Education, Ohio, Public Schools, Schools, Uncategorized

The Phantom of Phalen Learning Academies: Part 2, Working the Middle-Man-Game like Pros

The Phantom of Phalen Learning Academies: Part 2, Working the Middle-Man-Game like Pros


***Note: Links are bold and faintly underscored***

When chain-style charters come into a new area, such as the Phalen Leadership Academy (or Learning—I have seen it written both ways) who are trying to wheedle their way into Cincinnati, they bring along all of their transient and temporary employee plans.

It is not a new ‘think-tank’ like the reformers like to taut, but rather a crew that has been trained to puppet the reform talk. This is why I wrote such a harsh statement in the first piece of this 3-part series, insisting that they (these businesses) are “cult-like”. It might seem like a million different battles with thousands of different names, but in reality it is all one greedy game, and the foundational pieces are all the same. The selling points are part of the training programs in a brain-washing manner.

June 13th, was a crucial meeting
for the Cincinnati Board of Education to “explore” the possibilities of opening an expansion charter(s) from the cluster of the PLAs in Indianapolis. The vote should not have even gone forth because the charter(s) are too new. PLA was in operation for only one year prior (2015-2016). This ‘newness’ detail does not surprise me. Tom Vander Ark, who is the original visionary of all of these privatization and personalization takeovers, was considered an education expert after he happed into a position as a suburban school superintendent. Only one school, in only one area (Federal Way, Washington), for only one single time slot of five years with no prior education-related experience or degree and Bill Gates deemed newbie Tom Vander Ark worthy of having enough knowledge to completely redo all education premises in the United States. Billions upon billions of dollars and two decades later, and Tom Vander Ark (having left Gates’ Foundation to make the millions on his own),  is still turning tricks and selling his bullshit in all forms and forums. Oh, and he is still using Gates’ and others’ money pots. Phalen charters are a sickening example of all of this.

These type of charters are notorious for rough starts while they move and jostle their own people all around. Transient environments are the last thing these community members seek. Stability is a rare commodity that children and their families from socio-financially disadvantaged areas need. But they will not reap that as a benefit from PLAs. One month (July 2015) before Phalen Leadership Academy was to open in Indiana, their reform pick (to the tune of a $100,000 MindTrust fellowship grant), was suddenly and without explanation, out of the picture. ““Yes, Marlon [Llewellyn] has done a great job during his fellowship year but will not be leading us forward as the school leader next year,” Phalen said in an email Thursday. Phalen has not responded to requests for further clarification as to why Llewellyn was removed. Llewellyn did not respond to a request for comment.” This was not a one-time fluke. Such are the broad patterns of such dysfunctional happenings with charter business startups.

“Findings: Our analyses show that charter schools had a higher principal turnover rate than traditional schools and very different principal transition patterns.” (Yongmei Ni, Min Sun, and Andrea Rorrer, Principal Turnover: Upheaval and Uncertainty in Charter Schools? Educational Administration Quarterly August 2015 51: 409-437, first published on June 26, 2014)
A Hechinger Report article stated “…nearly 30 percent of principals who lead troubled schools quit every year. By Year 3, more than half of all principals leave their jobs.”  Add this in with the fact that turnover rate is much higher in charters and one spells ‘disaster’.

The article went on to say that “ Looking broadly at the effect of principal turnover on student learning, a researcher from Mount Holyoke College studied 12 years of data from North Carolina public schools. They found that when principals leave, student achievement generally declines for two years.” So these commonplace leadership attrition rates are a huge realistic risk for Cincinnati. It is a dangerous dance of one fancy faux step forward and several irreparable steps backwards.

Principals are not the only temporary hires of MindTrust. Teachers are pulled from TFA (Teach For America) and TNTP (The New Teacher Project). For more background see this article; the author, Doug Martin, has been fighting MindTrust’s ways and writing about such in Indiana for a long time.  A study out of Vanderbilt University lays teacher turnover out in a comprehensive manner: “Using multi-nomial logistic regression, we found the odds of a charter school teacher leaving the profession versus staying in the same school are 132% greater than those of a traditional public school teacher. The odds of a charter school teacher moving schools are 76% greater. Our analysis confirms that much of the explanation of this “turnover gap” lies in differences in the types of teachers that charter schools and traditional public schools hire.” (Italic emphasis mine)

This “type of teacher” is one who has had no previous classroom experience, with extremely abbreviated training times, and whom are promised yet other roles in reform if they meet the contingency of teaching in one of these startup urban situations. Ads are perpetually run. When we, the Badass Teachers Association, lobbied in DC in 2015, we were startled at how very many Representatives’ and Senators’ Education Aides were directly from TFA. Dr. Mitchell Robinson writes: “Teach for America uses its teaching program as a direct line into legislative assistant positions through the Capital Hill Fellows Program.” This is no coincidence on TFA & reformers’ parts. It is intentional through and through. For these fellowship teachers, entrance wages are ridiculously low, the newness pressures are exasperatingly high, and the non-union positions are precariously unprotected. The reward is that they can move on. Teaching is temporary. Never mind the tire tracks on the children’s backs.

Is this the environment that best serves America’s most vulnerable students?

Now, as a final consideration about the atrocious attrition rates associated with opening new charters, please consider the language in THIS CONTRACT. It is the EXECUTIVE SUMMARY OF PROPOSED INNOVATION NETWORK SCHOOL AGREEMENT BETWEEN PHALEN LEADERSHIP ACADEMY-INDIANA, INC. AND IPS [Indiana Public Schools] FOR OPERATION OF GEORGE FISHER AS INNOVATION NETWORK SCHOOL. This one sentence leapt out at me:

“In addition, given the importance of having staff experienced in implementing the Project: RESTORE model, if staff turnover exceeds 75 percent in any year, IPS may terminate the agreement.”

Am I the only one totally perturbed and disturbed by that number?? So, in actuality it is A-OKAY……for just shy of three-quarters of the entire school staff from top down and middle to middle, to turnover, creating chaos and churn. Never mind the time and energy resources to replace. Don’t worry about the training aspects, TFA and TNTP can carry that all off in five weeks. Don’t fret about the folks being from the community itself; they will be complete passers-by, stopping in for a brief stay and then headed out to the next time and place. Game board pieces with their marching orders.


Education, Ohio, Public Schools, Schools

The Phantom of Phalen Learning Academies

The Phantom of Phalen Learning Academies: Part 1, Forming the Foundations

A-misty-phantom (1)

***Note: Links are in bold and faintly underlined***

Positioned atop of his self-made pinnacle of one of the most cult-like pyramiding schemes I have ever seen, is none other than Tom Vander Ark. But somehow he seems to go unnamed and unnoticed most of the time, misting about like a phantom in all aspects of ruinous reform.

phan·tomˈ fan(t)əm/ noun (Google definitions)
*a ghost. synonyms: ghost, apparition, spirit, specter, wraith
*a figment of the imagination.synonyms: delusion, figment of the imagination, hallucination, illusion, chimera, vision, mirage*denoting a financial arrangement or transaction that has been invented for fraudulent purposes but that does not really exist.modifier noun: phantom”he diverted an estimated $1,500,000 into “phantom” bank accounts”

In Ohio, I have more than learned, any time something related to education reform arises, that Tom and his profit-pointed poisons and, purposefully-packaged propaganda will be forming the fortunes in the foundation, working the middle-man-game like pros and gleaning the gold dust that seems to magically disappear into thin air.  His public school takeover plans or new charter start-ups are quite the practiced prescribed sales pitches. Through iNACOL and NACSA (and a score more of such groups), he uses heavily-lobbied-legislation which he templates and passes out like addictive-drug-laced-candy to the well-intentioned, the unaware, or the greedy.  A combination of these three sectors works the best for Tom’s charismatic churning up of yet another minefield of coffers for him and his collaborators. And, there are an extensive amount of the zombie-bitten ones on the public education deathship at this point. I know, I know, no one will wade through this (I certainly have not all the way, but rather have skimmed numerous times and I long for the time to go line by line through it and bring along all of the articles of related FAILURES, CHANGE-UPS and SCANDAL) but here is a 270 page paper that covers so much of Tom Vander Ark’s vision and the connections.

Through the scope of his financial engineering (Tom: “I’m an engineer by training, and moved into finance.”) Cincinnati has long been a target of Tom’s.  Yes, a long time, to answer Michelle Dillingham’s wonderings about how long they have been planning the takeover of taxpayers’ turf. Specifically, Mind Trust has been looking to set up their (scholarly-sounding) scheme for quite the while. In a manner similar to the buying and selling of fast-food chain restaurants, a formula has been finited and the exponential spread of the ‘brain-washed marching repeaters’ are ready to be strategically inserted into YOUR CHILD’s education world. They (Mind Trust and Tom Vander Ark) have been deviously developing this formula for privatization since 2006.

Tom Vander is the CEO of Getting Smart, and under that are all of his books, blogs, and hashtags by the same names: #SmartStates #SmartCities #SmartParents. This is one of the main ways he pumps his pompous unproven ideas. This is one of the hundreds upon hundreds of avenues from which he gets paid. It is all a huge hype for his one-man-show on how he (and all of his fortune-seeking followers) are going to set about to transform schools or get rich depending on which tongue Tom is using in the discussion.

Mind Trust and Cincinnati are discussed numerous times in the same articles in his tons of different blogs and tweets. Search it– you will immediately see.  I will give him this, he is OBSESSIVELY PROLIFIC and DETERMINED, but that does not make him any less WRONG, and at this point EVIL for all the irreparable demise that has come about in education realms.

His engineering degree was in mining. He writes about the barriers to completely overhauling education, and compares those barriers of experienced teachers, unions, local boards, legislation and so on as being “Gordian knots”. But he has bore through those barriers like he is using the largest mountain-tunneling machine ever built along with the similarities of using large amounts of dynamite to open up deep, dangerous shafts. Imagine the noise of such devices and the permanent scarring to the landscape. And yet, to my utter frustration and lack of understanding, he has done it all nearly as silently as though he were an apparition walking through walls. By this I mean there have been 100s of conferences leading into this current proposal push in Cincinnati, but we who are fighting to preserve PUBLIC education, seem to only hear about all of it when it is already a done deal. Most find it unbelieveable when I try to show all the areas Tom is haunting.

The next time I write about Vander Ark, I truly would like to really show in as full-blown of a manner as I can, how dastardly his omnipresence in Ohio has become. Each time I set out to write about how Tom is connected to and orchestrating so much of this reform, I become almost instantly overwhelmed with a sickening migraine. It is that much. It is that big. It is that nauseating. But, for the here and now, I am about to bombard the readers with as much as I can, as it will relate to the current Cincinnati cash clutch. Here is where it all is headed. This is what it will look and sound like. Not at all like the ‘MIND TWISTS’ they will paint for you as the future.   Just insert Cincinnati where you read Indianapolis.

“The Indianapolis Star tells us The Mind Trust is sticking its fingers in the affairs of our Indianapolis Public School system again. The nonprofit education group, which is nothing more than a front organization for wealthy education profiteers, is awarding two $50,000 grants to IPS to transform George Fisher School 93 and Cold Spring School into what is called “innovation network schools.” These schools are in fact charter schools operating for profit within the IPS district using our public school property and tax dollars to operate schools free from all of the burdens and regulations imposed on traditional public schools.”

“[IPS] to the Phalen Leadership Academy to operate its for-profit charter school using our public school property and tax dollars. You heard that right. As much as $3 million has been given to operate their for-profit charter school within the IPS network. Phalen’s hands aren’t tied by the collective bargaining agreement IPS has with its schools. Phalen pays nothing to use our public school building. The entire tab and then some is picked up by IPS. How’s that for driving a good bargain? Thanks to a state law passed by state lawmakers who accepted large campaign contributions from the very people who profit from charter schools, it’s all legal. Under an agreement IPS entered into with The Mind Trust, it will eventually convert 15%, or about nine schools altogether, into profit centers for these greedy bastards.”

“ All of the $100,000 paid to the two school in these grants will go to a group of consultants and attorneys who will work out the logistics of transitioning the schools into for-profit places of learning according to The Mind Trust’s spokesman, Steve Campbell, another political crony of former Mayor Bart Peterson. Naturally, there is no disclosure in advance to whom those consulting and legal fees will be paid. Don’t be surprised if it includes people listed on the campaign finance reports of the best school board money can buy. This IPS board doesn’t approve anything unless there’s something in it for their political cronies.” (taken from the comments section)

“With $1.19M in surplus revenue and an 84.7% margin in 2013, Phalen Leadership Academy-indiana Inc. was profitable.”

I could go on and on for great lengths of time establishing the FOR-PROFIT side of all of this. I want to wrap this piece up by shedding light in one or two more dark and dank dreads of going forward with this Cincinnati. So, please skim through this 24 page pdf: Boosting Impact: Why Foundations Should Invest in Education Venture Funds.” Getting Smart, March 2014.   It is Tom speaking in his non-child-concerned true voice. It is the language of the lust for money. It is mind mining. Written to those who have money and want more money. By the time it all gets to the public, it is donning a shimmery, sugary sheath of ‘save the children’.  But underneath is an ugly specter looking to suck the very souls from our schools. Enter the Eerie Era of Educational Entrepreneurships.
The Phalen Phantom strikes again and again.

The Phantom of Phalen Learning Academies: Part 2, Working the Middle-Man-Game Like Pros

The Phantom of Phalen Learning Academies: Part 3, Gleaning the Gold Dust that Seems to Magically Disappear Into Thin Air

Education, Ohio, Public Schools, Schools

50 Days Worth of Blogs About ‘Tornadic’ Tom Vander Ark: Day 13

Day 13


Getting Smart…..Tom Vander Ark’s big big thing. The only problem is that one little letter is out of place. The “S” in Smart. ANY of Tom Vander Ark’s writings or ideas need that “S” on the end not at the beginning. Getting MartS. Oh wait, one more detail. Pierce the “S” with a stick. Getting Mart$. And in the instance of Tom who is the lover of Tom so much so that daily it is his name and his trumped up credentials that he types more than anything else, so we have to put TOM in it. Getting Tom Mart$. There now we have the reeking reality of his virtual ventures.

I was doing so good daily posting exposures about Tom Vander Ark. I was getting into a rhythm of being able to break things down into topics and just present one part at a time. But, I was interrupted by hell week in education in Ohio. In matter of a little over 36 hours, my city, Youngstown, Ohio was sold into the market place. A non-union market place. Several TomMart$ will be built. The fast and furious rushed-through legislation had obviously been transcribed ‘behind the scenes’ quite a while ago; the dictation is to be model legislation for other TomMart$ Takeovers in Ohio and can be found circulated in almost verbatim manner in too many other states. (I bet if I had the time and energy to put towards it, I could prove that in fact it is close to this tier in all states). Check your state for any of the names of companies, entities, corporations or connections written in this blog series, it might take you a bit but you WILL FIND him.

In one same brief time frame window (the last week in June), our ALEC-founder Governor let it be known that he will announce presidential candidacy on July 21st. #NeverVote4Kasich.  While a crucial charter accountability bill just ooops never really made it all the way on the schedule, other bills slid in budgets made very exacting lopsided proposals for TomMart$ (charters, community schools, blended schools, non-profit schools, online schools, and so on would go the AKAs), PARCC was taken down and Florida’s Jeb Bush’s bullshit AIR put up. No voice of the people. Sheer reform control drove all of this. TomMART$ voice drove it all except for the candidacy announcement. It was preDICTATED.

Throughout this whole round after round of machine gun fire to PUBLIC schools, I kept feeling ‘this is Tom’. ‘Tom is doing this.’ ‘This is directly relates to what I am researching about Tom.’ ‘This is all of pages and pages of research about Tom in government actions right in front of my eyes.’ But, then I would shake off the feelings and think to myself– ‘No, no one person— no one person could be this powerful.’ ‘No one person could cause this level of destruction.’ ‘No one person could dictate this diatribe of destructive directional changes.’ ‘No one person could be this calculating and cold.’ ‘This is America in 2015’ I told myself. One man’s ideas could never dominate and destroy a backbone social institution to this depth. We are a democracy. We vote. Our Voice not One Voice is the American way.

And then the bomb dropped. The Tom bomb. Tom is not only in my state here and there at a handful of schools as I thought. I was going to spend several blogs revealing as though warning that he was coming through Reynoldsburg, Mentor, and Columbus schools. BUT TOM IS HERE. TOM MART$ are here. (Tom the sixth letter of the alphabet expletive ending in -ing) ‘Tornado’ is here. This article was posted in Ohio. iNACOL is Tom. Tom is iNACOL. TomDoom is upon us.

Here is where OHIO is mentioned in the article:

“Ohio Passes Pilot Program for Competency-based Education – Ohio continues to push innovation in helping schools modernize teaching and learning. The budget provides $1 million per year for up to five districts or schools to receive up to $200,000 each for a competency-based education pilot program. The program will begin with planning in the 2015-2016 school year and implementation for three years after that. With this and other efforts already underway in the state, Ohio is working to bring the current one-size-fits-all education system towards a student-based approach, with flexible pacing for student instruction and credit decisions based on competency rather than seat time. The Ohio Budget Bill contains the language on the competency-based education pilot program. Most of the language on the pilot are in the following sections: 263.280, 733.30. (A), and 3317.23. (A).

A summary is below; a more detailed version with additional legislative information is available in the members-only iNACOL Member Forums. We track policy priorities and issues related to the field’s needs as outlined annually in the iNACOL State Policy Frameworks. This report provides background information and recommendations for issues on the critical policy shifts needed to transform K-12 education.”

I was prepared for writing and posting the next two blogs in this series with about twenty four links opened in the two windows and two full pages of notes in OneNote. And now I feel as though I have had the wind knocked completely out of me.  I feel I can not go fast enough, big enough, detailed enough, or long enough to let you know the pervasiveness of TVA’s goals for his TomMART$

iNACOL stands for the International Association of K-12 Online Learning. Tom is currently the treasurer and was at one point the president, but mostly he describes himself as being a DIRECTOR of iNACOL. Typical of anything Tom has his hands in, it is difficult to draw a complete picture of what all is connected and falls ‘underneath’ iNACOL’s directorship. As with all the other groups that Tom ‘directs’. most of what comes up when you search iNACOL are things Tom has written; and if he did not write them, they contain things that he was among the first to be saying or has obviously delegated/demanded that they type. This fact alone of how powerful and present iNACOL is,  would be something he would consider as a boast and it would prove to him that his grand scale compulsion is successfully penetrating what he considers a fossilized social institution. He has financially finagled and egotistically engineered a very exact way and plan  to completely dominate anything written on the topic of education reform.

I am saying flat-out that he intends to change the world. He is almost at an insane level of compulsion in his goal. And he is thoroughly convinced he has the good and right way of it all, and alludes to it all being a “calling” in his life. A ‘God mission’ for which he has been exclusively chosen. And he is succeeding. In his pomposity he, as this self-proclaimed visionary pioneer, TVA is blind to the pain, problems, and poisonous results of his upward ever-broadening spiral surge to his personal summit. He is so maniacal that he is not seeing the negative human factor erasure effects (a blog on that subject later). And if he does see them, he thinks it is all sacrificially necessary. He is in a most deliberate manner killing public schools and the profession of teaching.

From legislation down to the smallest (constant) online plugs for his companies (remember he owns 48 just under the one name of one of his numerous non-profit entities Learn Capital,LLC). iNACOL is his equivalent of air raids of innocent citizenry.

iNACOL is ALEC on a more laser-beamed focus. It is model legislation being methodically pushed upon our state governments. The laws being put in place are securing for TVA the paths by which he will pave paradise and put up his TomMART$.

Tom’s obsessive compulsive goal is to carry ALL PUBLIC SCHOOLS to a place where they can be “charterized” ( yes, I made that word up because cauterized is truly more like what it actually is) into PRIVATE SECTORS with the private sectors under CEOs control of boards which he directs and trains through several of his other non-profit organizations so that he can implement blended schooling (a partial version of his idea) which in turn is the platform on which he can build his TomMART$. His brain scheme ultimate goal, is that every single student (55 million children) in the United States, will have their OWN PERSONALIZED EDUCATION. If you have ever used PANDORA, that is what he shoots for  it to resemble. (so it will be adaptive to each child’s learner needs), with the basics reading, writing, and arithmetic defined by what…. can anyone guess?  Yes, the STANDARDS. Common Core, or better still AIR (his buddy Jeb Bush’s FEE bit). *Much more on all of this in other blogs to come. I wonder at this point if 50 Blogs will be enough space.

dictator (n.) Look up dictator at
late 14c., from Latin dictator, agent noun from dictare (see dictate (v.)). Transferred sense of “one who has absolute power or authority” in any sphere is from c. 1600. In Latin use, a dictator was a judge in the Roman republic temporarily invested with absolute power.

From Latin dictātor (“a chief magistrate”), from dictō (“dictate, prescribe”), from dīcō (“say, speak”).

Surface analysis is dictate +‎ -or (“(agent)”) “one who dictates”. (wiktionary)

Tom Vander Ark is completing controlling the social media and any and all think tanks related to reform.

Tom Vander Ark is in absolute terms dictating reform. Tom Vander Ark is the DICTATOR of REFORM.Day 13Day 13


50 Days Worth of Blogs About ‘Tornadic’ Tom Vander Ark: Day 10

Day 10

BOLD PRINT are Links! And fair warning, the language in this today —well it is not “C” for classroom-rated!

Tom Vander Ark has several catch phrases (don’t all aggressive salesman). There is one that just gets on my nerves every single time I read where he is using it..and he uses it A LOT! He loves to make education analogous to a Gordian Knot!

He uses it like a CMA (cover my a$$). Note the business-ese.

There are significant barriers (SB)—including the Gordian knot of federal, state, and local policies combined with contracts and traditions—to creating an innovative school (IS) that is student-centered and competency-based. There is little focused R&D investment and almost no capacity (or incentive) to make productivity-improving capital investments.

He uses it as a complaint:

1. Strong state and federal policy constraints, and a Gordian knot of local contracts ensconced in board policies and state laws (i.e., you may need to change three provisions/policies to do anything differently).

Or wait maybe it is not a complaint but rather an excuse —and we all know that excuses are like a$$holes and they stink:

State and federal policy create a pretty confined space: standards influence aims, tests monopolize time, and funding is input-based and programmatic. Local contracts are often ensconced in board policies and state laws creating a Gordian knot of constraints that requires several waivers or changes before doing anything different.

He uses it like a salesman selling sheep $hit to a sheep farmer:

Tom Vander Ark: It’s the system. It’s just crazy. One, it’s just turned out not to be a great way to govern schools, the basic building blocks upon which the system is built. And then, on top of the building blocks we’ve layered state government and this giant web of Federal legislation. It’s a Gordian knot of governance. I don’t know that you can pick one particular thing, but in total we’ve got it wrong, and it’s really hard to undo the knot.

Guernica: It’s a Gordian knot that’s calcified.

Tom Vander Ark: Yeah. That’s what it is.

(At the bottom of the page containing the interview referenced above, it strangely says if you want to contact Guernica or Michelle Rhee…click here. So was Michelle Rhee interviewing him or what??!! No time to traipse down that rabbit hole…she literally is a manure salesperson now!)

He uses it to whitewash over his failures:

Fixing this problem has proven vexing.  The one difference between good schools and bad schools is everything—structure, schedule, curriculum, instruction, culture, and connections with families and community.  That makes turnarounds, especially at the high school level, really difficult.  Layer on top of that outdated employment contracts and revolving door leadership [he was referring to Deasy in this part] and you have a national Gordian knot. The best approach to date has been trading bad seats for good seats—closing failing schools and opening good new schools.  This approach, while politically and logistically difficult, has been used with success in Chicago and New York.  Armed with this knowledge, Arne Duncan went to Washington determined to take on the problem lowest performing schools.

I think that Tom Vander Ark thinks he is Alexander the Great coming along and slicing the knot with his shiny sword for all to see how he “solves the problem”. (feel free to hum Superman theme music in the background–*roll eyes*) After rubbing shoulders with the richest man in the world, he views all schools as the “lands to be controlled, and conquered”.

But I think in the myth analogy he us more likened to Gordias the peasant in the oxcart. I can not imagine what crazed supernatural something or other possessed Bill Gates to hire Tom Vander Ark after he was the first businessman to wheedle his way into the position of a school superintendent. Seriously that sounds as ridiculous to me as the Phrygians being told by some fortune-teller that the next man to come in town was fit to be a King of their town and an eagle landing on an oxcart would serve as confirmation. Five years, five years as a wanna-be-superintendent, and POOF he was suddenly an education expert?

Here is a word picture of what I think the ‘Gordian Knot’ that he speaks of actually is more like.

It is like a huge beautiful basket of yarn. Some of the yarn was new and some of the yarn was frayed having been salvaged from once glorious projects. Some of the yarns were in skeins and some were already rolled into balls. I think TOMCAT stalked up on that basket. I think he had never ever held crochet or knitting needles in his hands. I do not think he had ever read a pattern that said something like this (but use education acronyms-;-) ):  Ch 1, turn, sc in next 3 sts, *skip next post st in row below, FPtr around next post st in row below, skip next sc, sc in next 2 sc, working in front of FPtr just made, FPtr around skipped post st, skip next st, sc in next 2 sts; repeat from *, sc in last st . So TOMCAT jumped right in the basket and invited some other alley cats to join him. And then he ripped and clawed and tore at and looped and ran with the colors of string (for years, really).

download (1)

What a slew of messes he has made. At least in a Gordian Knot of sorts, there might be some form or semblance of order instead of shear chaos and confusion.

Think of all the BULL$HIT REFORM that occurred while TOMCAT was the Executive Director of Education for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (1999-2006).

Think of  the destruction and helter-skelter havoc he has caused since 2006 as he continually purports what needs to be changed in education and how he purloins public monies while disguised as an education savior.

TOMCAT, and other reformers are for-profit businessmen working a market. (Leopards do not change their spots!)

Policy. A growing number of think tanks and advocacy groups are attempting to nudge the Gordian knot of policy in a slightly more positive and coherent direction. 

• Problem addressed: three-tiered mess of American education policy 

• Key assumption: a smart investment in advocacy can yield big returns
• Risk: high risk of little or no progress, possible unintended consequences
• Return: high leverage if successful; opportunity to change the opportunity set for millions of students 
• Example: EdTrust, Democrats for Education Reform, Education Equality Project, EdSector, ConnCAN

They think of liabilities and losses. They think of interest and gains. They think of risks and data-induced successes.

Sentences like these two cause me to be in sheer anguish thinking about the children ,the families, the teachers, the school staff, the neighborhoods, and the communities affected by his arrogant experiments. So many personal stories come to mind.

The best approach to date has been trading bad seats for good seats—closing failing schools and opening good new schools.  This approach, while politically and logistically difficult, has been used with success in Chicago and New York.  Armed with this knowledge, Arne Duncan went to Washington determined to take on the problem lowest performing schools.

Closing schools is ‘all business as usual’ around the tables. The TOMCATs in business suits all agree “Men, we’ve got to cut our losses.”  And I am not just talking about the PUBLIC schools being closed in Chicago, Newark, Philadelphia and Youngstown, etc. I am not just talking about the New Orlean’s schools that suffered through a hurricane and were advantageously left for dead as reformers plopped their for-profit properties down everywhere and filled them with their transient inexperienced teachers. I am talking about all of those, PLUS the new charters and small schools within schools that are opened with 6-digit salary collectors full-well knowing that a SOLID 15%+ of those schools will close within the first 5 years. They are so callously casual about it all. Ooops, oh well, another one closed, onward.

Here is a report put out by the Center for Education Reform FOUR YEARS AGO. The sick cycle of charter school closings has only spun even further out of control since this report was released. Google “school closures” for yourself. Or drive to the nearest WalMart (do NOT go in and shop—please!) and you will likely see a school closing since they are that visible and rampant. The blatant squandering of not just billions of dollars, but time and energy also.

My God, how does anyone write or read such a report without personal names and situations coming to mind? Has anyone thought to research the ripple effects of all of these closures. The psychological effects? The emotional effects? The unemployment ratios on macro-scales in those areas? The physical effects (meaning all of the furniture and material goods being shuffled)? I mean I suppose we are used to storefronts and restaurants opening and closing all of the time. BUT, THESE ARE OUR SCHOOLS. NOT ONLY OUR CHILDREN’s FUTURES but their TENDER FORMATIVE FLEETING PRESENT YEARS. This is obnoxiously unacceptable on so many wrong levels.

It is amazing to me how fast 1500 words get typed.

We had TOMCAT as Gordias, the oxcart-pulling peasant, finding himself in the right place at the right time to just step right up on a throne. We had TOMCAT as thinking he is Alexander the sword-swinging Great, rendering death by a thousand cuts to the education system. But, I wish I had a bit more time to explain how TOMCAT also thinks he is the “oracle at Telmissus” —he loves to predict how many will be learning online. Folks he is into FINANCE. This is what FINANCE MAJORS do. They calculate and predict future sales for a company. (Oh, wait, they are his companies). These are not predictions. They are his business-growth goals. His engineered financial outlooks.

In closing, here is a section from a fun bit I came across while preparing this blog. It is called the Untold Story of the Gordian Knot, and I thought it ‘tied right in’.

Seleucus: Don’t I? Look, this time it’s just a damn knot, and knowing Alex the press will probably eat this up. They’ll be writing about it for at least 2,346 years – “And then Alexander the Great cut the Gordian Knot, and found a solution where no one else could!” But Alex is trying to rule the whole world, Heph, and this attitude of destroy/eliminate/repeat is going to be the end of him. If he doesn’t learn how to actually solve these “unsolvable” problems, then what’s he going to do when he encounters one he can’t get rid of?


50 Days Worth of Blogs About ‘Tornadic’ Tom Vander Ark: Day 7



When I first read about this situation, and we in the Badass Teachers Association leadership team were discussing it, I IMMEDIATELY in my mind furiously screamed TOMMMMMMMMMMM!  It had his MO all over it.

We were discussing the ludicrous situation of yet another  awesome educator, Rafe Esquith, being in “TEACHER JAIL” in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Explaining how I immediately made such a connection in my mind, will be a bit like holding the wind in my hands to show you the wind. While you can not see the wind, nor can I hold the wind, we both can clearly see the destructive effects of the wind. “In meteorology, winds are often referred to according to their strength, and the direction from which the wind is blowing.” There is a measuring of the wind’s spatial path and speed. In the Esquith situation I see the effects of “LA Tornado Tom” . The connections are not easy to follow (think weather chasing vans looking to film tornadoes and feel free to consider me the driver taking you along on an insane tornado hunt).

As Tom likes to say there is no silver bullet or single path. Jay Alan in his article about the situation wrote:  “I wondered if the education world had finally, inalterably, gone crazy.” And I in turn wanted to scream aloud to the world ‘Noooooooooo the education world has not gone crazy…the BUSINESS WORLD is thrusting its cray cray ways down the throats of schools with Tom Vander Ark ushering it all in!’
Tom Vander Ark’s ENTIRE EDUCATION BACKGROUND  was five years (’94-’99) of being a superintendent for the Federal Way Public Schools in Washington. From there he leapt to the top to being the Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (’99-’06). And when from the top of the tallest ivory towers, he saw the lands he could acquire, he jumped right down, the way tornadoes would touch down in numerous places at once. LA being the first.

“Vander Ark made the switch from the business world to education in 1994 when he was chosen to lead Federal Way Public Schools, one of Washington state’s larger districts. He was one of the first superintendents in the country recruited from the private sector, and in his current post at Gates he’s hoping to change the way American high schools do business.” Ref link Vander Ark was the first business executive to serve as a public school superintendent for one of Washington State’s larger school districts… Ref link Thus the marriage of the private business world to the public education world.

Immediately from his lofty grand Gates adventure, he was one of five finalists to head the Los Angeles Unified School District. (2006) He opened up his shiny business attache briefcase, and poured out all of his evasive education experiments. In business, bottom lines are always dollar signs. Smooth-talking sales techniques helped him to gather into play his army of pliable powerful politicians, big bucks businessmen, and inexperienced low-wage entrants. 

“Education reformers claim their goal is to improve public education for poor students. But education activists and teachers unions see a more insidious agenda: to render education a private good rather than a public right for all. Backed by uber-wealthy philanthropists such as Bill and Melinda Gates, Eli and Edythe Broad and the Walton family (owners of Walmart), reformers ramp up high-stakes testing, villainize teachers and unions, close public schools and open non-union charter schools.”

More than money, I believe that Tom Vander Ark takes from Sam Walton the example of how to build his “TomMarts”– Charters, Small Schools, Blended Schools, and Online Schools ALL buying from Tom’s companies, but more on that in another blog! 

“Walton understood that a major requirement for keeping costs down was controlling the payroll.  As he would write in his 1992 autobiography, Made in America, “No matter how you slice it in the retail business, payroll is one of the most important parts of overhead, and overhead is one of the most crucial things you have to fight to maintain your profit margin.” Not only did Walton prefer to hire as few people as possible, but he also dreaded paying them more than he had to. Unions were particularly feared, and Walton did everything he could to fight them, almost always successfully.”
Ref Link (Tom was in retail right before his Pretend-I-am-a-Superintendent-stunt!)

So if you are initiating and running 1000s of RETAIL EDUCATION CHAINS, whom you need to convince to buy all kinds of tech connections— hardware and software, you have to help them find the money to “invest” in one of your numerous companies’ product lines. Soooooooooo, you cut back on your higher paid teaching staff. To do this you wage wars against unions, lobby (with a ton of money behind you) for laws that either give you lateral freedom or that form barriers against local school boards and unions whom you see as your arch enemies. You push for the strictest set of stats to sift out your heaviest expenses (the specialized staff, the experienced employees, the time-tested teachers). You cut the tar out of very practical and real hands-on programs in physical education (virtual gym can be done online), music (virtual music can be learned online), art (virtual museums can be visited online, and oh boy, you can PAINT online too), and drama (why build sets and do plays, when you can virtually watch millions of such online?) This topic will be explored as an entire blog also.

“It is obvious this is a clear-cut-case of age discrimination and how LAUSD is using trumped up charges just to try to get rid of teachers or force us to resign,” she said. [speaking in the article is a 60 year old choir teacher being interviewed while in teacher jail for some trivial trumped up tale.] Though the district denies they are targeting older teachers – a survey conducted by L.A. chapter of Educators 4 Excellence found that the majority of the educators currently reassigned to district offices across Los Angeles are older teachers. UTLA President Warren Fletcher was outraged by the report and vowed to file federal and state age-discriminatory complaints against the Board. Administrative staff at UTLA had initially contacted LAUSD requesting the district provide them with proof of the age of all the teachers currently under investigation, but the district refused. This prompted Lisa Karahalios, a LAUSD teacher and a member of Unjustly Jailed Teacher Committee request the birth records through the Freedom of Information Act database, where she found that out of 493 teachers under investigation – 453 are veteran older teachers.” Ref Link

Tom has superimposed his superfluous systematic mindset over one of the largest school districts in the U.S.

So much so, that all are now resigned to be mere data in dollar sign bottom lines.

Welllllllll, not ALL exactly. There is still room at the top for some ‘important to the BUSINESS of education’ . Many non-profit organizations are plaguing the education environment in Los Angeles. Profiteers in their manic self-preservation plans earn an average salary of nearly a quarter of a million dollars for a PART-TIME job on the RETAIL EDUCATION CHAINS’ Boards. Here is one. Remember it was 2006 when Tom came full-force on the LA scene? Well, what an amazing coincidence.

So too did MLA Partners, now LA Promise (Tom’s ‘connections’ change names like you and I change socks–since 1998 Fulfillment Fund’s College Pathways, which later grew into Center for Innovative Education, then Mentor LA, and now LA’s Promise!) And Tom? Yes, yes, he sat on the Board of Directors and none of the 12 members were educators. Today the very same is true. Though absent of Tom’s name in 2015, take a gander at who is currently at the table.

O’Melveny & Myers LLP
Fox Filmed Entertainment
Ares Management
CAA (two members) (one is Rick Hess, a founder and Co-Managing Partner of Evolution Media Capital (“EMC”), a joint venture with Creative Artists Agency (“CAA”), focusing on the media, entertainment, and sports industries.)
Philanthropist? (she reads as a school volunteer?)
Mayer Brown
Twentieth Century Fox
3AM/WildCard (two members)
Wells Fargo and Co.
Salem Partners
LA’s Promise (This is the Board of the LA Promise)

So if you are wondering why crazzzzzzzzzyyyyyyyy things are happening in the Los Angeles Unified School District…just look up towards the top, you will need to bend your neck wayyyyyyy back to follow the funds. And then when you are done Hear the Wind Blow Dear, Hear the Wind Blow, Hang Your Head Over and Hear the Wind Blow. 

Today Rafe Esquiths in Retail Education are Relic Expendables, especially if they oppose reform

rafe esquith


50 Days Worth of Blogs About ‘Tornadic’ Tom Vander Ark: Day 5

Vander Ark


5 out of 6 are NOT TEACHERS, never were in education….It is BUSINESS as usual in groups, in this instance Learn Capital, in which Tom Vander Ark participates. I just HATE like heck to send you to a link of TVA but truly, if you click on the bold print in the prior sentence you will see what kind of people Tom works with—they are not educators.



This article appeared on Getting Smart’s website and was written by Andy Calkins who is Deputy Director of Next Generation Learning Challenges, an initiative managed by EDUCAUSE and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with additional support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.


“A day before he opened his education reform conference to the media recently, Bush [Jeb] hosted another education meeting. This event, a private affair in the Palace Hotel, was a reconvening of investors and strategists to plan the next leg of the privatization campaign. Michael Moe, Susan Patrick, Tom Vander Ark and other major players were invited. I waited outside the event, trying to get what information I could. I asked Mayor Fenty how I could get in. “Just crash in, come on in,” he laughed, adding, “so what company are you with?” When he learned that I was a reporter, he shook his head. “Oh, nah, you’re not welcome, then.”


An invitation had billed the exclusive gathering as a chance for “philanthropists and venture capitalists” to figure out how to “leverage each other’s strengths” — a concise way to describe how for-profit virtual school companies are using philanthropy as a Trojan horse.”

Do you see any names you recognize in the following  list? These are the people TVA ADVISES….via the Advisory Board of the National DFER (Democrats For Education Reform) which is supported by the infamous Koch brothers as well as Steve Klinsky, a former hedge fund manager and founder of the for-profit charter company, Victory Schools, Inc.:

Michael Bennet U.S. Senate (CO)
Cory Booker U.S. Senate (NJ)
Will Burns City Council (IL-4th Ward)
Andre Carson U.S. House (IN-7)
Jim Clyburn U.S. House (SC-6)
Chris Coons U.S. Senate (DE)
Susan Davis U.S. House (CA-53)
Rahm Emanuel Mayor (IL)
Daniel Hernandez School Board (Sunnyside Unified School District)
Dan McKee Lt. Governor (RI)
Seth Moulton U.S. House (MA-6)
Crystal Peoples-Stokes State House (NY- 41)
Jared Polis U.S. House (CO-2)
Brian Schatz U.S. Senate (HI)
Bobby Scott U.S. House (VA-3)
Lorenzo Sierra City Council (AZ)
Mary Ann Sullivan School Board (IN)
Brandon Todd City Council (Ward 4)

koch brothers


Tom is the treasurer of the following  group—CEOs CEOs and more CEOs. It is  likely  you won’t know the names…but pay close attention for whom the people work. Systemic K-12 Education Reform Focus Area, the Walton Family Foundation?
nasca members


The lists go on and on and on….. Tom Vander Ark is frequently billed as a speaker with Wendy Kopp and sits on at least one Board with her!


Type in your favorite DEformer’s name and Tom Vander Ark’s name… and you will see.

Eva Moscowitz. Yep. Cami Anderson. Yep. Arne Duncan. Yep.


If you scroll down through the blog pages, back to page one, of this 50 day adventure, you will see an incomplete list of various Boards that Tom Vander Ark runs or oversees or at least is a member. Every one of those lists hold a group similar to the above groups. It is like a huge cycloning feeding frenzy group, with Tom always center stage!


50 Days of Worth of Blogs about ‘Tornadic’ Tom Vander Ark: Day 3

day 3

*links are in bold print (free blogs, it is hard to distinguish the links from regular text)

Yesterday I wrote about ‘virtual rabbit holes’. Here is a quote from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass: ‘So I wasn’t dreaming, after all,’ she said to herself, ‘unless — unless we’re all part of the same dream. Only I do hope it’s my dream, and not the Red King’s! I don’t like belonging to another person’s dream,’ she went on in a rather complaining tone: ‘I’ve a great mind to go and wake him, and see what happens!’

I’ve no idea what Tom Vander Ark’s dream might be…but I don’t know how very much people are going to like being a part of his dream. I have a feeling that it has a number of dollar signs swirling all around in it.

When I was in college as a non-trad about 7 years back, I found it astounding that in 3 of my classes, they discussed Walmart. (For the record Walmarts have always gagged me out and now even all the more so with their overstepping interference in education). My history and micro-economics textbooks both had very significant entire sections devoted to the chain store; my geography professor loved using his own maps of growth patterns for the retail’s rampant growth. Read an interesting version of Walmart history here and view gif maps of the exponential spread of ‘SamSameness’ everywhere! All three classes spoke to the the unique concept of buying in huge, almost unheard of bulk (warehouses were built even before stores), and starting those stores in Arkansas. Priorly the West Coast or New York and the New England states were where retail chains would spawn from.

So, as I was thinking of the list I have to offer today, the question WHY nagged at me. Why would Tom Vander Ark belong to such a ridiculous amount of Boards. Why would there be such a vast amount of links to links and more links upon links. Why do I cringe the more I read and learn of him. It is an easy answer and one that will be explored throughout this journaling journey. Its ALL ABOUT THE MONEY! Period the end!

What if a person wanted to replicate that level of an entrepreneur’s dream?  What if he wanted a virtual TomMart (I made that name up) along with the billions in profit  for his family? He’d need connections right? Lots and lots of connections.
Sure that is what one would need. A COLLECTION OF CONNECTIONS. How about these ones? Let’s start at the top and work our way down, shall we?. It’ll never be complete here on these pages; not in 50 blogs – not in 500. And I will run it as a dry list for now…but will revisit many of the connections in their own blog sections.

Was the Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,
Jeb Bush,
Sal Khan,
Previously he served as President of the X PRIZE Foundation,
he founded City Prep Academies- a for-profit organization intended to create and operate charter schools (Tom said the group was financed by $1.5 million from Revolution Learning ( a venture fund where Tom is a managing partner),
Vander Ark’s for-profit Open Education Solutions,
(and under that OpenPlan and OpenLearn),
treasurer for iNACOL (International Association of K-12 Online Learning),
partner in Vander Ark/Ratcliff ( an education public affairs firm),
Director for Edmodo,
National Association of Charter School Authorizer (NACSA),
on the Board of Directors for AdvancePath Academics,
CEO/Partner and founder of, / Founder & Executive Editor of
partner in Learn Capital (a venture capital firm investing in learning content, platforms, and services with the goal of transforming educational engagement, access, and effectivenes),
Board Chair for Charter Board Partners (helps great schools find great board members) ,
director of Digital Learning Institute,
Director of  Imagination Foundation,
Director of Strive for College,
Director of Bloomboard,
Boston Consulting Group (BCG),
national advisory board member for Communities In Schools,
national advisory board member WITH Wendy Kopp for New Classrooms Innovation Partners ,
Managing Partner Revolution Learning,
invests in Edu-entrepreneurs,
e2venture Education Entrepreneurs,
Partner at Learn Capital, LLC.,
board member of  EduInnovation, board of LA’s Promise,,
Investment Partner in StudySync,
Advisory Board of Democrats for Education Reform,
recent speaker for Microsoft Global Education Partner Summit,
Jossey-Bass Education (he is their site author)
Founder of Internet Academy  (IA or iAcademy) is a public virtual school a part of Federal Way Public Schools
CityBridge NewSchools Education Innovation Foundation – Thought Partner (see other partners)
NewSchools Venture Fund
etc etc etc etc

So, I suppose the virtual furniture department of the TomMart  has enough chairs for this blog.
I am quite sure there are way more…..he is like an iconic Coca-Cola sign hanging on the Boards to which he lends his name and plays his game.




Dreams…..shit…..this is the stuff nightmares are made of…….. we may as well go head and exchange out all public school desks for blue shopping carts… the TomMarts are being built everywhere.

‘I’ve a great mind to go and wake [OTHERS], and see what happens!’