Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Ackerman: I'm staying

Superintendent Arlene Ackerman signed a letter last week delegating for two months her signatory power to her deputy, but she denies a news report that said she is in talks to get out of her contract.

Ackerman: I'm staying

Mayor Nutter and Superintendent Arlene Ackerman jointly announced that the School District would share more financial data with the city. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)
Mayor Nutter and Superintendent Arlene Ackerman jointly announced that the School District would share more financial data with the city. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)

At a dramatic, contentious SRC meeting that just ended, Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman denied reports that she is in talks to end her contract and said that the rumors were spread by people who don't like her agenda. 

"I see it as adults who do not have the best interests of all children at heart," Ackerman said after the meeting.

She said she still had the backing of the SRC and Mayor Nutter, and that she has no plans to leave.

She reminded people that she was asked to come to Philadelphia, and that she has an obligation.

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"I want to stay for the children," she said.

Ackerman did acknowledge that she signed a letter last week delegating to Deputy Superintendent Leroy Nunery her authority to sign important district paperwork during July and August.  But she said it was a routine matter - just paperwork, essentially. 

And yes, she is going on vacation this summer.

"I plan to take some time," she said.  "I haven't taken a vacation in three years. I guess you could say that it's long overdue, and I won't apologize," Ackerman said.

The SRC met to approve the city's tax levy - a routine financial matter that it wasn't able to do earlier because the city had not yet settled on hiking takes to help the district.

Two parents who testified at the SRC meeting asked the commission to shift resources from non-essential programs and contracts back to the classroom.  Helen Gym of Parents United for Public Education said she was "heartsick" at the district's lack of transparency and accountability.

The Public School Notebook, on its website, detailed an internal district document outlining a list of schools that might be closed in the coming few years.  The document was not among those sent to the city by the district, despite a recently signed "Education Accountability Agreement" giving the city more oversight authority over the district.  Gym said that's another example of how the district operates, and said that the public - and the city - deserve more say-so.

Parents, she said, are "just not the enemy, and we deserve to be treated better than this."

Nunery said the document was an early, working list that never should have been published.  He said the district has sought and will continue to seek public input on the school closing process as it seeks to shed 70,000 extra seats. 

"People have jumped to conclusions," Nunery said.  Imagining that the document was final is "jumping so far to conclusions that it's laughable."

Gym, standing in the back of the room as Nunery spoke, shot back, "We're not laughing."

Ackerman has led the district since June 2008.  She's eligible to collect a $100,000 retention bonus on Thursday, but has said she will defer - not forego - the perk because of the district's current financial woes.

Check back for updates - here and on Twitter.

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About this blog

Inquirer reporter Kristen Graham writes the Philly School Files blog, where she covers education in Philadelphia, both in and out of the classroom.

During the school year, you’ll frequently find her hosting live chats about the district on Philly.com.

Please do pass along the scoop about what’s going on at your Philadelphia public school; Kristen welcomes tips, story ideas and witty banter.

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