Meeting on Philly Superintendent’s Buyout Erupts into Outrage

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August 24, 2011; Source: Philadelphia Inquirer | In what the Philadelphia Inquirer described as a “racially charged” meeting on Tuesday evening, supporters of Arlene Ackerman, the exiting Philadelphia school superintendent, angrily took on the School Reform Commission (SRC) over their role in her resignation. Ackerman has stated that she was done in by politics.

Among the complaints was the lack of transparency in the process by which the $905,000 buyout of Ackerman’s contract was funded. As we reported yesterday, the buyout includes $405,000 in anonymous private donations funneled through the Philadelphia Children’s First Fund, a nonprofit set up by the public school system. Speakers at the SRC meeting questioned the intent and motive of the donors in funding the buyout, saying the public has a right to know who they are.

In a surprisingly candid statement, Pennsylvania State Auditor General Jack Wagner told the Inquirer, “I am appalled that the SRC is not listening to the public and their concerns. . . . The concerns are very basic: excessive salaries and confidential buyouts.” Partially in response to this situation, Wagner has instituted a new auditing process for such buyouts.

NPQ has repeatedly suggested that the blurring of the sectors will raise real ethical concerns that likely will lag behind practice. Case in point.—Ruth McCambridge

  • R. Ruth Linden

    Ackerman, former Superintendent of the San Francisco Board of Education, “left her post in 2006 marking an end to a tenure marred by charges that she was autocratic and excluded parents and teachers from important decisions,” according to a September 07, 2005 article in the San Francisco Chronicle.

    “The Board of Education voted unanimously to mutually invoke a controversial ‘compatibility clause’ in Ackerman’s contract, meaning both the school board and Ackerman agree they are incompatible.

    Exercising the clause allows Ackerman to walk away with $375,000 as long as she stays on the job for an additional six months to one year.”

    The long suffering administrator bit the bullet for another nine months to collect what amounted to a one-half million dollar annual salary.

    Didn’t the Philadelphia Board of Education do due diligence before hiring Ackerman? This imbroglio should surprise no one. It looks like the school board got exactly what it deserved and the children without means of opting out of public education are the losers in the deal.