- “The Cult of We” explores WeWork’s defunct elementary school WeGrow, run by the former CEO’s wife.
- According to the book, the Neumanns hosted dinner parties in WeGrow and left the classrooms a mess.
- Neumann bought back the school and will relaunch it as “Student of Life For Life,” Forbes reported.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
The third floor of WeWork’s Chelsea office was once home to a school that “resembled a meadow,” served vegan lunches, and taught Hebrew alongside daily meditation.
According to a new book out Tuesday, the elementary school was also the site of dinner parties hosted by former WeWork CEO Adam Neumann and his wife. Authors Eliot Brown and Maureen Farrell wrote that the parties often left the classrooms a mess for teachers to clean up on Mondays before students arrived.
“Teachers arrived on several different Monday mornings to see waste strewn around the floor,” the book said. “Chairs were in the wrong classrooms; nothing looked the way staff had left it the previous Friday.”
“The Cult of We: WeWork, Adam Neumann, and the Great Startup Delusion,” reveals new details about the rise and fall of WeGrow, the short-lived educational branch of WeWork that closed down after two years in operation.
According to the book, Rebekah Neumann conceived the private school after she was unable to find an institution for her own children that met her high standards.
The sought-after criteria included mindfulness, Hebrew lessons, a progressive curriculum, healthy food, and beautiful surroundings. WeGrow, she determined, would have all these things – with tuition priced at $US48,000 ($AU65,033) per year.
Neumann recruited some of education’s brightest stars to help her “re-create the traditional classroom environment.” Brown and Farrell wrote that the hardest part was finding teachers with Neumann’s stamp of approval. Staff said she turned down many candidates for having “the wrong energy.”
Over the next two years, WeGrow would witness internal battles over curriculum, the color of the rugs, non-gendered bathrooms, and teacher salaries. After a group of teachers asked for raises, Neumann became agitated, according to “The Cult of We.”
“Why were teachers getting paid so much, and why did they want more?” Neumann said, “It’s an honor to be part of this… we don’t want staff who are just doing this for the money.” Staff said they were shocked that Neumann didn’t understand the high living costs of New York City.
Neumann ultimately stepped down from WeGrow after new co-CEOs Artie Minson and Sebastian Gunningham took over the company.
“As part of the company’s efforts to focus on its core business, WeWork has informed the families of WeGrow students that we will not operate WeGrow after this school year,” a representative said in a statement from the time. “WeWork and the families of WeGrow students are engaging in discussions with interested parties regarding plans for WeGrow for the following school year.”
Following Adam Neumann’s legal battle with SoftBank and eventual $US500 ($AU677) million settlement, Rebekah bought back WeGrow and now owns the rights to the curriculum. She plans to rebrand the school as Student of Life For Life (SOLFL) or “soulful,” Forbes reported.
WeWork declined to comment for this story.