July 6, 2023
Dear Kairos Community,
We hope this message finds you enjoying the beginning of your summer break. We are writing to respond to the questions we have been getting about our compensation policies and systems of financial controls. We wanted to take time to put together a comprehensive response after two newspaper articles were recently released. As a founding board member and current board chair, Aaron Jackson was actively involved in the compensation arrangements with the founding leadership team. As the current CEO, Dr. Khalil Graham has been implementing the reforms and policies that we will outline below.
Together, we have the institutional knowledge and expertise to explain the situation clearly and set the record straight:
Before opening Kairos Academies, our founding leadership team devoted several years to the rigorous planning and preparation necessary to open a charter school in Missouri. This included activities such as writing the charter school application, engaging with community leaders, researching best practices, hiring staff, and securing a facility. When the school finally opened in 2019, they accepted a below-market salary to maximize operational cash reserves, with the ultimate goal of having those resources available for school needs. In December 2021, our Board voted to provide deferred compensation in order to acknowledge all the years the founding leadership team had worked either for free or for a reduced salary.
In January 2022, upon reviewing the arrangement in the minutes from our December meeting, our charter school authorizer - the Missouri Charter Public School Commission - sent us a letter criticizing both the method of approval and the appropriateness of the Board’s vote to provide the deferred compensation.
Kairos promptly addressed each of the concerns that the Commission raised in its letter. By the end of March 2022, Kairos was in compliance with the issues identified by the Commission.
How We Strengthened Our Governance and Transparency
While there's no suggestion that Kairos did anything illegal or fraudulent, we believe the Board’s decision to grant the deferred compensation was the wrong choice. As a result, we commit that, moving forward, Kairos Academies will not award deferred compensation to past or present employees.
But that’s not all we are doing or have done. In order to strengthen our governance, our Board has implemented several reforms, including:
Each member of the Board of Trustees now receives annual training in complying with the Sunshine Law.
We severed the relationship with Kairos Academies Vanguard, an affiliated non-profit that employed the founding leadership team.
We hired Thomas Durphy of Shands, Elbert, Gianoulakis & Giljumana as our independent legal counsel. His many responsibilities include reviewing all contracts and advising the Board on all compliance and ethical considerations.
We ensured that every senior leader has a written contract with clear descriptions of their compensation and other benefits.
We completely overhauled our Community and Student Handbooks to align fully with state and federal requirements.
We created a board-approved Compensation Handbook stating our financial practices and hiring systems to ground us for equitable employee compensation.
We strongly believe the steps outlined above will ensure our organization meets the highest oversight and accountability standards.
At Kairos Academies, we are committed to leading with transparency and operating with the utmost integrity at all times. That’s why we have chosen to post our board-approved salary schedule for 2023-2024 on our website.
Last week was our 8th-grade graduation, and we saw so many proud, joyful faces. Our 9th-grade awards celebration was also a joyous occasion to cap a fantastic opening year for our founding high school class. Those smiles will motivate us for the remainder of the summer to have the 2023-24 school year be our best yet. The Kairos Academies leadership team is already busy preparing for the next school year, starting with our board, senior leadership, and campus-based leadership aligning on a collective vision of success for our students and staff. Reflecting on this episode, one takeaway is that we need to be more proactive in our communication. We promise you're going to hear more from us in the future.
If you have any questions or concerns about anything in this letter, do not hesitate to contact either of us. We genuinely value creating an environment grounded in transparency and accountability, so we commit to giving you the information available to help both understand our past and clarify where we are going. Thank you for all that you do for our Kairos community. Have a restful and joyful summer break.
Dr. Khalil Graham