The saga over whether Philadelphia Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman should stay or leave has dragged on long enough. With a new school year starting soon for 155,000 public school students, it is time for the district to decide: Does she stay, or go?
Gov. Corbett and Mayor Nutter should say what they want to happen with Ackerman and put a stop to the endless rumors about her fate.
The embattled Ackerman has been on a downward spiral for months. Her failure to show up at a monthly School Reform Commission meeting last week added more unnecessary speculation.
SRC Chairman Robert L. Archie Jr. would only say that Ackerman remains the superintendent, a clear sign that the commission’s once too-cozy relationship with her has soured.
There have been increasing signs that Ackerman can no longer be an effective leader. Even Ackerman believes that she has been marginalized and stripped of making day-to-day district decisions, according to her supporters.
She reportedly has been trying to negotiate an exit before her contract expires in 2014.
It would cost the School District dearly to buy out Ackerman’s $325,000 annual contract. She could be entitled to a $1.5 million severance package if she is forced out without cause.
But it would be even more expensive to keep a schools chief whose credibility and ability to lead have been badly crippled.
There remains much work to be done to prepare the city’s schools to open, decisions that require stability currently lacking in the front office.
The district still must make additional cuts to close a budget deficit. Teachers are waiting for school assignments.
A veteran educator with impeccable credentials, Ackerman came here with great promise. Test scores in Philadelphia improved this year for the ninth straight year, including three under Ackerman. For the first time, more than half the students scored as proficient in reading and math.
Those gains, however, have largely been overshadowed by missteps by Ackerman. She has bumped heads with parents, union leaders, and lawmakers. She never seemed to master diplomacy in a job that demands it.
In praising Ackerman’s selection in February 2008, Mayor Nutter said the city had found “the best person for us.”
Is she still that person?