Ackerman tactics teach Philly schoolkids wrong lesson

With the Philadelphia schools facing a $430 million shortfall this year, why is the school superintendent, Arlene Ackerman, spending hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to conduct a Nixon-like plumber’s investigation into possible staff leaks over a no-bid contract?

Following disclosures in The Inquirer about the contract, Ackerman put six top officials on paid administrative leave – staffers whose time, presumably, could be better spent on district business. A former federal prosecutor has been hired to query school staff about who might have talked out of school.


A technology company was also brought in to cull data from staffers’ computers, according to an Inquirer report Friday.

On Thursday, district staffers were issued a memo warning them of possible suspension, dismissal, or even being referred to "appropriate authorities" for improperly providing information to reporters.

In addition to creating an ominous climate that seems completely out of step with an institution devoted to learning and intellectual inquiry, the steps by Ackerman’s administration represent an unnecessary cost and a distraction from the important responsibility of educating the city’s schoolchildren.