In this report I discuss dishonest and unethical American employers (especially private schools).
In February of this year I was offered a job at the private school called Rancho Solano which is based in Scottsdale, AZ.
I was first approached by the principal Audrey Menard and we chatted twice by phone. At the time, I was living in South Africa. I interviewed also with their HR Manager Courtney Beyer and Vice Principal Steve Sherman. The job was to teach IB SL and HL mathematics to their students.
On the first day, Sherman called me into his office and mentioned that Menard had resigned, but this would not affect my situation for the "time being". I got a sick feeling in my stomach because that's typically a sign that something is not right. Sherman wouldn't give any reasons why Menard resigned. He did say it had nothing to do with me.
At any rate, I began to teach the first day. I saw all my classes and the IB coordinator Richard Stilliard informed me that they all loved me. Well, I didn't really need this confirmation because the students told me so themselves in every class I taught the first day of school.
The next day I arrived at school and one of the teachers took offense that I was not wearing a tie. In an extremely belligerent tone, he asked me in the lunch room why I am any different. I deflected the question and left the room after I informed him it was none of his business. I went to Courtney Beyer (HR Manager) and complained that he and two other teachers were attacking me verbally for the same reason. Twenty minutes later I was called to a meeting with Melissa Bloch (CEO) and Beyer who decided to fire me, but apparently not because of the incident. Their excuse was my internet communications. So they produced a pile of printed papers that is mostly libel by others about me being anti-semitic, etc. I informed them that this was untrue, but they evidently had decided to fire me, because I suspect that I was not their first choice of hire. It's also obvious they knew about these internet conversations because I only arrived a few months later, but now they thought they would use the same as an excuse to fire me.
They felt nothing about the fact that I came half way across the world to teach their kids (all who liked me). So, on the second day I was fired and not reimbursed for my expenses.
Melissa Bloch is in some way connected with the CEOs of the next school (BASIS) where I experienced a similar result several months later.
Before I describe the experience with BASIS Independent School, it should be noted that the Rancho Solano management did not even consider the students or their needs. Their students had been without a teacher at least two months. I had no idea why the previous teacher (Jamie Schnack who refused my invitation to connect on LinkedIn) left. During the interview I inquired and was told he resigned. This was of course a lie as I discovered later. He was fired because according to the students, he showed too many videos in his class.
The second school (BASIS) offered me a job starting in August, which also turned out to be an awful experience. I was first approached by Jennifer Gordieovsky (San Diego BASIS office) to interview with Toby Walker (British principal). Walker and I did a Skype interview in February 2016 and then exchanged emails until he offered me a job teaching AP Calculus AB and BC at the Silicon Valley school. Walker knew I could not attend their (useless) training in Arizona, but agreed to let me start on the 1st August. The training is based on the John Saxon methodology which the Blocks (CEOs Michael and Olga) have now renamed the "BASIS Approach".
BASIS is just a homework school as I will explain shortly.
I have nothing against John Saxon's approach but there is nothing novel about it. It has worked successfully since time immemorial. It stopped working when the morons in charge of USA math education decided to abandon it for "new research" in teaching methodologies.
During the training week in Silicon Valley, the rot of new research called "Love and Logic" was introduced to the teachers by Janada Clark. It's quite unbelievable that Clark (who can't spell if her life depended on it) actually got paid for "teaching" us the virtues of empathy over an entire morning. The content was such absolute rot that it would shock anyone with a modicum of intelligence. Many of the teachers were offended.
It's quite amazing that school administrations treat their teachers like immature children. There were several other presenters who got some teachers to do silly things like march army style during the training. Shocking. One would have thought these teacher trainers would have some common sense and realise they are teaching an audience of mature adults. But no, ...
Walker encouraged the teachers in training week to send him feedback about the training. At first I wasn't going to bother, but I complied and he thanked me for it. Ironically, during the exit interview Walker claimed that I was rocking the boat.
Most teachers never heard about Saxon prior to employment with BASIS, because they were born after the late 1960s, at which time the idiots in charge of education in the USA abandoned that approach for the rot of new math (aka Cantor mathematics where bijective cardinality gives rise to infinities aplenty and a wonderland where aleph numbers reign supreme).
Had Saxon, an ex-navy pilot, rejected and mocked by all the orangutans in American education, not persisted, there would be no BASIS story at all. In Asia where I taught 3 years and most of my students passed their AP Calculus exams with 4s and 5s, the Saxon approach is used. Ironically, they've never heard of Saxon. The approach: incremental teaching, homework, revision and assessment. There is a popular myth that Asian students are smarter than Caucasians. Well, I think we can now safely dismiss that myth from the results of students in Arizona who are mostly Caucasian and thank Michael and Olga Block for grabbing the business opportunity! We'll ignore the fact that they call it the "BASIS approach", after all, successful plagiarism can't be such a bad thing. Ed Madgeson of Ripoffreport wouldn't publish my report on this unethical school. Who knows why... But my guess is that since these schools are headquartered in Arizona, the overweight Madgeson would have to haul his rear end to court more often.
Back to my story: Walker approaches me late on Friday of the first week and tells me that some parents expressed concern about my internet presence. At first I wondered how they could know, because my information was not available to the parents. Be that as it may, I discovered it wasn't the real reason for my dismissal. Walker asked me to lie to the children by telling them the websites used as a reason for the complaints, don't belong to me. Of course I refused. I am proud of my New Calculus and my New Calculus YT Channel. I informed Walker that I teach the mainstream calculus in class. We agreed, and after salutations, we went home for the weekend.
The following Sunday, at midnight, I get an email from Walker telling me that he wants to meet with me first thing in the morning on Monday. I was awake because of jet lag and Walker apparently because he doesn't sleep that well? As you might imagine, I got no sleep that night. I spent over $10000 trekking halfway around the world to work at BASIS on a salary of $68,000 per year (pitiful for Silicon Valley but for the Blocks, profits come before teachers and students). Nothing compared to what I earned teaching in China or at the height of my career as a software developer, but Silicon Valley has clean air - in my case that's a major consideration, given that I suffer from asthma and allergies which started in China.
As you might imagine, I was concerned - after all, getting an email that late could not mean good news of any kind. Walker had discussed me with another new hire (Lutschak), who informed me that Walker had approached him in a hallway, cafeteria or classroom on several occasions. I thought this to be odd, because it's unprofessional for a school principal to discuss any member of staff with another.
So, Monday morning I met with Walker and Kolb (a new hire administrator) who informed me that the BASIS leadership in Arizona decided I was not a good cultural fit and was to be "let go" (fired). Neither would give reasons. When asked (rhetorically) what they thought, clueless Kolb (ex army sergeant) answered that she supports their views. I am not certain she even knew what these are, except to do as she was told. Walker was somewhat smarter in that he just stared and kept silent.
I was presented with an Exit agreement, which I was at first not willing to sign, but after the discussion, I realised that even if I could change things, I would probably not want to work with the likes of Walker and his team. Of course I was disappointed and asked to have a hearing which was denied, the response being: the BASIS leadership decision is final. I wrote to the Blocks but got no response. I am pretty certain the Blocks know Melissa Bloch given they both operate from Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona. Naturally Melissa filled them in on how she dismissed me from Rancho Solano.
The way I was treated is unethical. It is however, the way I was treated at both private schools. One might ask if I mistreated any of my colleagues or spoke to them in the same way as I do with others on the internet. The answer is that I have never disrespected any of my colleagues. I would never talk to my colleagues the way I address trolls and cranks on the internet. In my case, I use my real name, but cowardly individuals use aliases or pseudonyms. So I am penalised for my honesty and forthright views on the internet.
To say that some of the dumbest people I have ever met are employed in education, is definitely an understatement. You would think that they would be savvy enough to realise that libel (*) on the internet is not true. I think in my case there were other factors too, viz. I was probably not first choice in both cases. But they didn't see me as a human being, only as a faceless entity.
(*) Professor Gilbert Strang from MIT called me a terrorist which is a felony in US law. Strang used the alias Port563 on sci.math. After I exposed his real identity, the coward quit sci.math and has since never been on sci.math again.
I wrote this post because I want the world to know what kind of vile trash runs organisations such as Rancho Solano and BASIS Independent schools. I approached free lawyers, but none took my case. I am a world class mathematics teacher, who is now homeless, unemployed, destitute and not in the best of health. It's an irony, because here in the USA they are constantly complaining about the shortage of mathematics teachers. But considering my treatment, you wouldn't think so. Culture fit is legal discrimination against employees in the USA. Makes one think how different is the ideology of hiring similar people and the idea of group-think.
What I want others to learn from this, is that one cannot judge an individual from his internet communications and what others say about him on the internet, especially when most of those responsible for the libel are anonymous cowards and trolls like the notorious and infamous troll Dan Christensen of sci.math, Mark Chu Carroll of Good Math Bad Math and last, but not least Prof. Gilbert Strang of MIT.
If you are thinking of sending your child to either of these schools, think twice. They are for-profit schools. They do not care about your child's growth or the teachers they hire, only that students are able to score well on the high profile tests and the CEOs earn good profits.
From the Basis website:
The mission of BASIS Independent Silicon Valley is to raise the standards of student learning to the highest international levels.
BASIS Independent recruits faculty who are fervent experts in their disciplines and asks them to do nothing but teach the students in their care.
This is the most deceptive claim on the Basis website. Teachers are expected to be a good culture fit. To hell with the needs of students. Teachers are hired according to how well they fit into Basis organisational culture. Subject expertise has nothing to do with the recruiting of teachers as I realised eventually. Also, teachers don't get to run their classroom as they see best. They have to fall in line with the grading practices of the collective who teach the same subject. God help you if you have a different marking scheme!
BASIS Independent recruits managers who are passionate, empathetic, and who wish to serve.
Basis recruits managers and administrators who don't know the first thing about education. They are neither empathetic, nor do they serve willingly.
Basis Independent teachers always support their students. If a student is willing to work, their academic team will be by their side, shoulder-to-shoulder with them, all the way to wherever they want to go.
If Basis teachers were any good, they would realise the second sentence is grammatically wrong. Basis supports its students on condition they score well in assessments. Those who do not, are shown the way out to "wherever they want to go."
Good scores are important, but not everything. Children need to be shown how to think critically and independently also. There is no time to do this using the BASIS homework approach. Children just have to complete all the exercises and learn to be good test takers. Parents think the private schools are better, but they are only better in helping students score higher grades. However, when these students get to university, they soon find out that the way they have been learning, is not going to work any more. That is, lecturers are by nature lazy dogs who will never mark all the homework. As a result, even the top students end up struggling to adjust and keep up with the much faster and independent pace at university. Many end up failing their courses.
And finally this irony:
BASIS expressly prohibits any form of unlawful employee or student harassment.
They were quick to dismiss me on the grounds of not being a good culture fit, but I suppose in their eyes, they don't see this as unlawful. BASIS is currently (1/11/17) looking for a new teacher of calculus in Silicon Valley, which is not surprising because one of their teachers must have had enough of their nonsense.
Ready to be part of a group of intellectual educators?
Truth is, they are a bunch of tossers. I met most of them and was not impressed.
The successful Saxon approach works like this:
Students are given at least 20 to 30 exercise problems for homework every day. The following day they are expected to write out the answers in groups or individually on white boards situated all around the perimeter of the classroom. The teacher then "marks" these by discussion with the students. This method saves the teacher much time in marking individual homework, as he can explain correct methods and provide pointers to mistakes that can be avoided. There is an assessment every one or two weeks.
Different units are not forgotten once they have been studied, but exercises from these units are included as revision in the new units, so old knowledge is not easily forgotten by the students.
Method summary: incremental teaching, homework, revision and assessment
This is how mathematics in the USA was taught in the 1960s, until the new math was introduced and then everything went south rapidly after that. It is still how mathematics is taught in countries such as China, Singapore and Korea. It's not strictly speaking correct to call the method the Saxon approach. However, Saxon took on the powerful academic trash heap (the same trash heap that ex economics professor and CEO Michael Block belongs to now) and defeated them. At first he was ridiculed and criticised for his ideas. The powerful academia (especially NCTM) labeled Saxon as a crank and his ideas as having no basis in formal research. They rejected him outright and opposed him until the very end.
Saxon's method produced results - especially in the home schooling communities. His ridiculed textbooks eventually began to sell in large numbers. Before his death, he owned a publishing company worth millions of dollars. Saxon had stiff opposition from the NCTM - an organisation run by mainstream academic idiots in the USA. Saxon was a hero who thought independently. His ideas and thought paradigms had one goal in mind: to help students. Saxon won against these fools because his methods produced results and their research led to the decay that is so evident in today's US schools.
The students scoring the highest marks on the PISA (program for international standards and assessment) exams are those who use this approach. Singapore, China and Korea come to mind - all whose students are top performers in these assessments.
Note: I was educated in an ex British colony and so the spelling of words in my article, is in accordance with the Queen's English.