“KIPP, one of the country’s largest and most successful charter school chains, dismissed its co-founder on Thursday after an investigation found credible a claim that he had sexually abused a student some two decades ago, according to a letter sent to the school community.
“The co-founder, Michael Feinberg, was accused last spring of sexually abusing a minor female student in Houston in the late 1990s, according to someone with close knowledge of the case, who was not authorized to speak publicly and asked not to be identified. An outside investigation found her claim credible after interviewing the student and her mother who both gave the same sequence of events.
“Mr. Feinberg denies the accusation, his lawyer, Christopher L. Tritico, said.
“Investigators also uncovered evidence that Mr. Feinberg had sexually harassed two KIPP employees. One case, in 2004, led to a financial settlement, the letter said; the other could not be corroborated because the woman involved would not cooperate, but the letter found it to be credible.
“We believe that Mr. Feinberg’s actions were incompatible with the leadership qualities that are central to our mission,” said the letter, which was sent Thursday afternoon to teachers, administrators and families of students.
“Mr. Feinberg was told of his dismissal at a meeting on Thursday in Houston.
“Mr. Tritico said an initial investigation last summer by outside counsel for KIPP’s Houston board had found the 1990s allegation to not be credible, before a second investigation by WilmerHale, a law firm specializing in sexual misconduct, reversed that finding.
“He said Mr. Feinberg had never been told of the precise allegations against him, and had not been given a chance to defend himself. “The investigation was conducted without even the most rudimentary form of due process,” Mr. Tritico said.
“KIPP said the first investigation found the claim inconclusive.
“The program, started in Texas in 1994 with 47 fifth-grade students, achieved extraordinary results with poor and minority schoolchildren and became a model that many others sought to replicate around the country. Today it has nearly 90,000 students and 209 schools in 20 states. The vision of Mr. Feinberg and the other co-founder, David Levin, Ivy League graduates who came together through Teach for America in the early 1990s, is largely credited with its success.
“In the early years, Mr. Feinberg was a teacher and administrator in Houston, but his current role had been mainly external — fund-raising, lobbying, political advocacy and college partnerships. In the year ended June 2016 — the latest period for which the organization’s tax filings were available — Mr. Feinberg received $231,885 in compensation and benefits while working for KIPP’s Houston schools, and $220,241 for work at the parent foundation in San Francisco, the filings show.”
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