Charter champion’s firing came after sexual harassment allegations
For years, Jeremiah Kittredge has been a darling of the national charter school movement’s wealthiest and most powerful benefactors.
Since starting the pro-charter organization Families for Excellent Schools in 2011, he’s courted reform-friendly governors and members of Congress, funded his group with tens of millions of dollars from America’s wealthiest financiers and philanthropic organizations, and emerged as perhaps the closest ally to the country’s most well-known charter school leader, Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz.
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That all ended Wednesday, when Bryan Lawrence — a banker who sits on Families for Excellent Schools’ board — blasted out a statement to reporters that Kittredge had been “terminated” following an outside law firm’s investigation into allegations of “inappropriate behavior toward a non-employee.”
That incident took place last November at a Washington, D.C., hotel during the Philos conference, an annual gathering hosted by Education Reform Now, the policy affiliate of the advocacy organization Democrats for Education Reform, sources tell POLITICO.
A woman who attended the conference wrote a Facebook post a few weeks afterward, describing an encounter with another conference attendee. Five sources with knowledge of the situation confirmed that the attendee referenced in the post was Kittredge. The sources requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the topic.
“Just three weeks ago, at the single ed reform conference I attend each year, another attendee, a guy much younger than me, sticks his head in my chest, tells me my boobs are supple (seriously? Who uses that word?) and then rides up an elevator with me late at night commenting on how big my boobs are,” the female attendee wrote.
“Was I scared? No. Was I intimidated? No. I could have broken the kid in two with my left hand (and that’s saying something because I’m right-handed). But his effort to intimidate me and show me who had power was real. And weird. And pathetic. And shameful.”
The Facebook post was eventually sent to members of Families for Excellent Schools’ board by several people involved in the education reform movement. Families for Excellent Schools then hired Kate Rhodes, an attorney at the firm Epstein Becker & Green, to investigate the incident.
The author of the Facebook post did not respond to multiple requests for comment from POLITICO. The Facebook post was deleted Friday afternoon.
Kittredge referred POLITICO to his lawyer, the white-collar criminal defense attorney Charles Clayman.
Lawrence’s Wednesday statement announcing Kittredge’s firing was sent several hours after a POLITICO reporter asked a Families for Excellent Schools spokesman about allegations against Kittredge.
That statement also included a vague reference to “other factors” that prompted Kittredge’s firing.
Kitteridge was fired from another pro-charter school group, Democracy Builders, in 2011, according to multiple sources.
Kittredge has been involved in multiple consensual sexual relationships with colleagues throughout his relatively brief career in education reform, including at least one employee who reported directly to him, according to five sources with direct knowledge of the situation.
During the last several weeks, as the investigation into the incident at Philos continued, Kittredge met with members of New York City’s influential charter sector, telling them that he was planning to leave Families for Excellent Schools and take an advocacy job at Success, according to multiple sources.
Kittredge was aware that he was under investigation while he was having those conversations with colleagues, according to a source with direct knowledge of the situation.
Ann Powell, a spokeswoman for Success, said that Success was considering offering Kittredge a position before Moskowitz learned about the investigation and said that Kittredge was not formally offered a job by Success.
Moskowitz and other top leadership at Success “did not know of the investigation or any other allegations against Kittredge until the day Families for Excellent Schools terminated Kittredge,” Powell said.
Powell confirmed that Success is no longer considering hiring Kittredge. She declined to comment further on Moskowitz and Kittredge’s working relationship, reiterating that Success officials didn’t know about accusations against Kittredge until he was fired earlier this week. A spokesman for Families for Excellent Schools declined to comment further.
Although Success has internal and external media relations operations, Kittredge has frequently served as Moskowitz’s unofficial press secretary at events. As recently as November, he orchestrated a press conference on the steps of City Hall about a school space sharing dispute between Moskowitz and Mayor Bill de Blasio, calling on reporters and identifying last call for questions.
He fundraised for his organization in part off Success’ extremely high standardized test scores, and served as the logistical arm of Success’ ambitious political advocacy program.
Kittredge is best known in New York for helping to arrange enormous pro-charter rallies attended mostly by Success students, who have had their schools closed for the day and been bused to rallies in Albany and various parks and squares in New York City.
Kittredge’s many critics in the city’s charter sector say he gained outsize political influence for arranging soundstages and getting kids on buses for the rallies, and overseeing advertising for the group’s political campaigns. (One campaign aimed at highlighting the poor quality of the city’s traditional public schools, dubbed “Don’t Steal Possible,” was nominated for an Effie marketing award in 2016, in the “engaged community” category.)
Although Kittredge is known for his close ties to the donor class of the charter sector, he has made many enemies among the movement’s advocates and educators. Former colleagues in New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut said they found Kittredge to be a polarizing leader who had a habit of ignoring advice from more experienced organizers and educators.
Kittredge may have been interested in a potential soft landing at Success in part because of a disastrous year for the organization he founded, which several sources say left him on thin ice with his board.
In November 2016, Kittredge led Families for Excellent Schools’ Massachusetts arm, called Great Schools Massachusetts, to a 25-point loss in a ballot referendum that would have expanded the number of charters that can open in the Bay State. The loss was particularly devastating to charter leaders considering that Massachusetts has some of the highest-performing charters in the country.
The ballot question, known as Question 2, was largely run by Kittredge and cost the group $20 million in money from private donors. The state’s campaign finance board found that Great Schools Massachusetts had illegally concealed its donors, and charged the group $426,500. Great Schools Massachusetts was forced to dissolve, and Families for Excellent Schools is banned from campaigning in the state for the next four years.
Education philanthropists began to fret, and a report originally commissioned by the Walton Family Foundation to look into the Question 2 campaign morphed into an autopsy; Walton gave the group over $13 million between 2014 and 2016 alone.
Kittredge’s bio was removed from the Families for Excellent Schools website Thursday.
via Politico PRO
February 2, 2018 at 02:34PMNo tags for this post.