EXCLUSIVE: Oxbridge ousts CEO after Koch investigation

President and CEO of Oxbridge Academy is Robert Parsons, a former United States Navy captain and the deputy superintendent for finance and chief financial officer at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. At the Naval Academy, he was responsible for planning, programming, budgeting and executing federal funding for the school, as well as managing private funding from the Naval Academy Foundation and the Naval Academy Athletic Association. He is the recipient of three Legion of Merit awards, the Joint Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Meritorious Service Medal and two Navy Commendation Medals. He earned his bachelor’s of science degree in marine engineering from the United States Naval Academy and his master’s of science degree in civil engineering from Pennsylvania State University. Photo courtesy of Oxbridge Academy of the Palm Beaches

Former President and CEO of Oxbridge Academy Robert Parsons

WEST PALM BEACH — Oxbridge Academy’s CEO was fired Thursday and its athletic director’s and football coach’s contracts will not be renewed, after a Palm Beach Post investigation prompted the private high school’s chairman, Palm Beach billionaire Bill Koch, to investigate the school he founded.

In a letter to Oxbridge parents today, the morning after graduation ceremonies, Koch said President and CEO Robert Parsons, who led the school since its founding in 2011, has been removed.

oxbridge academy

The school’s board made its decision after meeting with Parsons Thursday. The chairman of the school’s Executive Committee, Bob Kaufmann, met with staff and faculty at 7:30 this morning at the campus at 3151 N. Military Trail to advise them of the decisions and content of the letter.

>>RELATED OPINION: Commentary: Billionaire Bill Koch makes good on “exhaustive investigation” into Oxbridge

Oxbridge placed Parsons, Director of Athletics Craig Sponsky and bookstore manager Ulle Boshko on paid leave in April amid a Palm Beach Post investigation into allegations of a toxic employment environment including sexual harassment by Parsons, high turnover and over-emphasis on football at the expense of academics. At the same time Koch ordered investigations by a team that included an ex-FBI agent, a forensic accountant and a lawyer.

Koch said Friday that in addition to Parsons, Sponsky will not return in the fall. The school’s board of directors also decided not to renew the contract of football coach Doug Socha, Koch said.

Academic Dean John Klemme will assume the title Head of School, a post he has effectively had on an interim basis since the board put Parsons on a leave of absence five weeks ago.

Koch called the decisions bittersweet.

“Bob (Parsons) has given much to achieve the successful, fast start at Oxbridge and I want to say “thank you” to him for that,” he wrote. “At the same time,these last weeks have been difficult for the school community. Today the board is more fully aware of issues of concern on Bob’s part. Simply put, the board felt that now was the proper and necessary time to turn the page.”

Boshko’s fate was not mentioned in Koch’s letter.

She filed a complaint against the school in November with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging Parsons demoted her from comptroller to bookstore manager when she refused his sexual advances. That case is still pending.

She said a school representative told her recently that Oxbridge wants to mediate a settlement. Boshko, however, told The Palm Beach Post that she wanted Parsons out and she wanted to be reinstated as comptroller.

“I don’t see why I should be the one to leave,” she said. “I didn’t do anything wrong.”

Ulle

Ulle Boshko

With the departures of Sponsky and Socha, the board signals it plans to reduce the profile of its football program, which was subject of complaints that it was over-emphasized, to the point of admitting athletes who couldn’t read past 3rd grade level. Head coach Socha was earned $230,481 in 2014, according to nonprofit school’s most recent IRS filings.

Parsons was making $694,540, including a house rented for him in Wellington — three times the median base salary for a head of a school that belongs to the National Association of Independent Schools. Oxbridge is not a member of that organization.

Susan Gray, president of the Oxbridge Parent Organization, said Friday the group stands behind Koch. “We’re pleased to see the action that he’s taken. We know that it will make the school stronger. As a parent, I have no concerns about leaving my child at that school and I am a college professor, a doctor of organizational leadership and I have no concerns about keeping my child at Oxbridge.”

As for concerns of an over-emphasis on football, she said. “I have a daughter who plays violin and plays no sports. My child has always felt taken care of, involved, engaged, receiving the right schooling, the right level of engagement and interest.”

Koch said the board hopes “to be in a position soon” to tell how the two sports jobs will be filled and to reshape the sports program.

“Oxbridge was founded in the belief that we could become the leading secondary school in the state of Florida,” he wrote. “We continue to believe in the importance of athletics in providing a well-rounded education to all our students. We are also totally committed to having an outstanding program of academics through curricular and co-curricular programs that will enable our graduates to be the best they can be and to become well-grounded contributors to society.

“We have much of which to be proud,” he added. “The fingerprints of many are on the successes we have had to date.

“A few weeks ago we were presented with a list of concerns,” he said, apparently referring to concerns fielded by The Palm Beach Post from past and present employees and submitted to Koch for comment.

“Some of these were not accurate but some were. We have done our best to examine all aspects of those and to expeditiously take steps to guarantee our future. My hope now is that we are ready to heal and continue to build on Oxbridge’s many successes.”