If wisdom comes with age–and I’m not sure it always does–at age 76 I should have learned something. Maybe I have, maybe I haven’t. But I do believe after so many years in so many different situations, I have figured out how to spot someone who can not be trusted. Or as they say in Red Level, who can tell when someone is doing you-know-what on your leg and telling you it is raining.
This is my assessment of Soner Tarim. No doubt the man is very smart. You don’t earn a doctorate in biology and ecology without having a lot of sense.
Still, as you watch him in action and listen to him dodge direct questions, a little bell goes off in the back of your head. Something there is just “too slick.” Too glib. You can’t pin him down. One minute he says one thing, the next minute he contradicts himself. Like when he told the Texas board of education that he never slams public schools and later said that the two teachers from Alabama who testified at the hearings where, in so many words, more interested in their jobs than anything else.
And nothing is ever his fault. It’s always the other guy who is wrong. This article from the Austin American-Statesman newspaper is a good example. This was published June 13 after a host of people testified before a subcommittee saying they were opposed to Tarim’s application for Royal Public Schools.
Here are excerpts:
“Soner Tarim, the founder of Royal Public Schools, told the American-Statesman on Thursday that Austin school officials expressed the concerns because they fear the competition.
“That means whatever I have done in the past is working. Competition really hurts them,” said Tarim, who left Harmony Public Schools in 2017 after building the charter network into one of the largest in Texas.
Austin school district officials have rarely spoken against charter proposals in the past, but on Thursday, school officials pushed back. None of the campuses identified by Royal as low-performing failed under the state grading system last year, they said.
If Royal were allowed to open, the district could lose an estimated $85 million due to the loss of students to Royal schools over a 10-year period, according to Nicole Conley Johnson with the Austin district. Royal aims to enroll 2,390 students in Austin during that period.
Other criticisms of Royal are:
• Seven percent of students will be special education and 25% will be students who did not grow up learning English, far lower than what nearby Austin district schools serve.
• No current board members (for Royal schools) are from Austin.
• Insufficient counselors to properly implement social emotional learning.
• Between 7 and 34 people attended community meetings about Royal, which critics say demonstrate a lack of interest from the community.
Tarim responded to each criticism, respectively, by saying:
• Those percentages were based off of the student demographics of the schools around Alief and his school would aim to serve the same rate of special needs students as the Austin schools. (Alief is a school district in Houston, not Austin.)
• Although not required, his board will include an Austin member if he wins approval from the State Board of Education.
• He denies it and says he will have sufficient counselors and that implementing social emotional learning to the degree he wants to will take time, just as Austin school district has taken.
• The turnout at the meetings do not necessarily show there is not a need for Royal in the community.”
The Alabama charter law was passed in 2015. It obviously needs tweaking. The Mississippi charter law says that for-profit management companies, like Unity School Services owned by Tarim that has contracts with Montgomery’s LEAD Academy and Washington County’s Wooland Prep, can not do business in the Magnolia State.
Which means Tarim can not do business there. Alabama should consider amending our law to say the same thing.