In an e-mail to the Inquirer, former Superintendent Arlene Ackerman has said she did not order pay raises given to some Philadelphia School District employees over the past few months and said that allegations against former district Human Resources executive Estelle Matthews are "serious."
Matthews was escorted out of district headquarters last week; a spokesman said she was "allowed to resign" from her job. The district's Inspector General recently gave the School Reform Commission the draft report from an investigation that found several questionable pay increases totaling more than $80,000 to Matthews' friends and their relatives. The raises were given at a time when thousands of employees were being laid off and schools were being ordered to cut programs and staff to close a $629 million district budget gap.
There were also allegations that Matthews' son was given district jobs despite lacking qualifications.
Matthews has said she has done nothing wrong.
"These allegations, if true, against Estelle are serious. I was horrified and saddened when I heard the news.
"However, though Ms. Matthews and I had a good working relationship, we are not personal friends. I have not seen or spoken with Estelle since I left the district in August.
"Earlier this year, upon learning of the massive deficit, I directed all Chiefs to cut half of their budgets and staffing. I also directed that there be a freeze on all hiring and promotions. (See previous press releases on the topics.)
"I took a cut in pay and asked senior staff to do the same. Any personnel changes or actions, or exceptions had to be approved by then-Deputy Superintendent Leroy Nunery. In fact, the entire budget reduction process was supervised by him and Michael Masch.
"I have been gone from the district for almost four months. I have had no contact or conversation with any senior staff since I left the district.
"None of the raises or promotions of the employees listed in the paper were recommended, authorized, or approved by me.