February 05, 2018

Last week the dark money political operation Families for Excellent Schools fired its CEO, Jeremiah Kittredge, for “inappropriate behavior toward a non-employee” and “additional factors.” The announcement came from Board of Trustees Chair David Lawrence but as a Politico New York report Charter champion’s firing came after sexual harassment allegations shows, the FES Board has a lot more explaining to do.

The most intriguing phrase in FES’s announcement is the “additional factors” that contributed to Kittredge’s firing. Frittering away $20 million of investors’ money in the losing Massachusetts Question 2 campaign might have been enough to put Kittredge on the “thin ice” Politico reports. But getting the plutocrats’ identities exposed after promising them secrecy must have had the Financial Privatization Cabal erupting in fury. At least the dark money disclosed in Massachusetts didn’t come from FES’s New York Board. Instead, it came from a cabal of Massachusetts financiers connected to Strategic Grant Partners, who rented out the FES franchise and Kittredge’s services for the campaign.  If the “inappropriate behavior” was enough to get Kittredge sacked on its own, the “additional factors” language might have been inserted because at least one board member wanted Kittredge fired for the Massachusetts fiasco.

Getting FES Banned-in-Boston may not have been the only instance of “additional factors.” Consider, again from Politico:

Kitteridge was fired from another pro-charter school group, Democracy Builders, in 2011, according to multiple sources.

Did the FES Board know Kittredge was fired from his prior position? Did they know the reason for his firing? If not, why not?

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.

Was the conduct with the employee known to the Board of Trustees? Was it tolerated by them?

The behavior with the non-employee occurred in November 2017 and apparently became known to the FES board sometime in December. The Board hired a law firm to investigate. The announcement of Kittredge’s firing came on Wednesday, January 31. According to Politico:

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.

The timing suggests that the Board was still protecting Kittredge, who was trying to escape to a job with Success Academy, until the Politico reporter called. This makes sense because among Kittredge’s talents is his capacity to be “a darling of the national charter school movement’s wealthiest and most powerful benefactors” able to attract “tens of millions of dollars from America’s wealthiest financiers and philanthropic organizations.” (Think Max Bialystock and the wealthy widows from The Producers).

Although Banned-in-Boston, Kittredge kept a hand in here with FES alumni using FES office space to open the Bay State Action Fund last year. That organization’s website went cold shortly after I wrote about it. FES’s state director for the 2016 campaign, Keri Rodriguez, now holds the same position with Massachusetts Parents United. FES and MPU have both been funded by the Walton Family Foundation.

I’d be remiss not to mention that either the IRS or New York’s charities regulators should be examining FES’s status as a 501c3 non-profit. Oh, and the Masters of the Universe may want an audit to determine just what their former CEO was doing with their millions.

Otherwise board members, why not give yourselves a pat on the back and maybe a raise? Everything’s going great.

The Washington Post recently adopted a new slogan: “Democracy dies in darkness.” I agree.

[Full disclosure: as an educator in the UMass system, I am a union member. I write about dark money (and other things). I don't write about education policy.]

Families for Excellent Schools, Jeremiah Kittredge

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