Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Second-Rate School for Older People

What a contemptible organization Lifespring in Saugerties, NY, is! What arrogant, incompetent, dumb people run it! I volunteered to teach a financial class. After I did, I tried to bow out. Too much to do. (I was also teaching a music class a Bard.) Then Susan Greenstein of Lifespring pressured me to continue. There were to be six sessions. I could fairly easily teach four. For the final two, I decided to get two speakers: a lawyer and a Certified Financial Planner. I know no professionals in the area, but a member of the synagogue suggested her husband, a CFP who turned out to be a former officer of the synagogue where Lifespring meets. He recommended a lawyer. I had never met these people before—never met them until they came to speak. But they were older men, veterans, and they did a good job. When I submitted my program, mentioning the two guests, all hell broke loose. What was I doing, inviting others to speak? I do that all the time. I set up programs all over New Jersey. I get doctors, lawyers, CPAs, CFPs. I’m trusted to vet the speakers—to make sure they’re smart and on the up and up. But Lifespring—via “Arzi,” the big arrogant cheese—kept berating me. Lifespring was even thinking of cancelling my program! (I should have.) I was also challenged on my sending emails to the students. Emails don’t differ from handouts. Except they’re cheap and fast. I could send articles I’ve written, important data about value vs. growth stocks, and so forth. At that point, I knew I was dealing with ignorant arrogant amateurs. But apparently Lifespring had been burned in the past by some of its speakers, who were selling things. And some of Lifespring’s speakers were terrible: a former convict who sold his music tapes, an almost senile old man, an authority on Italy who (it turned out) led people on paid tours of Italy. After the last class, with the CFP, the class manager sent a note rebuking me for allegedly pushing people to hire that speaker. Supposedly via an email I had sent out. Although I didn’t notice it at first, the class manager sent her nasty email message to the directors of Lifespring. I wrote back: What was she talking about? I had mentioned being impressed by the speaker…and then gave info about a RIVAL of that speaker. Actually, someone preferable, because he was fee-only—unlike the other speaker. The person who had written the note then admitted that she had made a mistake. That was as close to an apology as she issued. Susan Oistrach. Lifespring issue an apology? Are you nuts? I had liked teaching the class. The students were eager to learn; they asked good, sometimes hard questions. And at least one other school in the area was deeply skeptical of offering financial courses. Ridiculous. Older people need financial help; I was ideal to teach the course because of my background and because I don’t sell anything—I’m objective. So I decided to offer my services elsewhere. And I wanted to pass along written praise from my current students—who seemed appreciative. (Actually, I almost ALWAYS get great reviews for my courses—financial, musical, or whatever.) So I emailed the students asking for evaluations of my class—even though Lifespring had already done that. But Lifespring takes a helluva long time to pass along evaluations—rewriting them instead of just taking off the names of the actual evaluations. Besides, other places I’ve taught aren’t so suspicious. Usually the students pass along their evaluations directly to me, I tell them that I shall destroy any negative evaluations (a joke), then pass them along. I got a half dozen favorable evaluations at Lifespring, sent them to a school THEN PREPARING classes for between fall and spring, a school where I wanted to teach finance. Lifespring found out I had sought my own evaluations—and in its typical paranoid fashion rebuked me in an email. An email that was highly verbose and otiose. “Highly irregular.” Also, I had, without thinking, asked for evaluations that would include people’s names. Big deal. What was so terrible about having people use their real names? If they wrote anything negative, was I going to have them thrown to the lions? I should think that if they had negative things to say, they would just keep quiet. Lifespring’s officers, being dumb, apparently had never thought of that. I’ll never teach at Lifespring again. And shall discourage everyone I know from teaching there. Bunch of arrogant, rude amateurs not averse to treating their teachers like shit.