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 it was Teddy Roosevelt who said, “To teach a child in mind but not in morals is to create a menace to society,” so I think today, our job in our schools is not just to make kids smart, but to make them good people. And there are so many corrosive aspects in our society that it becomes more important now than ever to make sure that our young people receive character education. I think this is particularly true in many areas where parents are not so involved in their kids’ education.
So many of my students, for example, live in a household with one parent, and that parent may hold two or three jobs, and have multiple children and financial challenges, and it’s just very difficult sometimes for that child to get exposed to good moral education. And so I think who is better to do this than our schools? So, in my classes, for example, I teach 7th- and 8th-grade math, but I spend a part of everyday talking about life skills. We talk about respect, and responsibility, and caring, compassion, things like that, and my students have come to expect a little bit of that from me everyday. And I think it’s important, and I always put a quote up on the board everyday that sort of supports whatever value or skill that we’re addressing.
Recorded on: October 13, 2008