National News

Leadership to Change at Network of Charter Schools

Posted May 1, 2018 7:00 p.m. EDT

NEW YORK — Daniel S. Loeb, a billionaire investor and outspoken charter school proponent, is ending his five-year run as chairman of the board at the Success Academy Charter Schools network, leaving behind a legacy of aggressive school growth and high test scores, but also controversy over his tendency to vilify opponents in racially tinged terms.

The new chairman of the 46-school charter school network will be Steven M. Galbraith, co-founder of the Connecticut-based Kindred Capital and the chairman of the network’s finance committee for the last five years. He will replace Loeb on July 1, the network announced in a news release on Monday.

The Success Network, which is known for its strict discipline as well as achievement among its students, said Loeb’s departure was not related to his controversial remarks. Loeb, for his part, said that leading the network “has been one of the most meaningful philanthropic experiences of my life.” He recently gave the organization $15 million to expand its high school division, and will remain on the board in a lesser role.

“I was sad; the board was sad,” said Eva Moskowitz, the network’s chief executive officer, describing the reaction when Loeb said he would step down at the end of his term. “It’s been a really powerful five years, and I am really grateful for his service.”

Founded in 2006, the Success Academy Network has an enrollment of 15,500 in New York City, 95 percent of whom are minority students and 77 percent of whom qualify for free or reduced lunch. In April, a chess team from its Hudson Yards school tied for first place in the All-Girls National Championship.

But such achievements were sometimes overshadowed by remarks from Loeb accusing those whose views on education did not align with his as being worse than the Ku Klux Klan.

In a Facebook comment in August, for example, Loeb accused state Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who is African-American, of betraying her heritage, writing that “hypocrites like Stewart-Cousins who pay fealty to powerful union thugs and bosses do more damage to people of color than anyone who has ever donned a hood.”

After The New York Times reported on his Facebook remarks, Loeb deleted them and apologized.

“I regret the language I used in expressing my passion for educational choice,” he said in a statement.

Loeb also invoked the Klan in a 2016 Facebook post, the Dealbreaker blog reported, urging people to “take up the fight against the teachers union,” which he called the “biggest single force standing in the way of quality education and an organization that has done more to perpetuate poverty and discrimination against people of color than the KKK.”

In June, he got in an email spat with Richard Buery, the former deputy mayor for strategic policy initiatives, along similar lines.

“There is right and wrong and you put your bureaucracy, the union puppets you serve, over the interest of little vulnerable black children and their families,” Loeb wrote to him, in emails obtained by The Times.

Buery, who is African-American, had responded in the same email chain, “Do you really not see the hubris of your lecturing me about the plight of black children and what they need?” Buery is now the chief of policy and public affairs for the KIPP Foundation, which runs 209 charter schools nationwide.

Loeb and his wife are prolific political donors, having donated more than $170,000 to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in recent years, state records show. He has also supported Republicans, with contributions including $500,000 to a super PAC that supported Jeb Bush in 2015, $150,000 to the Republican National Committee that year and $700,000 to a super PAC supporting House Republicans in 2016.

Galbraith, an investor who has taught at Columbia Business School, also serves on the board of trustees at Tufts University.

“I am humbled and excited to be elected chair,” he said in a statement. “The Success team, scholars and their families comprise an extraordinary community that is redefining what is possible in public education.”