By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
"I could no longer morally work there. I think Starkey International lost its moral compass," he says. "Mrs. Starkey was running Starkey International in the opposite way of how I was teaching. She was behaving in exactly the way I taught you don't accept." In the course of his departure, Champion says Starkey pushed him and threw a glass of juice on him — and he reported as much to the police. (Starkey accused Champion of threats and disturbing the peace in connection with the same incident.) Starkey is set for a jury trial on Champion's charge on August 14; her trial on Kirkpatrick's charge is set for a month later.
And although from 2000 through 2006 Starkey International had only one complaint on file with the Colorado Division of Private Occupational Schools, which certifies that Starkey and similar schools have the financial resources, facilities and personnel to meet the educational services stated in their catalogs and other printed materials, it is now recipient of two new complaints, courtesy of Muller and Madison.
"On those rare occasions where a student has problems and/or concerns, we try our very best to solve those problems and address those concerns," Starkey says in a written statement. "We continue to learn from our many successes and occasional failures and will continue to strive in the future to provide our students with the highest quality learning experience."
As word of the court cases, complaints and controversies leaks out, Starkey seems to be losing favor with some of her colleagues — and competitors — in the business she helped create. "The bottom line is, she is doing a disservice to the industry," says Robert Hanselman of the Robert Hanselman Domestic Agency in Georgia. "All the other agencies I've talked to, when a Starkey grad calls them, they just roll their eyes and say, 'Oh, no, here's another tragic story.'"
"Those of us who own agencies and work with each other have known for years about the high turnover of employees at Starkey and why," says another placement-agency owner. "We sadly shake our heads that Mary epitomizes the worst type of employer that we all try to avoid."
The International Institute of Modern Butlers, a Florida-based association, acknowledges the situation at Starkey with a written statement: "We prefer to distance the Institute from what could be seen as a travesty of the profession. No private service professional likes to be connected to an unsavory situation, but the very real danger of students' hopes and dreams being dashed by false advertising and unmet promises is of concern to the Institute's board. The profession is larger than the Starkey fracas, the demand for butler services is real, is increasing, and is appreciated by multiple employers around the world."
Starkey agrees that demand for butler services is increasing — that's why she dreams of a world where there are ten, twenty, a hundred Starkey Internationals. On that day last February when Muller and his classmates voiced their concerns about how she ran her school, she welcomed their criticism, saying it would help her achieve her dream. "Let me tell you what is going to happen to this industry," she told them. "In future years it will be taken over by a university and this eight-week program will take two years. In future years, there will be one in every city — or two or three. We just got [household manager] designated in the Department of Labor as an official title. Yes! We just got an association. Yes! We are just starting as an industry. Thank you for holding us to really high standards. Man, we are working our tail off to try to get there.
"You are pushing me," she concluded. "And you know what? I push back."