comings and goings

Success Academy’s top lawyer is leaving — to start her own charter schools

Emily Kim at a 2015 academic forum in Washington, D.C.

A top official at New York City’s largest charter school network, Success Academy, is leaving to start her own charter schools.

Emily Kim, Success Academy’s vice president of policy and legal affairs, will leave at the end of June to launch her own charter school network, Chalkbeat has learned.

Kim would enter a crowded charter school market where competition for students and space is fierce — and where a legal cap on the number of charters could limit new schools.

She told Chalkbeat she has not yet settled on a model for her schools but plans to “consider several different approaches” and could borrow from her current employer.

“Success is an incredibly impressive model,” Kim said. “I would like to do a lot of what Success does.”

In Kim’s six years at Success, she helped the network defend itself against multiple lawsuits, including a federal suit regarding its treatment of children with disabilities. She’s also fought the city on behalf of Success. In ongoing litigation, unsuccessful thus far, Success sued to participate in the city’s universal pre-K program without signing the required contract.

In addition to legal work, Kim also focuses on advocacy and oversees “scholar support,” including special education testing and placement.

A former high school English literature teacher, Kim has two sons who attend Success Academy schools, in second and fifth grade. She said she has no plans to remove them from their schools, and they’re eager to return in the fall. “I’m very happy with the education they’re both getting,” she wrote in an email.

One former employee described Kim as a “loyal soldier” to Success CEO Eva Moskowitz and said she was “surprised that she would choose to go out on her own.”

Kim said her decision to leave was not the result of any friction with Moskowitz, a notoriously tough leader. “I have been fortunate to work with Eva and Success for the past six years, and I am immensely proud of the work we’ve done together,” Kim said, adding that she considers Moskowitz a “guide and mentor.”

In a statement, Moskowitz praised Kim, calling her a “bureaucracy-buster” and a “dedicated ed reformer.”

“We are grateful for her many contributions,” Moskowitz wrote, “and believe her plans to open her own schools will result in more high-quality education options for NYC families.”

Movers and shakers

Memphis Raleigh-Egypt principal will return to Bolton High School

PHOTO: Daarel Burnette II
James "Bo" Griffin, who became principal of Raleigh-Egypt High School in 2014, will return to Bolton High School as its leader.

A principal who shepherded academic growth at a high-profile Memphis school will return to the school where he previously served as assistant principal.

James “Bo” Griffin has been tapped to lead Bolton High School after completing this school year at Raleigh-Egypt Middle-High School, a spokeswoman for Shelby County Schools confirmed Wednesday.

District leaders have not yet announced his replacement at Raleigh-Egypt, which is set to enter the Innovation Zone this fall. Schools that join the district’s turnaround program often undergo major leadership and staffing changes.

Griffin took the helm of Raleigh-Egypt High in 2014 just as the state-run Achievement School District announced it would take over the high school because of chronically low test scores. Within the year, the school boasted some of the biggest gains in the district, sparing it from eligibility for state intervention.

Last fall, he led the school as middle school grades were added in response to the ASD’s takeover of the adjacent Raleigh-Egypt Middle. The changes created a unique campus with two schools run by separate districts.

Griffin was an administrator at Bolton High before coming to Raleigh-Egypt. His return there was decided before the district’s decision to transition Raleigh-Egypt to the iZone, said spokeswoman Natalia Powers.

He replaces Bolton High Principal Chad Stevens, whose removal sparked parent and student protest.

familiar face

Former interim superintendent Alycia Meriweather ‘discussing’ new role in Detroit district under superintendent Nikolai Vitti

New Detroit superintendent Nikolai Vitti greets principals and job applicants with former Interim Superintendent Alycia Meriweather at a district job fair.

When Nikolai Vitti worked a teacher hiring fair Tuesday night, the new Detroit superintendent brought a partner — a familiar face — to stand beside him.

It was Vitti’s first full day running the Detroit Public Schools Community District. And although he was the new guy in a room full of school principals, administrators and job applicants, he stood side-by-side with someone more well-known: Alycia Meriweather, the district veteran who served for 14 months as interim superintendent until Vitti took over this week.

Whether Meriweather’s presence at the hiring fair suggests a permanent role for her in Vitti’s administration hasn’t yet been decided, she said. “We’re discussing that right now. He has made it clear that there is a position for me and, right now, it’s just a matter of me having further dialog with him about what that might look like and figure out if it’s a good fit for me.”

The news of Meriweather possibly staying on in the district could be comforting to the teachers and staff who strongly urged the school board to consider Meriweather for the permanent post. Teachers circulated petitions and protested outside a board meeting during a finalist interview after Meriweather was dropped from consideration.

For now, Meriweather is officially a senior advisor to Vitti — a role that will last at least until the end of June.

“My main focus right now is making sure this transition is as smooth as possible,” Meriweather told Chalkbeat. “Dr. Vitti and I have had really good conversations. I think we see things very similarly and he’s made it very clear that his intention is to build on the work that’s been done, which is very affirming and encouraging.”

For now, Meriweather, who is a graduate of the district and has worked in Detroit as a classroom teacher and administrator throughout her career, said she’s focused on a smooth transition.

“I really, at the heart of hearts, just want the district to continue to evolve,” she said. “I need him to be successful because if he’s successful, the district is successful, which means my kids are taken care of.”