It has been less than 120 days since the Philadelphia School Reform Commission gave Dr. Arlene Ackerman a vote of confidence on performance and rewarded her with an additional year on her contract.
During this same period, the Mayor Michael Nutter advanced one of the most comprehensive accountability agreements given to a superintendent and a governing board (SRC). The chairman of the SRC and the superintendent signed off on this agreement in spite of its flaws. Very few administrators or governing bodies would have done so. To date, there has not been a material breach or violation of the accountability agreement or a withdrawal of the SRC’s vote of confidence and contract extension for Dr. Ackerman.
According to the media and others, Dr. Ackerman has been directed to leave the School District of Philadelphia without cause and take $905,000 as a buyout. It is my understanding that the buyout of $905,000 would be much higher if she had not agreed to dedicate a portion of her buyout contract of $1.5 million.
Also, it is my understanding that $405,000 of the total buyout will come from anonymous donors while $500,000 will come as a lump sum payment from the cash strapped resources of the School District. I. the parents of Philadelphia public school students and many of the 1.5 million people of this great city can in no way support this proposed agreement without:
- Identification of the private donors of this deal;
- Without proper notice or discussion with members of the State Legislature who vote on the school district’s appropriation;
- Without proper notice or discussion with members of City Council who approved a property tax increase to provide additional funds for the school district;
- Without approval from the hard-working people of this city, who must find additional funds to pay the increased property taxes, in order to provide the lump sum amount of $500,000 in the buyout agreement,; and
- Without making sure the agreement is in line with local ordinances, state law and federal education funding guidelines.
VOTE NO on this proposed agreement for the above referenced reasons.
I sincerely hope the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Pennsylvania Courts of competent jurisdiction will not have to do what you are unable or unwilling to do. The issue before you is about children or the 167,000 plus students who attend the Philadelphia Public School system. Your stand today will decide where our children stand with us tomorrow.
I am asking that you reject any and all efforts to entertain a nationwide search for another superintendent. The last three superintendents – Dr. Hornbeck, Dr. Vallas and Dr. Ackerman – were selected via a national search. Just like her two predecessors, Dr. Ackerman will leave with much more money than she had when she arrived, while the children of this city will continue to be educationally short-changed. Secondly, I strongly recommend the establishment of a Superintendent Selection Advisory Committee consisting of parents, students, teachers, former superintendent Dr. Constance Clayton and other stakeholders.
The committee must focus on talent in Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania first. A national search should not be considered until all city and state candidates have been exhausted.
Last but not least. I urge you to continue implementation of “Imagine 2014.” I exhort you – do not retreat or abandon this comprehensive proposal that has been getting positive results! PUT CHILDREN FIRST!