Sunday, December 21, 2014

Ackerman says no more interviews - unless she likes you

Ackerman says no more interviews - unless she likes you

Ackerman says no more interviews - unless she likes you

Former superintendent Arlene Ackerman is done taking questions.

At least from reporters from the Daily News, or any other media outlet that she felt "maligned and disrespected" her during her three-year tenure as Philly's schools chief, she wrote to me on Monday in an email responding to a request for a sit-down.

After stepping down as superintendent last week, Ackerman said she made a "deliberate decision" to give interviews to just three media outlets that presented coverage of her that she considered "fair and balanced."

With each interview, the first with Education Week, then with FOX 29 and on 900AM WURD, Ackerman's comments - which targeted Mayor Nutter, the School Reform Commission, PSD Chief Financial Officer Michael Masch and teachers’ union president Jerry Jordan - grew more scorching.

In her conversation with the education news journal last Wednesday, Ackerman said Nutter used politics to force her out. Then in an interview with Fox 29’s Thomas Drayton that same day, she challenged the public to question the SRC about the origins of the $405,000 in private contributions used in part to buy her out.

But it was during her explosive interview with the radio station on Thursday that she pulled out the big guns, pushing parents to pull their kids out of failing schools.

District spokesman Fernando Gallard has said that the School Reform Commission and Ackerman have a "different view of facts and events," during her tenure and refused to respond to any specific allegations. Her other targets have also stopped responding to allegations made by her.

Intrigued by what else she could or would say, I sent her the note to her personal email on Monday afternoon asking if she would agree to an interview. I figured I had this in the bag, considering one of her most vocal supporters and closest confidantes, activist Emmanuel Bussie, informed me that she agreed to a one-on-one with me.

But about an hour and a half later, Ackerman dashed any hopes I had of having a heart-to-heart with her. At least she replied, but in so many words told me that the People's Paper won’t get to take part in her post-resignation media campaign.

"I made a deliberate decision to talk through only specific three media outlets," she said in an email. "I selected reporters and journalists who I felt had always presented a fair and balanced story when interviewing me. Unfortunately, I have been unfairly maligned and disrespected by the Daily News and Inquirer for my entire three-year tenure as superintendent in Philadelphia."

She went on to say that she will be "watching to see how all of the journalists in this city report on my tenure and my departure moving forward."

"Only then, will I decide if, when or to whom, I will ever grant additional interviews. In the meantime, I am moving on with my life."

That’s easy to do when you're given a $905,000 severance package.

I suppose I could appreciate her frustrations. Some of the DN's not-too-flattering front cover illustrations of Ackerman could probably have driven anybody up a wall.

As could the critical opinion pieces by our editorial staff and columnists. But as a high-profile public figure, who was in charge of a district with a $2.7 billion budget and with about 155,000 students, it’s not a news outlet's position to cosset an individual in that position.

But not one to give up easily, I responded with another email asking if I could tag along on one of the workshops she said she plans to conduct for parents.

I haven't heard back from her yet.

So, my question to you is this: Should Ackerman grant the People's Paper an interview? Or do you think her media blitz should come to an end?

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