Milton school shades ties to Scientology
By JOSEPH MALLIA
A Church of Scientology school in Milton is enrolling large numbers of children from middle-class and professional black families in what critics say is part of the church's nationwide plan to recruit minorities.
Officials at Delphi Academy do not tell parents that the school is part of the Church of Scientology, and that they are trying to recruit blacks for Scientology's costly programs.
Yet they do admit that all staff members are Scientologists and they use Scientology materials.
A Herald review of the school has found that Delphi Academy:
Used precisely the same "Study Tech" as the Boston Church of Scientology on Beacon Street, where the methods are considered religious scriptures.
Sent up to 10 percent of each child's tuition money to the Association for Better Living and Education, a Scientology organization in Los Angeles, according to its federal tax returns.
Got "referral" income of 10 percent to 15 percent of any Scientology course or book bought by a Delphi Academy parent, according to the school's federal tax returns and ex-members of the church.
Has used an "E-Meter" - a device like a lie detector that measures emotional reactions - on Delphi children, according to a former student, Sabriya Dublin of Jamaica Plain. The E-Meter - the same device used by the church in counseling- sends a mild electric current through the child's body, with fluctuations in a gauge showing emotional reactions, as a child answers questions while holding a shiny metal tube in each hand. A former Delphi student from Oregon, however, said the E-Meter was not used at his school.
Created a Delphi Parents Association so parents could pay for playground repairs and two new computers through fund-raising events - while Delphi made royalty payments to Scientology's ABLE organization.
Promoted Scientology outside the school. Delphi's headmistress, Ellen Garrison, helped establish a Scientology tutoring program for ninth-grade teachers at the Randolph Public Schools, said former Scientology church spokeswoman Kit Finn.
And a "Homework Club" sent older Delphi students to teach Scientology methods at the Tucker Elementary School, a Milton public school, a Delphi official said.
Attracted so many students in recent years that the school, in a converted gatehouse off a quiet stretch of Blue Hill Avenue, had to build two new classrooms. School spokeswoman Joanne List said most of the new students were black.
Critics of Scientology say the real motive of Delphi is to increase church membership, and make money by selling high-priced Scientology courses to parents, according to Priscilla Coates, an anti-cult activist in Los Angeles.
One parent, Harvard Dental School instructor Dr. E. Leo Whitworth, had just such an experience with Delphi Academy.
Whitworth said his son, L.V., was taught basic Church of Scientology methods like Study Technology during the four years he was enrolled at Delphi Academy.
The dentist said he did not learn that Delphi was linked to Scientology until after his son was enrolled, and then they recruited him for a variety of programs at the Church of Scientology on Beacon Street in Boston.
"I took two courses at the church," Whitworth said. "It cost in the hundreds. They wanted me as a member. And they did try to get my wife. She started a course but she didn't finish," the dentist said.
During a vacation in California, Whitworth visited the offices of Sterling Management, a for-profit business linked to the Church of Scientology. There, Scientologists tried to sell him a dental office management program, Whitworth said.
"They were trying to get me to use their business techniques," he said, but he didn't like the program and it was too expensive. "It was too much like car salesman techniques. It cost a lot - around $ 10,000."
Whitworth, who is also a Northeastern University trustee, said he knew of "several" non-Scientologist parents who enrolled their children in Delphi Academy and later became members of the church.
In retrospect, he said, Delphi Academy appears to be deceptive.
"I would rather they did say, up front, that they are part of Scientology. There are certain ways they could be more open," he said. He also warned parents who enroll their children at Delphi to "be aware there are other aspects to it - the Scientology."
Whitworth's son, now 15, asked to be taken out of Delphi, the father said. "He didn't want to stay there anymore. He was just uncomfortable."
Several other black parents, however, said they were pleased with how well their children were learning at the school. And Delphi officials say students got high marks on the annual California Acheivement Tests.
New students to the $ 6,200-a-year school are recruited for Delphi and its summer camp by word of mouth, and through bulk mailings that do not mention Scientology. The school first opened in Belmont in 1980 under the name Apple School.
The 1,000-student network of Delphi academies in Oregon, Florida, California - and Milton - has recruited unsuspecting families for many years, Coates said.
But the interest in black citizens is new, because Scientology has few non-white members, she said. "They are looking for new niches for people and money," Coates said.
A Herald reporter visited the 104-student Milton school twice, and found that the majority of its younger students are black. It enrolls children ages 3-13.
Parents who have enrolled their children at the school include professionals like Brockton obstetrician Dr. Dawna Jones and government workers like Barbara Hamilton, youth activities aide to Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino.
Dr. Jones did not return calls seeking comment, but Hamilton said her son is doing well at Delphi.
"I would say he's just generally improved," including better reading skills, Hamilton said.
Other black, non-Scientologist parents include a top manager at Lexington-based Stride Rite Corp., an investment analyst, a nurse, a Massachusetts state trooper, Boston police officers, computer executives at Digital Equipment Corp. and Lotus Development, and an MBTA welder, according to Delphi officials.
Several other black parents are medical doctors, one owns a Roxbury air-conditioning company, one is a Christian minister, while another is a Catholic religious education director, Delphi officials said.
"The Scientology thing, that was one thing I had to clear up. At first I didn't know it was a religious school, and I wasn't looking for a religious school," said Lee Jensen, a Massachusetts Water Resources Authority official, who enrolled her daughter, Nicole, at Delphi. "I told them, 'I need to know exactly what you're teaching my child, because you have her for nine hours a day.' "
Not every parent is middle-class, and Delphi gives no financial aid or scholarships, so some parents just scrape by, said List. "We have a lot of single mothers who eat peanut butter sandwiches, and don't drive fancy cars," she said.
The school does not require its students to convert to Scientology, said former student Sabriya Dublin, who said she attended the school for eight years.
The founder of the Delphi Academy schools, Alan Larson, said in an interview from Oregon that they succeed because they require every child to learn everything - without exception - before moving on to the next task.
And the Rev. Heber C. Jentzsch, president of the Church of Scientology International, said Delphi students' Scholastic Aptitude Tests are "400 points above the national average."
But Dennis Erlich, a former Scientology trainer in California, said his two daughters had to spend two years in remedial math and English courses after he transferred them to public school from a Scientology-run school, where he said instruction was poor.
Another church defector, Robert Vaughn Young, said Scientology's leaders do not care about traditional education. They only care about getting people to buy Scientology courses, he said.
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