By early August, Oxbridge's projected enrollment was 126 ninth- and tenth-grade students. The school expects to add grades every year, capping enrollment at about 550 students in all four grades, says Julie Fanning, a spokesperson for the academy.

But Oxbridge's start has not all been smooth sailing. Hunt, who was a public face for the school from January to June, was let go over the summer for unspecified reasons. She was replaced by math teacher Yong Han.

Before starting Oxbridge, Koch donated more than $500,000 to the Middle School of the Arts Foundation at Bak, helping poor and minority kids attend summer camps and participate in other programs. He was also a board member at the private Palm Beach Day School.

Bill Koch.
Kim Sargent
Bill Koch.

Oxbridge is another way of giving back, Goldstein says, repaying the favor of the man who gave Koch's dad money for college. Oxbridge is promising to teach kids to think critically and survive in a new economy.

"He wanted to start a school that was not driven by tests," Goldstein says. He emphasizes that Palm Beach County is "very fortunate to have Bill Koch here."

Yet as Koch reaches his twilight years, the school may be a test for his philanthropic legacy. Will he be remembered as the good Koch brother or just another selfish coal man?

"I think he's always differentiated himself from them [his brothers]," says Goldstein. "He's always been his own man... He has never told me what his legacy is."

Back at the school meeting in June, Hunt wraps up her pitch. Her eyes fall on the rows of parents in folding chairs, the moms and dads listening attentively, the kids fiddling with smartphones. One man is conspicuously absent from the crowd: her boss. Bill Koch is vacationing in Colorado.

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