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


50 Days Worth of Blogs About ‘Tornadic’ Tom Vander Ark: Day 14

Day 14

Tom Vander Ark must think he is some kind of Greek God. The destruction he causes is in his mind somehow is his right or duty to mankind; never mind the abject effects on men (women and children), communities, cities or whole entire states.

He cleverly disguises his demolition of public education in geek talk – “Mentioning “disruptive innovation” adds a veneer of sophistication to bread-and-butter speeches about education…” (  He storms on completely oblivious to the damage from the death blows he deals daily.

I really think that the way he skirts mentally around the mass exodus of teachers (irreparable complete brain drain on education), the repeated reported mass failures and closures of charters, and the thousands upon thousands upon thousands of organizations and parents forming the largest ever groups of civil disobedience in education history, is by convincing himself that it is all for the good and the betterment of country. I am not lying when I say I think he has some major personality disorder(s) and psychological hang-ups. He lives in some self-formed world of denial of the real repercussions reeling all around him, and in some twisted sick manner actually takes all of the negative outcome of his efforts as that he is being successful at “disruptive innovation” which is one of his all time favorite overused phrases. The whole twenty years that he has skinned education alive he has never once stopped to express remorse or regret for the lives he has ruined.

“A disruptive innovation is an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology.” (
I am sorry to tell you teachers, but you all are an “earlier technology” in Tom’s plans.

“Disruptive innovation, a term of art coined by Clayton Christensen, describes a process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors.” ( Tom worships this fellow!

Here TVA quotes Christensen’s nonprofit think tank Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, Cofounder Michael Horn : “These struggles aren’t unique to education. Businesses struggle consistently with the innovator’s dilemma—the ability to prioritize disruptive innovations that would cannibalize their existing business,” ( Michael Horn is another one that Tom worships.

“Expanding on the notion of “disruptive,” Horn said that schools’ standard practices and measures would need to change to incorporate blended learning. Seat-time requirements for students, geographic boundaries limiting the sources of online subject matter, teacher certification, and funding are some of the conventions and practices that would be disrupted.” (

In this 4 year old article, Tom Braggart Ark talks about his small business companies will trump larger companies’ abilities to be a disruptive force in the education market.  “First, big companies are “less comfortable with disruptive innovation.” It’s likely to be the case that the big players will focus on incremental innovations and that the really disruptive stuff will come from the edges. And, second, the Economist suggests that progress tends to come from growth companies regardless of whether they are big or start small. No question that we’ll see more innovation from Edmodo than HMH.” (Edmodo is supposedly a non-profit company in underneath Tom Vander Ark’s 48 companies housed all business-like in a row under his Learn Capital,LLC.)

“Students currently enjoy powerful technology that continuously assesses skill and interest and customizes content delivery. Unfortunately it occurs after school when they play games. Clayton Christensen and colleagues describe how disruptive technologies will personalize and, as a result, revolutionize learning. Every education leader should read this book, set aside their next staff meeting to discuss it, and figure out how than can be part of the improvement wave to come.”
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 12

day 12

I absolutely canNOT believe I am about to tell this most humiliating story of my entire life very publicly.
But these are desperate times and they call for desperate measures. If it causes 1 or 2 more people to read about our situation then it will be worth the embarrassment. It was the most desperate thing I have ever done in my life.

Bear with me while I set the backdrop. It was fourth of July. I had miraculously been able to pull three days off from work (where I normally worked mandatory 10 and 12 hour shifts 7 days a week, in a non-union factory.) My husband had passed away a few years earlier so I was a single mom to five children. As the children and I set about to enjoy my dad and sister’s cottage in Geneva-on-the-Lake, I was doing a bit of laundry. As I came out from having put some more quarters in the dryer, I noticed a car in the parking lot with the motor running. I failed to make eye contact with the driver, so I intentionally  walked way around in a big square of a path of the car. Still in some kind of what seemed like a fit of anger…she revved her car to spin out of the parking lot, and literally slammed right into me. I thought for certain my hip was broke and my pelvis shattered for the level of pain. And I felt I would slide from the hood and she would run me over completely for she still was not paying a bit of attention.  I screamed a blood-curdling scream, and only then did she notice me, and panicked and hit the accelerator, (I had grabbed the edge up by the windshield wipers). I screamed again—pain and fear forcing it to a pitch from horror films, and she slammed on the brakes. I was thrown however high in the air, evidently doing some kind of back aerial, and landed in the pea gravel some seventeen feet from the car as was evidently later measured.  I remember bits and snags from that point, as I was mostly unconscious. The pain in my head, neck, shoulder, back and hips was unbearable, and I would faint again.I remember the ambulance going over some railroad tracks and losing consciousness again from pain. I do not remember screaming that time, but my sister who was in the ambulance, still tears up if she talks about it.

I by some sheer miracle, broke no bones. But, I had a double concussion, whiplash, a shredded rotator cuff, a sprained back, deep contusions in multiple places, and my hip bones and pelvis bones were severely bruised. For four days my sister patiently dug pea gravel out of my scalp and bloody road rash skin EVERYWHERE with tweezers and a nail scrub brush.

I was on the highest level of pain killers one can be on at home, and was on heavy duty muscle relaxers. The pain in my hip only seemed to increase hourly so that by day 6 I called the doctor and he said my hip was injured by the car hitting me and then by me landing as I did, to give it time. But, urinating a root beer colored-bloodstream let me know I had yet another kidney stone. I laid that evening and truly prayed to die in order to be out of the insane pain. I was not and have never been suicidal, I just wanted out of the pain. I forget which child, but one of them touched my face and I saw sheer fear, and they asked “Mommy, you are not going to die, are you?” “No”, I lied, changing my prayer to ‘Oh God please do not let me die from this.’ Not able to work for 8 weeks. No money coming in. No workman’s comp. No medical insurance. The newest car we had ever owned, used but with a car payment and full coverage insurance, sat in the drive, and I knew I was going to lose the car. And likely my job.

Sadly, once again, the children put themselves to bed. Afterwards, I literally on all fours, crawled to the computer. I typed in “homeopathic remedies” for kidney stones. Up popped this man’s site where he claimed he himself had battled kidney stones and had found a sure-fire way to chemically dissolve them at home. He had this whole on and on chemical formula reasoning for why it all would work. To my desperate drugged mind, I saw a way not to die. He only needed $34 and the cure recipe could be mine, I checked the bank account. $39. I sent payment, and fell into some kind of grogged stupor, hanging on to dear life feeling like wet toilet paper was the strength of whatever was holding me. The next morning, sure enough, the formula was in my email. It required you to drink two full cups of pureed cooked asparagus heated to a very exact temperature and then drink 2 liters of Pepsi also at a very exact temperature. We literally counted ALL the change in the car and the house and the kids walked to the grocery store to purchase the items. I assured the kids that mommy was going to be better in just a matter of hours. Needless of course to say, I was wrong to tell them that. Deadly wrong.

I was the most gullible dumbshit person in the whole entire world in that instance. I remember very little of the next two weeks.The kids talk of me throwing up green and fainting. I know there was an ambulance ride again (I am told) and a lithotripsy surgery for the stone the size of the tip of my index finger that lodged at the top of my ureter when I was hit by the car. I remember telling the children not to tell what I had drank or done, for I felt so stupid. Somehow I wrote to the man and he returned my money, but I really do not remember how. It all is a blunderous blur. Desperation drives deadly decisions.

These cities, that are forcibly being taken over and turned over to CEOs and charters (or community schools), they all are in a desperate state. The parents are desperate. The students are desperate. Desperation in the impoverished areas is a way of life. It is not a lack of intelligence (I am truly much smarter than to have normally ever succumbed to such a blatant scam.) BUT, in my utter despair, I velcroed right to the hype and false hope in the commercialized packaged offer. The worry of my children and for my children, had me completely overwrought. The chemistry formulas looked legit. I even looked some of them up. . Surely this con artist knew one in the sucker seat would do that, and so they mixed one big lie cocktail by swirling a whole bunch of cockamaimy bullshit with a concoction of little truths.

TOM VANDER ARK does this very exact thing almost to a T. He plays on the desperate emotions overriding the intellect. He tells you some statistics and some drummed up data. He tells you things you already know. He makes you think you have been thinking of this novice idea of his all along. He talks just a bit over your head to sound ever so ummm SMART (one of his favorite words and every time I read him typing Getting Smart, SmartBlog, SmartCities and SmartStates, etc., the Get Smart theme song plays in my mind. I think he watched far too much of that show when he was young!).

My city, Youngstown, Ohio is desperate. Milwaukee is desperate. Chicago is desperate. Philadelphia is desperate. Broward County is desperate. Detroit is desperate. LA is desperate. Newark is desperate. New Orleans, was and is  devastatingly desperate. And in all of those cities you will find Tom Vander Ark plundering and pandering in even more of an unethical manner than did that man who sold me some trickster shit, when all I could think about was my love for my children.

Tom Vander Ark is a walking/talking billboard for his own wares, be they his services as a consultant, his “gadgetrytech” products, or PD classes at $7500 each for his supposedly free online resources.

He is despicably a predator in every sense of the word.

He operates numerous Tom PODs.

Stick with me through this blog series, and I will show you more solid proof of what I typed tonight.


50 Days Worth of Blogs About ‘Tornadic’ Tom Vander Ark: Day 11

U is for Union


UNIONS are something for which Tom Vander Ark has, and probably never had, any USE!!

UNIONS are something of which Tom Vander Ark has no UNDERSTANDING.

UNIONS are those over which Tom Vander Ark continually USURPS authority.

UNIONS are those which Tom Vander Ark perpetually UNDERMINES their importance.

I am glad I did not commit to 50 days in a row, but just rather 50 days worth of writings exposing Tom Vander Ark. I (WE) have had the most wretched week here in Youngstown, Ohio. And though I have not yet found the direct link (oh, and I will) all of my upset is related to exactly everything I have been writing about in this marathon blog series. Youngstown education was in a wicked whirlwind manner spun out as the MODEL CITY for which other Ohio school districts will be controlled by ALEC legislation. “This act also removes procedural and funding barriers to charter school success.” That would be the UNIONS!

We have been sold. Tom must have danced a jig as another one of his “TomMARTS” is going to get built. I will address this specifically in another blog with examples of exactly what I mean, but he probably will not personally appear on the scene. For the sake of his PR Upkeep, Youngstown is far too poor to prove to be one of his ‘supposed successes’. Indeed Youngstown is THE most impoverished city in Ohio!

I am vested in this city, born and raised on the west side of the rust belt. I do not want one single dollar bill to go to Tom Vander Ark from here. NOT ONE! I am so sick about this HB70 that I hardly know where to even begin. Tonight though… as NEA RA is getting underway in a couple of days. (with Badass Teachers Association in full representation) and, as my spirits were lifted somewhat yesterday by watching a WONDERFUL movie about Woody Guthrie, I feel led to stay with one singular aspect of all of this. UNIONS are still highly respected in Youngstown. We still carry the punch and fight gumption of the Steel Belt Era.

HB70 is taken directly from the cues of the model legislation bill from ALEC for charters. Only there has been so much negative light shed on all of Tom Vander Ark’s FAILURES in education experiments, that they have chosen to use his word COMMUNITY schools instead of CHARTERS. Any way you label it, Tom’s TOP-DOWN contorted “business model” FOR-PROFIT (but called non-profit) PRIVATIZED (though they hide behind the word PUBLIC) CORPORATIZED (though they will say Community-involved) schools complete with a 6-digit CEO and several 6-digit salaried consultants now will sink their sucking fangs into the neck of MY CITY and insert their money-siphoning tubing into the Heart of Youngstown!

One of the most-used sets of words in HB70 is “collective bargaining”. I did not count, but it might be the most frequently used words. This is how TomMARTs work. Legally freeze the UNION, annihilate their power, oh and do it quickly (this bill made all rounds politically in under 12 hours save for Gov. John ALEC FOUNDER Kasich’s signature, expected in the next two days.)

Here Tom is flipping out about Unions (he is upset big time at NEPC and NEA!):

“Finally, the report gets to the real point—there are (OMG!) for-profit companies involved in online learning. The real purpose of this hit piece is to block K12, Connections, and other private organizations from serving students. As John Bailey pointed out, this ‘keep the private sector out” strategy has successfully blocked the participating of private sector participating in education to a greater extent than in any other area of public delivery.”

Remember we discussed Sam Walton’s way to build and what he thought was the largest profit-line…was employee costs. With the Union silenced, this new CEO to come to Youngstown will have 100% fire/hire power. This is how TomMARTs are rolled out! Here was a comment in response to a Diane Ravitch blog where she talked about the “getting rid of teachers.”

“Anti-union ed reformer Tom Vander Ark relayed his message to school districts on August 18, 2011, at a presentation at Georgetown U.

  1. He said, ‘Give me two more weeks a year and two more hours a day and you can subtract two teachers.’”

    and another response:

    “*Effectively, the goal is to not have teachers anymore.*

    For the simple reason that paying teachers interferes with profit. The dismantling of public schools isn’t about educating kids – like all privatization schemes, it’s about companies like Pearson and K12 Inc making as much much money as possible while the opening to do so exists.”

In a review of Tom’s book, one had this to say: “The bottom line is that, although Vander Ark makes a few good points, and although he informs readers (in a scattershot fashion) about some interesting and innovative new approaches to education, “Getting Smart” is not a systematic or objective assessment of what we know or what we need. Instead, it is a self-serving marketing brochure for Vander Ark’s businesses and the industry associations to which they belong. Furthermore, Vander Ark promotes an anti-union legislative agenda that would deprofessionalize teaching and throw away the American tradition of local school control (for better or worse) in order to allow the big textbook companies and their education technology subsidiaries to profit more fully from the enormous public education market.”

When I first read this interview with BILL GATES, I had all of my Vander Ark research open in a search bar. I got confused for a second. These words are NOT BILL GATES words at all. He is just repeating what Tom Vander Ark has relayed to him or told him. I swear I can see Tom’s fingertips back where Bill’s tonsils would be.

“Gates: It’s not easy. School boards have a lot of power, so they have to be convinced. Unions have a lot of power, so teachers have to see the models that are working, because although change may be scary, they want to be part of a successful model. So we need more pilot programs, more dialogue, to get all the entities, government, school boards, unions, moving towards a more intensive education process.”

It is a BILL and TOM commercial! Read the whole article if you have time…Anthony Cody gives refute to Gates words (with Tom manning the dummy) in a powerful way.

Tom and Bill, both need to study their union history. Maybe we could sic the ghost of Woody Guthrie on both of them? I think I will send them both some lyrics of some super special songs.

Elitists have no use for unions. Why would one need democracy when you have the power of money or in Tom’s case the deceitful persuasiveness of CHARM.

Aside from the history and humanitarian side of the unions Bill and Tom BOTH need to read this lesson and study this bassackwards effect from what they propagandize that they are doing economically! Oh silly me, they most probably did study this chart and are working to swing that profit pendulum.

I could just scream at reading Tom’s lists over and over again in his posts. He just tweaks them here and there and regurgitates them for years upon years in his host of online places. But I hope that Tom Vander Ark will be experiencing the full-blown noise of a BAT SWARM very, very soon. And when he does, perhaps he will read all of these. And if he does…. perhaps this might be kind of like speaking his language.

Tom, here are ten MYTHS and FACTS about UNIONS:

Union Maid
Words and Music by Woody Guthrie

There once was a union maid, she never was afraid
Of goons and ginks and company finks and the deputy sheriffs who made the raid.
She went to the union hall when a meeting it was called,
And when the Legion boys come ’round
She always stood her ground.

Oh, you can’t scare me, I’m sticking to the union,
I’m sticking to the union, I’m sticking to the union.
Oh, you can’t scare me, I’m sticking to the union,
I’m sticking to the union ’til the day I die.

Please NEVER STOP SINGING Becca RItchie ^0^ !


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 8

Day 8

Now you all tell me, are these the words of an education expert?
No, of course not. They are the words of a financial engineer.
These words were taken straight from his blogs
and other writings of his.
And he has been a School Door to School Door Salesman
long enough that he can code switch languages very easily.
See Blog 9!

design firm
venture capital
private sector
game changer
running a good organization
managers deliver results
large-scale change management
more aggressive budget reallocations
entrepreneurship and a collaborative
human capital enterprise
intensive governance support
world-class developers for start-ups Fortune 500 companies
pioneer a global marketplace
bottom lines
return on investments
complex products
meet growing demand
product offerings
disruptive innovation (more on this one in a later blog)