, a for-profit company founded by Scientologists, and would not meet state standards.

Its new budget would be based on "unrealistic enrollment projections," and would depend too much on "large donations."

The amendment-proposed classes would be newly refocused on physical education, art, music and technology, while not budgeting for teachers to cover those subjects.

The school would claim no responsibility for busing, instead relying on parents to contract with a local bus company.

Teachers would be "paid substitute wages" and would not be given contracts. Meanwhile, the school's administration would include a management company, a principal, and directors of operations, administrative affairs, academics and public contact.

Parents who didn't meet the school's requirements for volunteering could find their children expelled a practice officials said was unheard-of in other Pinellas charters.

District officials said some concerns about the requested amendment stemmed from the school's past issues. The school's proposed punishment system, according to the amendment, would include disciplinary "service projects." In December, Islam defended a school punishment forcing young boys to scrub a bathroom as a way to build self-esteem.

Officials also questioned the oversight of the school's board of directors in ensuring the amended charter was upheld. Like Islam, most board members have yet to give their fingerprints for background screenings mandated by the state's Jessica Lunsford Act.

The board has also experienced regular turnover, officials wrote. New board members listed in the amendment proposal include Fatima Talbird, who has taken Scientology courses and been photographed with Scientology spokeswoman Pat Harney and Nation of Islam minister Tony Muhammad, and Bahiyyah Sadiki, a Clearwater tutor promoted by a study tech group called Applied Scholastics.

Nowhere in Life Force's proposed amendment do the school's administrators make mention of study tech or Scientology. A student reading list includes 17 notable authors but not Hubbard, whose writings, former teachers said, formed the base of all instruction at Life Force.

Toccara Hobbs, whose daughter has attended Life Force since it opened in 2009, said she was shocked by former teachers' revelations of the school's inner workings detailed in the Times.

She would like to remove her third-grade daughter from the school, but she worries it would disrupt her schooling as FCAT tests loom.

"If I would have known all this was going on, I would have never put her in Life Force," Hobbs said. "You're putting all your trust in these people."

http://www.tampabay.com/news/education/pinellas-district-officials-sour-on-new-charter-for-life-force-school/1217600
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« Reply #41 on: March 01, 2012, 07:07:27 AM »

                  Pinellas school superintendent wants Scientology-tied charter school closed

By Drew Harwell, Times Staff Writer
Posted: Feb 29, 2012 12:56 PM

http://www.tampabay.com/news/education/pinellas-school-superintendent-wants-scientology-tied-charter-school-closed/1217694
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« Reply #42 on: March 05, 2012, 02:33:22 PM »

                      Charter school dangers on display in Scientology case

In Print: Monday, March 5, 2012

The Life Force Arts and Technology Academy in Dunedin, a charter elementary school serving low-income children, has sold area parents a bill of goods. It promised an enriching arts and technology program and delivered a school stripped of resources by its management company and laden with Church of Scientology teaching methodology. The school's actions raise serious questions about fiscal control and church-state separation. Pinellas County schools superintendent John Stewart is right to recommend to the School Board that it be shut down as soon as possible.

Almost since it opened in 2009, Life Force has been riddled with problems. Its first principal was fired, charged with stealing from a family trust. By last summer the school had debts of more than $400,000. Facing possible closure by the school district, which oversees the county's charter schools, the Life Force board enlisted Hanan Islam's Art of Management company to overhaul the school. The school also filed for bankruptcy, giving it protection from the district terminating its charter school contract.

As reported by Tampa Bay Times staff writer Drew Harwell, since Islam came to Life Force some parents and former teachers charge that the school's children have been targets for recruitment by the Church of Scientology. The student body of about 95 students was taught using the "study technology" of Scientology's late founder, L. Ron Hubbard, according to former teachers. The school's children attended a Christmas party at a Scientology church in Tampa's Ybor Square, where they were given Scientology books and DVDs. And another endeavor of Islam's was as executive director of the World Literacy Crusade, a California organization that promotes Scientology education methods.

All of this exposure to Scientology-related material violates prohibitions in the U.S. and Florida constitutions on religion in public schools. The school may claim that the material is secular in nature, but since Scientology insists it is a religion, anything produced by it or by Hubbard should be considered religious. The church may freely open its own private schools, but it cannot infiltrate public schools like charter schools or have its teachings influence the curriculum. Life Force receives about $800,000 in taxpayer support per year.

In addition to the church-state problems, Islam's management is highly suspect. She generously rewarded her company even as the school was foundering. Islam's management company was paid more than $56,000 for the three months following the school's bankruptcy filing, which is nearly double what Islam told the courts she would charge. Meanwhile the school stopped paying for bus service, teachers couldn't get classroom supplies or get paid on time, and the school's academic performance failed to meet many of its self-written goals.

The debacle at Life Force points up the dangers of charter schools. The freedom given these privately run schools using public money can be easily abused in the wrong hands. On Tuesday, the Pinellas School Board should give Life Force its 90-day notice of termination as Stewart recommends. The sooner this school is shut down and Islam is given her walking papers, the better.


http://www.tampabay.com/opinion/editorials/article1218150.ece
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« Reply #43 on: March 07, 2012, 07:17:28 AM »

                      School Board approves notice of termination for Life Force charter school

By Drew Harwell, Times Staff Writer
Posted: Mar 06, 2012


LARGO The clock is ticking for the Life Force Arts and Technology Academy after the Pinellas County School Board voted unanimously Tuesday to issue the charter school a 90-day notice of termination.

The school, which parents and former teachers said has instituted a study methodology embraced by the Church of Scientology, was criticized by superintendent John Stewart as changing its curriculum "without permission," among a host of other concerns.

Board member Linda Lerner said there was "overwhelming evidence to terminate" the Dunedin elementary school's charter.

Acting on Stewart's recommendation, the board also voted to deny a proposed amendment that would have extended the school's charter for three years and granted sweeping changes to its budget, curriculum and leadership structure.

The school's 90-day notice means class could likely remain in session for the rest of the school year. The school's leaders now have the right to request a public hearing to defend the charter.

The school board will need to vote again before terminating the charter. School board attorneys will also need to receive permission from a bankruptcy judge to close the school, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July and was granted court protection during its reorganization.

The school board has never terminated a charter in the 15-year history of Pinellas charter schools, which receive tax funding but are operated by their own independent boards of directors.

The Tampa Bay Times reported last month that Life Force administrators compelled students to learn "study technology," a methodology devised by the Church of Scientology's late founder, L. Ron Hubbard.

Students at the public charter school were also taken on a field trip to a Scientology church in Ybor City, and more than $30,000 in school funds were given to the World Literacy Crusade, a group that promotes Hubbard's "study tech."

http://www.tampabay.com/news/education/school-board-approves-notice-of-termination-for-life-force-charter-school/1218587
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« Reply #44 on: March 25, 2012, 12:09:11 PM »

                  Parents and teachers blast Life Force Arts and Technology Academy management

By Drew Harwell, Times Staff Writer
Posted: Mar 24, 2012 06:43 PM

DUNEDIN — Parents and teachers at the Life Force Arts and Technology Academy shouted down charter school leaders on Saturday for deceit and mismanagement they say has led to the school's demise.

A dozen parents and faculty members, including the principal, slammed the school's former management company at a board of directors' meeting. They alleged questionable spending, suspect leadership and the sly introduction of Scientology study methods.

The furious group won a small victory Saturday when board members voted to keep the school open until June, when the Pinellas County school district's 90-day notice of termination comes due.

But the school that Art of Management leader Hanan Islam pledged she would rescue from bankruptcy remains troubled and deeply in dept. Parents worry the school's dramatic last days and their children's sudden move could cause their education to suffer.

Steve Hayes, a longtime Scientology attorney representing the school's board, told the group the school's Chapter 11 bankruptcy is set to end early next month. Without that protection, creditors could aggressively seek repayment of $400,000 in debt. At a meeting Friday, Hayes and school district leaders said they would seek the board's approval to close the school April 6.

But the closure would have sent Life Force's 60 remaining students scrambling to new classrooms with only two weeks' notice, and just 10 days before the crucial first day of FCAT testing. Shari Encke, a recently hired exceptional-student-education teacher, said that was "like guaranteeing their failure."

Teachers and volunteers said their devotion to the children trumped their desire for pay. Board chairman Louis Muhammad and members Annie Tyrell and Fatima Talbird voted unanimously to keep the school open.

Class will stay in session without Islam, the executive director of the Scientology-tied World Literacy Crusade, who ended her management of Life Force earlier this month.

Muhammad said Islam felt the school would be treated unfairly if she stayed involved. But faculty of the school, pointing to its March budget, said her company left a day after receiving its last payment of nearly $7,000.

"Light was shone on their mismanagement," said Nikki Mathis, a mother of three Life Force students, "and now they're throwing us under the bus."

Perhaps the strongest criticism of Islam's management came in a letter from principal Lenor Johnson, who wrote that decisions by school leaders "were made solely for the personal gain of outside interests."

Islam demanded hundreds of books on "study technology," a methodology devised by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, be purchased from the Church of Scientology at the school's expense, Johnson wrote. A rewrite of the school's charter led by Islam cost $18,000, and failed. Her company hired unqualified employees, implemented unapproved techniques in the classroom, held secret meetings with teachers and even pressured faculty to write letters supporting her company's management.

"The education of our young children (was) compromised for personal gain, greed and the need to control others," Johnson wrote. "The re-opening of our school was nothing more than a business venture."

Teachers also slammed Muhammad, a Nation of Islam minister, alleging he served as a mouthpiece of Hanan Islam. Muhammad said he was hired by Islam in July as a "public relations consultant" but fired in October after he pushed a boy on the school bus. The boy was uninjured, and Muhammad said it was a light shove to bring the unruly boy in line. Hanan Islam appointed him to be board chairman in January.

Quanshawna Perry, whose son, Quante, was the child pushed, lashed out. "How can you end up on the board when you put your hands on a child?"

The two-hour shouting match in the school cafeteria, painted with murals of rainbows and clouds, ended with volunteers pushing to find sources of funding, faculty vowing to keep class in session, and parents confused over where their children would go next.

Parents said there was no confusion, though, over who was to blame for the school's impending closure.

"Y'all don't know what we've got on you," Konica Ritchie, a mother of two Life Force students who also helps with school lunches, told Muhammad. "You've messed with the wrong parents."

Contact Drew Harwell at (727) 445-4170 or dharwell@tampabay.com. Send letters to the editor at tampabay.com/letters.

http://www.tampabay.com/news/education/parents-and-teachers-blast-life-force-arts-and-technology-academy/1221766

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