The TBI Mafia (Part 6) The Lunatics Take Over the Asylum

In this sixth interview about the antics of the TBI Mafia, we interview the former school manager of TBI Kelapa Gading. In this interview he discusses developments at TBI in 2012 and how they show the final conquest of the TBI Mafia over all imaginary rivals.

Were all of the Indonesian school managers complicit in the TBI Mafia?

By no means. There were many fine Indonesian managers and teachers who have fallen victim to these treacherous scoundrels too.

Can you give me an example?

Luke Preece hounded Retty Setiawan out of the company. In 2010 the franchise owners were starting to complain as a group about how bad TBI marketing and support was. They actually issued an ultimatum in 2010 saying that they didn’t ever want to deal with Mariam or Retty again. Ultimately Mariam was far less professional and far less of an achiever than Retty, but she was powerfully connected at USG, the murky charity (yayasan) which owns TBI. So Luke saw an opportunity and went for Retty’s head instead. He slandered her relentlessly for months and ended up writing a long report stating the case for firing her and giving him a promotion to her job.

What a gentleman. How did he fare once he had got this woman fired?

He was been an abject failure. Retty sold and opened 11 different franchise schools- every single TBI franchise school- between 2004 and 2010. TBI Cibubur and Depok opened after she left but it was already in the pipeline- they were her success too. Since this lying South Aussie, Luke Preece, has taken over franchise he hasn’t sold a single franchise. Indeed in late 2012 there was someone called Heri Sofiyandi who was calling himself Head of Franchise, so it seemed Preece had been demoted.

Is Preece still the Head of Franchise? What’s the latest?

The owner of TBI Surabaya, a Canadian, has recently claimed that we are wrong to claim Preece was demoted as he is still “at the helm with Mariam”. I asked him why there was someone called Heri Sofiyandi introducing himself as Head of Franchise and meeting TBI Bekasi teachers in that capacity if Preece is still in that role. Tellingly, the owner declined to answer that question and rushed to praise the “professionalism” of Luke Preece and Ibu Mariam, which had me in stitches. But who knows? Perhaps Preece has got Sofiyandi fired too and taken his old job back? Like all incompetent and corrupt people, they cloak their activities in secrecy and tell endless lies to cover up their misdeeds. Yet I think no new schools opening in 3 years tells the true story. They have lost the plot completely and their market share is rapidly shrinking. I’d call them proven failures, especially this con-man, Preece.

Who were these Indonesians who resisted the TBI Mafia?

There were at least three Indonesian school managers who had stood up to Luke Preece and complained about him to Mariam and HR. By the end of 2012 they had all been fired, bringing the total of fired managers from 2011 and 2012 to over ten individuals. Basically everyone except their rotten, crooked clique was shown the door in a humiliating fashion. The three last non-Mafia Indonesian managers were Mariezka, Ratna and GA from TBI Malang. Within a 12 month period Luke Preece had got rid of all them too, usually by a combination of spies, slander and threats and intimidation. I know this because I personally spoke to two of them and had other teacher sources about the third. They all reported Luke Preece lying about them, rigging appointments in favour of his stooges and in one case flat out ordering them to resign and lie it was their own idea.

What happened to Mariezka?

You will remember that she had complained to HR about Luke in 2010 when Luke rigged the appointment of his best friend, Scott Martin, to lead TBI Jalan Jawa. Luke obviously had it in for her because after she became school manager of TBI Depok, she didn’t last long at all. When I asked her what her problems are she said that the managers didn’t approve of her. Every time they spoke to Luke Preece they came back angry at her and had “the completely wrong idea” about everything that had happened. I suggested to her that he was poisoning them against her by misrepresenting events. She agreed with that and said that they “loved Luke” and believed everything he said, so she felt powerless against his lies. Within a few weeks of that call, she was gone. She later made some sort of statement saying, “It was her idea to leave,” but that wasn’t what she had said to me just weeks before. She said that she loved the job but the owners had been turned against her by Preece, which is completely typical.

What else did she say?

She said that Ashley Platts’s training sessions were “worse than useless” and “a complete waste of time”, an opinion with which I heartily agreed. I knew that these training sessions had been judged a dismal failure as so many of his “graduates” had failed in the role, and so I knew that she was astute to see through this charlatan. Perhaps the most telling part came a few days later, however.

What happened then?

On the day I spoke to Mariezka for 3 hours about the TBI Mafia she agreed to go to HR and make a new complaint about Luke Preece. The following day she contacted me again and said she had decided not to proceed with a fresh complaint.

A couple of weeks later I had a meeting with Mariam about Luke. I was there to support Cameron. In the meeting Mariam first of all denied that she had spoken to Mariezka and “scared her off”. She flat out denied having spoken to her. But then later in the meeting when I mentioned what Mariezka had said about Luke, she snapped, “Mariezka told you she wasn’t going ahead with her complaints against Luke.” She said this in a really angry way with pure rage flashing in her eyes. People don’t think of her as a vindictive witch for nothing.

At that point I said to her, “But I thought you told me that you hadn’t spoken to her and now you are quoting what she said. Sounds like you have been lying to me.” At this point she got up in a rage and said that she refused to answer any questions whatsoever about Luke- she was the Director and she didn’t have to- and she stormed out of the room in an indignant huff. She had been caught out lying and was furious about it.

How do you think Mariam knew about your conversation with Mariezka?

As Anita Pasaribu said in a recently leaked email, “At TBI wall can talk.” She might have forgotten the plural for the word wall, but what she was saying was interesting. People spy on each other and report back to score points- she knew it, just like most other Indonesians in the company know it. It is a toxic environment where emails are monitored and if I call Mariezka, using my correct name, at TBI Depok, then Mariam will find out about it. They are crooks in my opinion and they are paranoid about being found out. Should a simple language school be riddled with moles and spies? This place is bizarre. I think someone tipped Mariam off that Mariezka and I had spent hours talking.

What about Ratna? What happened to her?

She had been with TBI for a decade or more and was well-liked by the Indonesian staff and the teachers. In 2010 Luke Preece rigged the appointment of Scott Martin, a slow-witted Aussie who had barely passed his CELTA. One wonders whether Luke bought pressure to bear on Jodi in passing him, as he has shown he can manipulate her many times since.

Scott was a widely hated manager. In 2012 expat teachers informed this blog that Scott had paid some teachers weeks late and hadn’t even told them about it face to face. He had just put up a notice in the staffroom weeks after the salaries were due. He was also a bully who forced VKU visa teachers to work in government schools. This was madness as he was parading teachers without KITASes (work visas) right in front of Indonesian government employees. It was widely resented and expat teachers told us in 2012 that “we don’t talk about anything at school except leaving TBI.”

But Luke Preece said he cared so much about teachers that he had to “remove” Cameron because Matthew and Colm didn’t like him?

Luke Preece doesn’t give a rat’s arse about anyone but himself. He knew for a fact that the teachers at TBI Jalan Riau were up in arms about Scott’s incompetence and meanness, and he didn’t lift a finger to help them. Luke just pretends to be things he isn’t. The reality is he supported Scott in forcing VKU teachers to go into government schools against their will and all common sense.

So why did Scott get removed in favour of Ratna in April 2012?

I don’t know. One presumes Mariam forced him out, because it certainly wouldn’t have been Luke. Luke had gone to a lot of trouble to rig that job for his South Aussie best “bud” since primary school.

Why do you use the word “bud” sarcastically?

I would describe Scott Martin more as a sad pawn who does whatever Luke says. The original Luke Preece minion and stooge.

So why did Ratna get removed as school manager and Scott regain his job?

Who knows what lies Luke Preece spread about her to get rid of her, but she was now the 11th school manager in 2 years to get removed or forced out in favour of Luke or one of his unquestioning stooges. He can act with impunity and Mariam and Reza never reign him in. I know that when I spoke to both teachers and staff inside TBI Jalan Riau they all said the same things- Scott was a mean and incompetent manager who couldn’t even keep the books in stock or pay people on time. The Indonesian staff freely mocked him and told me how much they hated him. All the expats left in 2012 because of callousness to the VKU teachers in exposing them to the risk of deportation. In contrast, everyone spoke highly of Ratna. The decision to replace her, again, with Scott, who has no degree in any subject and is less well-educated than the women on the front desk is a farce. It speaks of the contempt with which the TBI Mafia treat their underlings.

Who was the last “non-Mafia” manager standing?

His name was G****** A**** and he was the last manager of the “old” TBI Malang. In December 2012 Luke Preece and the wicked Mariam Kartikatresni both phoned him up separately and said, “We need you to resign, but don’t even dream of telling people you were fired. You need to say this was your own idea.” Interestingly, he told me just that! I smelled rat but I accepted it. I knew he loved his job and didn’t want to go. But under pressure from this Mafia with their threats of lawsuits and recriminations, who can blame him? But then things got interesting when TBI’s joint venture partners caught wind of Luke and Mariam’s game.

The JV partners told TBI this was the last straw and broke the contract with TBI. TBI sent Pak Reza to Malang to beg them to reconsider but he was shown the door and the JV partner tore up its contract with TBI. They had put over $100,000 of their money into TBI, so you can see how angry they must have been with TBI’s chronic unprofessionalism just to walk away. You can also see how unaccountable Luke and Mariam are. TBI had no school in Malang for 8 months, causing them to lose $200,000 in revenue, but they were left in charge. The Mafia is now in charge and there is no one to hold them to account. Amazing that Cameron was called a terrible manager for making teachers wear ties when these fools can cause a school to close down, losing $200,000 in revenue and that’s okay.

Did TBI Malang eventually re-open?

It has now re-opened as a shadow of its former self. The manager, an alleged liar and spy called Niah, was recently tweeting that they had 100 students. Woo-hoo! According to our source, even this low figure seems like wishful thinking too, as there are only 3 or 4 motorbikes in the car park some afternoons! They don’t even have a single Native Speaker teacher. It is a tiny school with 100% Indonesian teachers. In contrast, the old TBI Malang has gone on strong as TBI (The Boston Institute), retaining most of TBI’s old students and business clients. TBI was reduced to offering free classes to Bentoel, their main customer at TBI Malang, to try and win them back. They were very distressed at TBI’s “kacau” (unruly) behaviour.

What’s the state of play now?

Luke and Mariam forced out almost a dozen managers in 2011 and 2012 who weren’t part of their clique and beholden to them. Who is there left to stop them from looting these schools wholesale? Remember what happened when Luke managed TBI Dago? Over 2 milyar (2 billion rupiah was embezzled) and he claimed to know nothing. But the next year he bought a house in the hills of Bandung without taking out a mortgage. And when Mariam and Reza “found out” they didn’t fire him but rather promoted him and never went to the police. What happened to the recovered funds? Who knows? Do you think Mariam might have taken a cut, hence ensuring Luke, her and Reza are forever ensnared in a criminal conspiracy? That’s what many now speculate. In short, the loonies have taken over the asylum. Who can be surprised their business is now stagnant?

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