In 1976, Tom Bloch joined H&R Block, the world's largest tax services provider, where his father was CEO. In 1981, after introducing automation to the company's office network, he was elected President of the Tax Operations. Later, he oversaw the company's innovative practice of filing tax returns electronically to the IRS, which revolutionized the industry. Bloch was promoted to President of the corporation in 1989 and CEO in 1992. His second career began in 1995 as a middle school math teacher at St. Francis Xavier, an inner city parochial school. Five years later, he co-founded the University Academy, a public charter school in Kansas City. Bloch continues to teach 7th and 8th grade math at the urban college prep school he helped design and launch. He is also President of the school's board. The Academy has grown from 200 students in grades seven through nine in its first year to over 1,000 students in kindergarten through grade twelve. The school moved into a new, $40 million facility in 2005, and it became the first school in Missouri to receive a ten-year extension of its charter. Over the last five years, all but two graduates of the Academy have gone on to attend college, an almost unheard-of success rate for an urban school. Bloch is the author of Stand for the Best, a memoir about his journey from CEO to inner city teacher and school founder. He graduated cum laude in 1976 from Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California.
Tom Bloch: I think if we raise our standards in our urban schools and if we can possibly attract a better, more qualified pool of teachers down the road, we can do fantastic things in inner city schools. In our school, University Academy, for example, we pay performance pay. In other words, in addition to a teacher’s salary, we have an incentive for a teacher to do well in the classroom.
And so we attract a slightly different type of teacher, one who is motivated to do well. And I think it’s important, when you look at other service businesses not only in the United States but around the world, it’s common for managers to get incentives, financial incentives to do a good job. But we’ve never really done much of that in the area of education, which really is a service business, and I think if we can pay teachers competitively, and attract and retain them, we can do great things in this country.
Recorded on: October 13, 2008