The TBI Mafia: Manufactured Crises (Part 3 of 6)

Having spoken to a number of Indonesian managers who fell victim to Luke Preece, I have learnt that he manufactures crises in the schools managed by his rivals as a way to try and force them out.

Did you experience this in your time with the company?

The first time I saw it was against Ibu Wati in 2010. Luke and Mariam wanted her gone because she belonged to Ibu Ning’s camp in the Ning versus Mariam war. Ning tried to wrong-foot Mariam by planting her coffee buddy, Ibu Wati, as school manager of TBI Kuningan. Luke hated Wati and referred to her quite often as “that cunt”. He claimed that she was eventually fired due to her own incompetence, but I know that he greatly hastened her downfall. She would have lasted much longer than six months if he hadn’t constantly undermined her.

How much did you know at the time?

I knew he hated her. I know he was absolutely delighted when she was fired. At the time he said he disliked her because of nepotism- he didn’t think it was fair she was appointed school manager without any education-industry background just because she was Ning’s friend- but in retrospect that was just “mirroring”.

What do you mean by “mirroring”?

It is a technique used by manipulators to establish the appearance of agreement and rapport. He knew that I was angry that TBI had started appointing managers based on friendship and race versus merit. That was not the company I had been told I was working for and it went against all their mission and value statement 100%. So he pretended that he was angry about Wati because of the immoral, corrupt nature of her appointment. But I now see that he hated Wati because she was an obstacle thrown in his path to gain control of TBI for himself and Mariam. She was from an enemy camp. He was pretending to have the same perspective and motivations as me- he was mirroring me- but really all that interested him was pure power. Control for control’s sake. That’s what motivates sociopaths. They have no feelings, so they don’t get any pleasure from relationships. They just want power to inflate their ego and give them opportunities to torment people.

Did he manufacture crises for Wati?

I don’t know if I’d use the word “crises”. It was more like an endless string of small but disruptive incidents which rapidly gave the impression she didn’t know what she was doing and couldn’t control her staff. Also he loaded the dice against her.

What do you mean by “loading the dice”?

He removed all the competent people from her management team, including myself, and loaded the school full of people who were closely allied to him. They then did a terrible job and created havoc, which he broadcast loudly as proof that she was useless. In truth, he was more responsible for the rotten performance of TBI Kuningan in 2010 than she was.

Can you give our readers some idea of how one goes about “loading” a school with dud staff? Budding sociopaths might appreciate the tips!

First of all he came to me and asked me about how efficient all the staff were at TBI Jakarta schools.

Why did he ask you?

Because I had been ACTEL (DOS) at the school for 18 months and I had been acting manager for several months. I was the person who new the school best.

What did he do with your advice?

He transferred all the efficient and hard-working people out of the school immediately and replaced them with people who had a bad reputation for aggression and divisiveness. The Office Supervisor was excellent, and I told him so repeatedly. So he transferred her to TBI Fatmawati, so she could help Eny, who never questions Luke and is basically one of his human sock-puppets. He then replaced her with an aggressive and widely despised supervisor called Uli, who I told him was terrible and would be the worst possible person for the job.

How did Uli perform?

She was so ferociously aggressive Indonesian staff nicknamed her “The Komodo Dragon”. She was rude to customers, causing new enrollment rates to fall to record lows. She publicly and noisily squabbled with expat teachers and took on the ACTEL as well on issues that were completely outside her brief. She was in charge of customer service but she started trying to set the curriculum. Luke then went around TBI and USG broadcasting all of this as proof of how terrible a manager Wati was.

Wasn’t Wati to blame for Uli’s dismal record?

Less so than Luke. Luke appointed her. Luke appointed her against the advice of people who had been in Jakarta longer. He was in the school all the time and had every chance to discipline her and bring her into line.He was viewed as being close to Uli and he eventually gave her a huge bonus at the end fo 2010 despite having the worst record of any office supervisor that year. I now think it’s very clear her erratic, bizarre behavior was staged and the two of them were “in cahoots” all along. Like many of the people who are Luke’s close Indonesian associates, she is Batak Christian, just like Luke’s wife. This also applies to Binsar at TBI Bekasi, the alleged sex offender who Preece failed to control or discipline. Christians are discriminated against by the Muslim majority in Indonesia and so they are also outsiders in a way. Definitely Luke has nurtured a special relationship with the many Bataks in TBI, using his marriage to prove he is “one of them.” Most of his Indonesian colleagues in corruption have been Batak or part Batak: Lilies, Binsar, Uli and Anita immediately spring to mind. There have long been whispers of a “Batak Mafia” inside TBI, and the mere mention of the phrase was known to send the Javanese Ibu Ning into a fury.

Is Luke Preece a practising Christian?

No he isn’t. I have never known him to go to church or express religious or spiritual views. His one firmly held religious view in my experience is his hatred and contempt of Muslims. In his house he has a photocopy of the infamous Denmark anti-Mohammed cartoon on the wall right alongside the photos of him graduating high school and at the beach as a youngster. I thought it was a bizarre thing when I saw it but I didn’t make too much of it at the time. But now I see Muslims as another to which this sociopath feels hatred and scorn. It’s just who he is. His psychopathology is a frightening thing.

Why was Uli key to undermining Wati?

In a busy school you need someone sharp to control admin. It’s a must. A lot of people think schools run themselves but the truth is they fall apart very quickly if someone doesn’t keep their eye on the ball. There are so many competitors in Jakarta especially. You can’t offer rude customer service and expect people will sign. In the end, Uli had a dismal enrollment rate of 29%. 50% is viewed as very weak. Hers was off the chart bad. That meant new customers weren’t joining. There’s a natural process of attrition where some customers don’t re-sign. Uli’s dismal performance was key to the rapid fall in student numbers, which was the ultimate reason Wati was dismissed.

Was Uli the only Luke Preece appointment who failed badly?

No, Luke Preece appointed Minerva Soe as DOS, who was eventually fired from the company in disgrace in 2012. She had already been demoted first. She had no degree in any subject and was a former house-mate of Lilies Agustin, Luke’s self-professed mistress. Like most of the trouble-makers at TBI Jakarta, she had no degree but had been brought to Jakarta with Luke. Like Matthew France, who he ended up calling “unstable” and a whining “little school girl” in work emails, Minnie had worked for Preece in Bandung and was brought to Jakarta with him in 2010. Like France she was a huge trouble-maker. She fought hammer and tongs with both Uli and a well-respected expat teacher called Mark B. Her conflict with these people was used as evidence that Wati needed to be fired, even though Luke was the one who had hand-picked both Minerva and Uli. He scapegoated Wati for the failure of his own dodgy job candidates.

Why did Minerva become DOS if she didn’t have an English degree?

Let’s go back to 2010. You must remember that Jodi and Mariezka had shrilly protested the appointment of Scott, Luke’s best friend, as school manager of TBI Jalan Jawa / Riau. That had created a lot of embarrassing complaints against the people I now call the TBI Mafia. In that case Preece had thrown away the CVs of everyone except Scott and claimed that his best bud was “the only candidate”- a blatant lie which was widely known to be false in Bandung. With Minerva, he didn’t make the same mistake twice. There was a second candidate- one of Luke’s closest friends, David Bradbury.

Was Bradbury better qualified than Minerva?

He had  a Science Degree, had been with the company for almost a decade, had a DELTA and was a qualified CELTA trainer. The man had little emotional intelligence and seemed never to notice how many people he was annoying, but he out-gunned her massively in terms of his CV. He had years’ experience training teachers. She was a complete rookie in comparison.

Then why did he give the rookie with no degree the job over someone with 10 years’ experience and a DELTA?

This was one of the first times where I really doubted his business sense in a serious way. I was a member of the interview panel and I argued in favor of Bradbury. But Preece and Wati over-ruled me and decided to give it Luke’s lover’s roomie, Minerva.

What justification could Preece possibly have had for selecting an untried rookie with no qualifications as Wati’s DOS?

Bradbury, Luke’s long-time drinking buddy and close associate, turned in a bizarre interview performance where he prattled on about TBI skeletons in embarrassing length. He even claimed that the owners of TBI Surabaya had gambling debts. The owners have since contacted this blog and vehemently denied these debts ever existed. Mind you this gossip had nothing to do with the interview questions anyway. It was a surreally bad interview performance I will admit, and Bradbury had specifically and repeatedly been warned not to ramble or discuss skeletons. That’s why I ended up concluding much later that the whole thing was a set-up. Who is so stupid that they prattle on at length about scurrilous TBI secrets in a job interview? Could Bradbury have possibly got through his DELTA, a demanding course by all accounts, if he was this much of a loose cannon? As a CELTA trainer he has years of experience telling other teachers to stick to the topic. I have concluded that he threw the interview so that Luke had an excuse for appointing one his stooges into the role. In fact, David was so bad that Wati was against his appointment.

So you think that this was a rigged interview panel and it was done to ensure that a repeat of the Scott Martin at TBI Riau scandal didn’t occur?

Luke had annoyed a lot of people in TBI by appointing his best friend to head their biggest school. People at TBI Riau wouldn’t talk to him for weeks and even months after that scam. The last thing he wanted was a repeat of that. So instead of the “no other candidates” scam, he asked his drinking buddy to go for the job and then fuck up the interview, which he did in the most ridiculous job interview performance I’ve ever seen- and I must have done 50 interviews. He wanted Minerva to get the job and used his other buddy, David, to provide cover.

What was in it for David?

It was no secret David wanted the job of Head of Academics for all TBI. During 2011 Luke started working to get rid of Monica, who was in the role. This culminated in a secret “assassination by stealth”meeting involving- you guessed it- Scott and Alex, two close Preece associates. They basically demanded that Monica- then seven months pregnant- be fired! I expected that David was being lined up for the job. This was his payback for throwing the earlier job interview for the far inferior position.

Did it work?

No. I notified Monica that Luke was trying to get her fired. Monica went to Mariam, her friend, and complained about what Luke, Scott and Alex had done. Her removal was delayed for several months. At this point David suddenly and unexpectedly resigned and using his Dave’s ESL Cafe pseudonym of “Chezal”, at precisely this point he started ranting against TBI. He even said “who with a DELTA would want to work for a bog-standard school like TBI”! Bradbury / Chezal also sounded off on Dave’s about how unfair it was that all management positions were now reserved for Indonesians at TBI. Um, but I thought you said you didn’t want to work for such a bog-standard school at all “Chezal”? Clearly, his nose was out of joint. I imagine that he had been duped by Preece with the line, “Sorry I promised you this job, Dave, but management’s an Indonesian-only proposition now. Except for me and Ashley of course! We’re the last Whities standing!”

What was Minerva like as a manager?

She fought with the ex-pat teachers. She fought with Uli over who got to decide the curriculum. She fired off angry, disgruntled emails about how bad TBI Kuningan was. All of this was, I believe, a manufactured crisis, instigated by Luke stooges. He had hand-picked all of the and all of them got large rises- suspiciously large rises- after almost driving TBI Kuningan into the ground. For example, Minerva got lifted to the expat (Native Speaker) pay scale by Luke, even though she was Indonesian! This had never happened before. Luke’s issuing of bonuses, perks and raises was hugely suspicious, with the largest share going to badly performing people who had created problems for his enemies. Yes, I would say manufacturing crises is his trademark. That and rigged appointments.

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