Watchdog group urges SRC to reveal names of anonymous donors to Ackerman's buy-out

The Committee of Seventy, a political watchdog group sent out a press release today urging the School Reform Commission to reveal the names of the anonymous private donors who have contributed $405,000 toward Schools Superintendent Arlene Ackerman’s contract buy-out.

Check out the press release below:

PHILADELPHIA – August 22, 2011 – The Committee of Seventy today urged the School Reform Commission to make public the anonymous private donors who are reportedly financing around $400,000 of outgoing School District Superintendent Arlene Ackerman’s $905,000 contract buy‐out.

“The public has the same right to know the details of Ackerman’s departure as it had to know the costs of bringing and keeping her here,” said Zack Stalberg, Seventy’s President and CEO.

“The SRC – and maybe Governor Corbett and Mayor Nutter – may think they’re doing the taxpayers a favor by finding a secret donor to finance part of the severance deal. But secrecy has huge potential downsides.”

According to Stalberg, downsides include preventing the public from knowing whether or how the favor might be returned – either by the School District or by another part of government, each of which spend billions of public money every year. “There is no compelling reason for the lack of transparency. If the donors are insisting upon it, find other donors,” Stalberg said.

Stalberg added that greater transparency is especially important given concerns about conflicts of interest already infecting SRC Chairman Robert Archie, Jr. The outcome of a city investigation of Archie’s participation in a March 2011 private meeting concerning a contract to run Martin Luther King High School, after recusing himself from that decision because of a conflict of interest, has not been released.

Former Deputy Superintendent/Deputy Chief Executive for the School District, and now Acting

Superintendent Leroy Nunery, also attended the private meeting. Mayor Nutter ordered his Chief Integrity Officer, Joan Markman, to conduct the investigation back in April.

“The public’s confidence in the School District is very fragile at the moment,” Stalberg said. “This is a time for everyone with a hand in running the schools, most immediately the SRC and Mayor Nutter, to be as open as possible. Just because the Ackerman era is over doesn’t mean that serious issues won’t linger about how it ended.”

The Committee of Seventy’s IN THE KNOW: WHO’S IN CHARGE OF THE PHILLY SCHOOLS is attached and is also available at: http://www.seventy.org/Downloads/Whos_in_Charge_of_the_Philly_Schools_8.22.11.pdf.

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