Highland Park Senior High is filled with joyful, generous, and supportive staff. All of the staff play a part in making Highland Park Senior High a school that everyone loves.
I interviewed Kelly Schleper at Highland Park Senior High. In the interview I asked her these questions:
What do you teach?
She responded saying, “I teach math, geometry, pre-calc, and math analysis SL.”
SL is Standard Level.
How long have you been teaching?
She responded saying, “I have been teaching since 2006.”
I did the math and, in 2023, that would be 17 years of teaching!
What is your favorite part of teaching?
She responded saying, “My favorite part of teaching is working with students.”
What do you do in your free time? Any hobbies?
She responded saying, “I like to go cross country skiing, I like to walk outside, and I like to play games.”
Is there any interesting fact about yourself that none of your students know?
She responded saying, “I am actually the oldest of 37 cousins.”
How did you spend your winter break?
She responded saying, “Hanging out with my kids.”
The final question I asked was, do you enjoy teaching at Highland Park Senior High?
She responded saying, “Oh I love Highland!”
Based on Ms. Schelper’s responses, they seem like she is very engaged with her students individually, and very supportive of her students and other staff.
I also interviewed two students who have, or have had, Ms. Schleper. I asked them these questions:
How do you feel about Ms. Schleper as a teacher?Did you feel supported by her when you are/were in her class?
One of the students responded to the first question saying, “I love her as a teacher. I find her super funny and a great teacher. She helped me with everything I was struggling with in math.”
The same student responded to the second question saying, “I think she may be one of the teachers I feel the most supported by. She offers all of her classes extra help during advisory, which has really helped me.”
The other student responded to the first question saying, “I really enjoy Ms. Schleper as a teacher. I don’t think I could see her in any other career. She is super kind to all of her students despite teaching extremely difficult subjects.”
The same student responded to the second question saying, “I have never once not felt supported by Ms. Schleper. She always offers her students extra help and I know that has made a great impact on some of my fellow friends.”
FTX Holdings was founded in May, 2019. It was one of the first large crypto exchange platforms that the world came to know. As it was founded right at the beginning of the crypto explosion, it proceeded to make absurd amounts of money off the back of it. FTX became a world renowned company, and in the 2022 Super Bowl, became an American household name with one of the most popular and successful Super Bowl ads in recent years.
This sounds like the setup to a story about an extremely successful company on the forefront of cryptocurrency technology, right? Like many people that believed in this company, including celebrity endorsements such as Larry David, Steph Curry, and Tom Brady, you would be wrong.
On November 11, 2022, FTX Holdings filed for bankruptcy, and in the process, close to $11 Billion has gone up in smoke.
FTX was founded by Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) in May of 2019. Before SBF founded FTX, he founded an investment and trading firm called Alameda Research. Alameda consisted of SBF and roughly 10 of his friends, making random crypto trades for a pretty decent profit. When the company was at its height in 2017-2018, it made a respectable profit month after month.
When the crypto scene started to grow and gain more public attention, larger trading firms got into the scene and made it harder for little companies like Alameda, to make as much money. This is when SBF pivoted his business model and decided to go from exchanging crypto, to being the exchange himself. This pivot birthed the FTX crypto exchange.
The FTX Business Model
Before we dig into why FTX’s business model failed so catastrophically, we should look at what model DOES work for exchanges. The ideal business model for the average person putting money into a bank or exchange is where the organization holds your money and gives it back when you want it. While it is a good form of banking, it doesn’t make much money. Crypto exchange “Coinbase” uses this model, and only makes money by charging fees on substantial transactions.
What MOST banks will do is they’ll take your money, and invest it in physical assets such as real estate and long term stock options. This allows banks to be a better investor than you, and make a bit of money off the back end. This also allows banks to give their customers interest on their holdings, so everyone makes a little money. As long as real estate and other investments don’t crumble all at once, everyone’s happy. They still have enough money to pay people out if they want to withdraw some, or all, of their money.
Something very important to note about real banks, is that NO MATTER WHAT they are required to pay out customers up to $250,000. This is called FDIC insurance, and makes sure that even if a bank goes completely under, people can still make it out with a decent amount of money.
Where we run into major problems with crypto exchanges (cryptobanks) is the FDIC does not apply to them whatsoever.
Here’s a unique scenario to think about. Imagine that you give a bank $100,000, and instead of investing that money into something stable such as real estate, they take the money and buy a high quality Babe Ruth rookie card. The money you gave them is technically still there, but it’s no longer liquid. Now, take this scenario and multiply it by thousands of customers. For every $100,000 dollars put into the bank, a new rookie card is acquired. Now, uh oh, someone wants their money back, so the exchange has to sell one of the cards, no big deal, the card is sold for more than it was bought, you get your money back and the bank keeps a little.
Now the real problem occurs when a whole lot of people want their money back, all at once, and you need to sell a whole lot of these Babe Ruth rookie cards to be able to do that. If you sell all of these cards, they will end up having very very little value, and you’ll never get the money to pay back your customers. Take this scenario, and instead of a Babe Ruth rookie card, the exchange is investing in a worthless, self minted, crypto coin. That’s FTX.
While SBF was somehow keeping FTX afloat, his first company, Alameda Research, was making a large amount of terrible crypto investments. It was being run by the 28-year-old girlfriend of SBF, who was having an extremely hard time making good investments for Alameda. In referencing her direction and methodology around making massive crypto bets, she said, “’Ya know [I] adjusted myself to you know, okay we’re farming comp, uh and then it’s like oh were farming these things that are like foods, and now we’re farming these whatever weird, like meta food things, I don’t know.’ She goes on to say,‘Yeah I feel like I did manage to get, yeah, get away from my initial skepticism and end up embracing the mindset of like great, gonna go out and look for like, whatever like the weirdest, dumbest thing people are talking about today and like that’s gonna be the thing I’m working on today.’” Through this interview, it becomes pretty apparent that she has little to no idea what she’s doing regarding handling multi billion dollar cryptocurrency bets.
As Alameda was losing obscene amounts of money hand over fist, SBF started taking money directly from FTX’s accounts and secretly fueling the dumpster fire, Alameda Research. While on the surface this seems sketchy at worst, this is a 100% illegal way to conduct business. This is the point at which FTX and SBF start to resemble Enron. What was going on behind the scenes here was completely illegal and SBF should face criminal punishment.
In early November, 2022, a leak was made of FTX’s finances. The leak showed that FTX was “loaning” money to Alameda to keep up its failing bets, and in return, Alameda was giving them FTT Tokens. FTT Tokens are the tokens minted and sold by FTX as mentioned in its business model. The FTT Token was only being propped up by FTX’s profits. As more people invested into FTX, these FTT Tokens gained more “value” even though there was literally no solid financial support behind that said value. FTX would continuously buy the FTT Token to keep its value up. The leak brought to light that almost ALL of the money on FTX’s books was being held in this made up, completely valueless FTT Token. So, instead of having people’s real money in their vaults, FTX was filling it with these worthless crypto tokens. People started to realize that this was a major red flag, and decided to start pulling money out.
Very shortly after this leak was published, the CEO of a similar crypto exchange, Binance, said publicly that he had a large amount of this FTT Token and was scared for its stability. Instantly, he announced that he had decided to dump it all. With the CEO of Binance dumping all of his FTT Token, the value plummeted and everyone who had money in FTX also started to pull their money out of the business.
The house of cards that was FTX fell apart and literally overnight, the company went from the largest and most valuable Crypto Exchange, to worth absolutely nothing. FTX collapses and as a financial powerhouse, simply ceases to exist.
There will be a lot of changes in the wake of this catastrophic financial oversight. The company that Wall Street counted on to do accurate accounting for FTX, Prager Metis, is facing serious consequences as it was their responsibility to notice a fault this large in the company. The people involved in FTX and Alameda all should also be facing serious jail time.
Several other things were noticed as well. As I mentioned Binance earlier, it would be good to note that after FTX collapsed, people were rightfully skeptical and decided to look deeper into Binance’s finances (sick rhyme). What they found was that almost 50% of THEIR reserve is also in their own Crypto Token. In the Crypto world, this has immediately popped up as a huge issue, all over the place, and is an extremely dangerous balancing act to keep up.
As mentioned earlier, this situation is very reminiscent of that of the Enron collapse, which I have covered in a previous article. While the similarities between the two fraudulent companies are deeply woven, it brings me great joy to announce that the new CEO of FTX, whose job it is to oversee the company’s liquidation, is none other than John J. Ray, the same guy that liquidated Enron 20 years ago.
What can we learn?
What I have taken away from this incident, is to not blindly trust companies with your money. You never know who is up to what kinds of shady business, and who will hang you out to dry whenever they want. While keeping your money in banks is a decently safe way to operate, nothing will ever be safer than a big treasure chest full of money buried in your backyard.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was the start of a worldwide pilot shortage. The COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated the issue. A study was done by the consulting firm Oliver Wyman, and it projected a 79,000 pilot deficit by 2032 if current trends continue, absent a downturn in future demand and/or strenuous efforts by the industry to bolster the supply of pilots.
North America as a region also needs more in the numbers department. The region already has a shortage of around 11,000 pilots, around 11% of the pilot supply, and this gap will only widen throughout the decade. By 2032, North America will be short 30,000 pilots if current trends continue.
Through a large part of the 20th Century, flying was a luxury reserved for only those who could afford it. Pilots were more prestigious than they are today, as the job commanded as much respect and pay in the 1950s as doctors. Aviation has become more commonplace and affordable for the average citizen, so the job has become less flashy.
That leads to the main factor of the shortages: the barrier and cost of entry to this profession are incredibly high. Before pilots can perform their first takeoff with passengers in the back, they must get many required licenses, ratings, and certifications.
However, many airlines heavily favor those with a college degree, so those who want to get into the field usually have to start by getting a degree. According to data from Statistica, the total cost of attending a university for four years in the US is $133,000.
Prior to the pandemic, some major US-based airlines required college degrees for applicants. However, most have dropped the degree requirements, but candidates with a college degree are strongly preferred.
Every aspiring pilot needs to get a private pilot license. This is essentially the aviation equivalent of your everyday driver’s license. As of 2022, this license requires 40 hours of flight time. These flight hours are with an instructor and are expensive.
According to pricing estimates from the Illinois Aviation Academy, getting your private pilot’s license costs a total of $10,680. This includes flight hours with the instructor, plane rental, FAA exams, and ground training.
To start actually making money as a pilot though, you need 15 additional hours of instruction for an instrument rating, and 215 hours of flight time to obtain a commercial license. According to St. Charles Flying Service, this costs, on average, around $25,000. There are also numerous other factors that add cost such as books, housing, and transportation.
Even after all this time and money invested, If you desire to work as a commercial airline pilot, you still need to obtain another license. To become a commercial airline pilot, you need to get an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) license. This is the biggest required flight time hours of them all, you need 1,500 flight hours to get this license, with some exceptions.
This 1,500 hour requirement was a huge increase from the previous requirement of 250 hours, and drove many away from the industry. The FAA changed the requirement in 2015, after a deadly plane crash in 2009 near Buffalo, NY. In response, Congress passed the FAA Extension Act which provided the FAA with authority to establish training requirements for commercial pilots. Airlines have lobbied the FAA to lower the requirement, possibly down to 750, but there has been no changes so far.
The United States is unique in this way, with other established countries such as Germany, the UK, and Canada all being at the 250 hour quota. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the total number of fatal accidents per 100,000 flight hours has dropped from 1.10 to 1.05 between 2015 and 2020, a roughly 4% difference.
If one were to pay for all that flight time themselves, they could be looking at around $135,000 in rental costs, so pilots usually let someone else pay for these fees by working at a job that doesn’t require a full ATP license. The most common job to fill the flight hours requirement is as a flight instructor, but other common gigs include flying skydiving planes, towing banners, or flying for airlines who are using small single engine planes.
After spending tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars over a couple years for education and training, you can finally apply to fly a commercial airliner. On average, it takes four years to finish all the necessary training and requirements but can be done in as fast as two years.
Commerical airline pilots in the United States have to adhere to many of the FAA’s strict safety rules, which include a medical/psychological exam every 12 months for pilots under 40 and every 6 months for those 40 and over. The FAA has a mandatory retirement age of 65, and they can’t continue after that no matter their health or ability.
Around 6,000 pilots per year retire before they hit the mandatory retirement age. By 2029, not a single baby boomer will be legally allowed to fly a commercial plane in the US.
The pandemic hit the aviation industry especially hard, and many airlines offered early retirement for pilots. This made the shortages worse when demand returned, and the airlines couldn’t keep up with staffing needs. Commercial pilots’ job is all seniority based, so those who took early retirement, and tried to come back, would be starting at the bottom of the pay scale and other things like scheduling.
On average, commercial pilots fly 900 hours per calendar year in the US, which is 75 hours per month, and about 17 hours per week. FAA regulations cap the number of hours at 1,400 in a calendar year. This also puts a restraint on the number of pilots available on any given day.
The US also loses a number of pilots to foreign countries such as China because they do not have enough local pilots to fill their fast growing airline industry. It is estimated that 10% of China’s pilots are foreign. The average starting salary for China’s airlines is $312k to foreign pilots, and some make up to $500k per year.
The obvious solutions would be in to increase pay and improve the working conditions, but the airlines are usually concerned with their bottom line. Another solution for the industry would be to try and recruit more female pilots, as they only make up 6.7% of the world’s supply.
Airlines are also now opening their own flight schools, where cadets can train for a reduced cost, and then are sometimes guaranteed a job upon completion of training with the specific airline. I think that this is definitely the best long term solution.