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Chicago Charter School Founder Retires Amid Allegations of Inappropriate Behavior

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The founder of Chicago's largest charter school network is leaving his post for inappropriate behavior toward young women, according to the Noble Network of Charter Schools.

Michael Milkie, who founded the Noble Network of Charter Schools, had announced his sudden retirement last week, and now the network says it has hired an outside law firm to investigate Milkie.

Noble Schools is a high-performing, college-prep network of 18 campuses in the Chicago area educating around 12,000 students.

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Milkie did not deny the broad allegations against him. WBEZ, Chicago's NPR affiliate, reports that Milkie said in a statement that he "acted inappropriately toward adult women affiliated with Noble."

Some of the allegations against Milkie include him trying to hold hands and slow dance with alumna, instances that helped formed a "pattern of inappropriate behavior," according to a statement from Noble.

"When confronted with this information, Mr. Milkie chose to retire, the network said. "At no point did Noble leadership have knowledge of allegations that required mandated reporting, nor that were criminal in nature."

WBEZ has spoken with a few women and Noble staff members who detailed upsetting interactions with Milkie.

See Education Week's in-depth coverage of sexual harassment and assault in the K-12 workplace.

One Year, Two High-Profile Departures

This is the second high-profile charter school founder felled by allegations of misconduct toward female alums and students in the past year.

In February, Michael Feinberg, the co-founder of the country's largest charter school network, KIPP, was ousted after being accused of sexually abusing a student in the late 1990s, an allegation that didn't surface until 2017.

KIPP Houston, where Feinberg worked, and an independent law firm hired by the network investigated the allegation, but they were not able to definitively confirm that Feinberg abused a student. However, KIPP said in a statement that investigators did "find the allegation to have credibility."

Over the course of that initial investigation, two other misconduct allegations against Feinberg were turned up. Both were from two adult employees of KIPP Houston who had once been students in the charter network. One reached a financial settlement while the other allegation could not be corroborated, said KIPP officials at the time.

Feinberg vehemently denies the allegations. He has since launched an organization to launch new schools called the Texas School Venture Fund.

Milkie plans to step down at the end of this year, according to local media.

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