"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

KIPP vs. Feinberg: Battle of the Moral Sewer Dwellers

For almost 25 years, Mike Feinberg broke enough rules to bull his way up to the top of a morally-compromised heap of paternalistic charter hell school operators. 

In the early days of KIPP, Feinberg is remembered as the hothead without boundaries who threw a TV through a plate glass window at KIPP Houston--the same reckless wild man who would load KIPP students into an unventilated U-Haul trailer for a "field lesson" across town. 

"Whatever it takes" was "Cage-Buster" Feinberg's mantra, and he and David Levin believed that, as KIPP's top leaders, they should model the aggressive, hyper-macho, and abusive "let the stallions run" style of leadership for their clueless regiment of KIPP "school leaders."  No holds barred, take no prisoners, let the rules be damned.

Who knows if their schooling "philosophy" of reckless abandon contributed to Feinberg's eventual bust for sexual harassment of two KIPP employees, sexual abuse of a middle school student, and another charge vaguely referred to as “repeatedly violat[ing] KIPP’s technology usage policies.”  

Sexting? Porno? Who knows what the "cage-buster" was up to?

When it became obvious to KIPP in 2017 that Feinberg's behavior could be the source of a major scandal that could damage the brand and, thus, jeopardize the flow of hundreds of millions of federal and private dollars to KIPP, KIPP launched its own very hush-hush investigation into allegations that Feinberg had sexually assaulted a middle student some years before.  That was in April 2017. See documents here.

On September 7, 2017, KIPP notified Feinberg that he was off the hook, while entirely downplaying the sexual assault charges with this: "Other than what the former student alleges, now almost 20 years after the alleged acts, there is no evidence of any wrongdoing." In other words, KIPP chose to ignore the charges and "to consider the matter officially closed."

Obviously, the allegations did not go away as easily as KIPP would prefer.  Just two  months after Feinberg was "exonerated,"  KIPP Houston hired a law firm, WilmerHale, to conduct a real investigation beginning in November 2017.  Contrary to KIPP's own findings just two months before, WilmerHale found the charges of sexual abuse with a middle schooler credible.  The law firm, whose specialty is investigating sexual misconduct allegations, also uncovered two sexual harassment cases involving Feinberg and KIPP employees, one of which resulted in a settlement in 2004.  

Did the KIPP Board know about this part of Feinberg's history when it gave him a free pass just months earlier?  How could they not know if a settlement had been paid?  

Unable to sweep all this under the rug any longer, KIPP sent a letter to Feinberg on Feb. 22, 2018 announcing that, as of that day, he was fired.  Furthermore, he was told that his email account had been closed and that he was to return all technology (computers, tablets, phones) that belonged to KIPP.  His belongings would be mailed to him.

In other words, Feinberg was fired the same way that Feinberg and the KIPP hierarchy have treated so many thousands of disposable teachers and staff over the past 25 years.  Such irony.

It is likely that Feinberg believed that he would be able continue his lucrative career as a "no accountability" charter kingpin.  After all, this has been the pattern for fired KIPP administrators, who have been able to move into higher management slots with other charter chains. That doesn't seem to be the case, however.  

Recently in an effort to reclaim a reputation that his own egomaniacal recklessness destroyed, Feinberg has decided to sue KIPP for its handling of his dismissal.  For its part, KIPP stands by bare-knuckled firing of Feinberg with its entire absence of due process, and they offer Feinberg this parting shot:

“This is a baseless and frivolous lawsuit. Mr. Feinberg’s employment was terminated last year after thorough investigations uncovered credible instances of misconduct incompatible with KIPP’s values. We regret Mr. Feinberg is choosing to put the women who came forward to share painful experiences, the witnesses who supported them, and the entire KIPP community through further distress.”
Stand by.  Who knows how much more of the truth will emerge during the trial?  Will we find out what was on Feinberg's computers, phones, and tablets?  Will victims get their day in court?


  1. Who cares about these poor black children. No on e even cares the children who have ben separated from their parents. A dark time indeed! So sad,

  2. Karen Bracken3:57 PM

    In my opinion Feinberg's values are not in conflict with KIPP it is just that he got caught and they had no choice but to fire him. They were quite willing to sweep the accusations under the carpet until the dirt got so deep they couldn't hide it any longer. Charter schools in my opinion are an affront to education and if I were king they would all be abolished.