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District coughs up entire Ackerman payout

By Dale Mezzacappa on Sep 7, 2011 06:04 PM

The School District has paid Arlene Ackerman's entire $905,000 buyout cost to the former superintendent.

"Almost all" of the anonymous donors who had said they'd contribute $405,000 have backed out, according to a District statement, which was attributed to the School Reform Commission. Philadelphia's Children First Fund, a nonprofit that was to funnel the private donations to the District, has returned what donations it did receive toward the cost.

The District had been planning to contribute $500,000 of its own funds.

And the District decided not to pursue an inquiry into whether Ackerman had violated a clause in the agreement not to disparage District officials or staffers in three interviews she gave after she left.

"We just want her to go away," said one District insider.

A spokesman for Mayor Nutter, who had helped solicit the private donations, said "It just didn't work out."

Here is the text of the District statement issued late Wednesday afternoon:

Today, the School District of Philadelphia disbursed the payment due to Dr. Arlene Ackerman under the mutually-agreed-upon Separation Agreement ratified by the School Reform Commission on August 24.

The SRC is aware that questions have been raised about recent statements made by Dr. Ackerman. As stated last week, the SRC disagrees with these assertions. We also believe that it is a better use of the School District’s resources to focus our time and energy on ensuring that this school year is as successful as possible.

Since the terms of the settlement agreement became public two weeks ago, there has been considerable discussion of the plan to supplant some public monies with contributions from private donors who requested anonymity as a precondition of donation.

From the start, the School Reform Commission sought to keep the public cost of this agreement to a minimum. But the public concerns about the use of anonymous private donations led almost all donors to withdraw their pledges to contribute to the Philadelphia’s Children First Fund. The SRC accordingly, asked the Philadelphia Children’s First Fund to return any donations it has received in connection with our request of it to accept funds on behalf of the District for this purpose.

As a result, the payment to Dr. Ackerman does not include payments from anonymous private donors. Instead, all funds to Dr. Ackerman are public dollars from the Philadelphia School District.

Yesterday, the District had a tremendously successful opening of schools and a great first day.  We intend to move forward and return our focus to the important work before us of building a system of great schools for all of our children.

- statement attributable to the School Reform Commission

The SRC decided not to try to terminate Ackerman for cause, or simply end her tenure under extraordinary powers it has from the state, figuring either solution would lead to litigation. Along with Nutter, the SRC decided to negotiate down the $1.5 million she was entitled to under her contract, which had been extended just months before the decision was made that she had to go.

Who came up with the idea to do private fundraising for the Ackerman buyout is still unclear. On Wednesday, Nutter spokesperson Mark McDonald said the idea came from "SRC folks."

"The mayor pushed very hard to keep the outlay of public funds as low as possible," said McDonald. "He set a benchmark of $500,000. He saw it as a viable way to achieve his goal of quickly ending the leadership dysfunction and budget concerns" in the District.

The mayor had declined over several weeks to answer a list of questions posed to him by the Notebook over his involvement in the private fundraising effort and whether he had fully vetted the consequences of seeking anonymous, tax-deductible donations and funneling the money through the District's charitable foundation arm. The only involvement he has acknowledged is making "a couple of calls" to prospective donors.

One vocal critic of the original buyout plan, Zack Stalberg, CEO of the Committee of Seventy, suggested that the scheme to solicit anonymous donations may have  backfired.

"I think if this deal had not been set up in a secret way in the beginning, it’s possible that the public would have gotten away with paying a good deal less," Stalberg said. "But clearly the donors didn’t want to be publicly associated with it and now the cost to the taxpayers is a lot more."

"On the positive side of the scale, people finally came to their senses and decided that the arrangement in which the donations would be kept secret just wasn’t proper," he added.

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Comments (74)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 7, 2011 6:27 pm

We can't buy workbooks for our students at my school, but we have almost 1 million to make someone go away. Yeah, it's all about the children.

Submitted by Teach (not verified) on September 7, 2011 6:53 pm

Arlene LOVES the children. It's the teachers she hates. Must be so, or she'd have left enough cash for our school to be able to afford staples and pencils.

Submitted by Wake Up Philly (not verified) on September 8, 2011 9:29 am

Very good comment!

Submitted by NoLongerALaidOffTeacher (not verified) on September 8, 2011 9:01 am

Don't forget copy paper, chart paper, printer cartridges, dry erase boards/markers, etc. Thank God for Staples 1 cent loose leaf paper deal! I'm so tired of paying money for materials. $100 isn't enough. We get in trouble for not having the proper supplies, they tell us to spend wisely, as though $100 goes far. It's a double-edge sword.

Submitted by Teachwhocares on September 8, 2011 8:08 pm

Last school year, I spent over $3000, on supplies, materials, ink, copy paper, etc. for my classroom. So far this year, I have spent about $300 and will probably spend more. I will submit my receipts for the $100 and I will write off $250 on my taxes and be done with it. I do it because I have the ability to do it and want to do it. I know that others can't afford to do what I do. I find supplemental materials for my classroom on bookcloseouts.com and other websites. This is what we have to do now.

Submitted by anonYmOUs TEACHer (not verified) on September 8, 2011 8:28 pm

Agreed. I do the same. I now have two printers at home, and I buy at least a case of paper a year, possibly two. And all the other stuff one needs to flesh out a working classroom. I'd rather be a little poorer myself than try to work without supplies. I also buy fans, pencil sharpeners, DVDs -- the things teachers in some other school districts might take for granted.

Submitted by Teachwhocares on September 8, 2011 8:21 pm

We do what we have to do. Another resource is the Dollar Stores. I find so much good stuff there for my classroom.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 8, 2011 8:17 pm

Thanks for the website information. I need to create a library for my classroom. Needless to say, my $100 has been spent and my school doesn't have a library.

Submitted by Teachwhocares on September 8, 2011 8:10 pm

Thrift stores another resource. Look up the Book Fair/Resource that they hold at Martin Luther King High School. I believe open house is sometime this month, usually on Wednesdays. These materials are free for the taking, many are brand new or slightly used and they also have school supplies. Bookcloseouts.com is having a $1.49 book sale.

Submitted by Meg (not verified) on September 9, 2011 7:21 am

Try donors.org.
I got a listening station from them last year. There's a little bit of work to do, but it was free and of course will last a long time.
Another teacher here got a library that way for his class in his first year. It is worth the work.

Submitted by Teachwhocares on September 7, 2011 7:35 pm

"We" had over 1 million dollars to spend. Try somewhere around 1.5 or even 1.65 million to spend. The infamous $905,000 does not include unused leave time, health insurance premium, life insurance premium, laptop, cell phone, and who knows what else.

Submitted by Teachwhocares on September 7, 2011 7:33 pm

Sorry, try 1.6 1/2 million.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 8, 2011 6:35 pm

same at out school!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 8, 2011 7:58 pm

Hush money....

Submitted by tom-104 on September 7, 2011 6:49 pm

The mystery that is Arlene Ackerman will not go away. Who brought her here and why? Why does her leaving a $645 million deficit not matter to those who bought her out? Why does her administrative incompetence and autocratic management style not matter? Why did the SRC extend her contract and give her a bonus in March and then buy out her contract in August for $1 million if you include benefits?

I continue to believe someone has something to hide and they are paying her off to go away. The problem is she has made it clear she will not abide by the non-disparagement clause. So how long are we going to be held hostage by this woman?

Submitted by InNane (not verified) on September 8, 2011 12:06 am

It is a mystery and a scandal. None of it makes any sense -- economically or educationally -- if you think about it logically. These are large sums of public money and the fact that there were private citizens willing to pony up half a million bucks to make the superintendant go away is bizarre. Arlene may blow the lid off the real story herself eventually, despite the payout, because she's a megalomaniac. But the financial tentacles of this story go way beyond her -- maybe a million bucks is chump change compared to the money to be made by the privatization of our school district so it was worth it?
http://phunnyphilly.wordpress.com/2011/09/02/school-district-of-philadel...

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 7, 2011 6:34 pm

If she cared about the children she would donate a larget portion back to classrooms for basic supplies which we don't seem to have this year. No paper towels even for the bathrooms!! How can anyone say she made things better?!!

Submitted by Teachwhocares on September 7, 2011 7:03 pm

It would be nice to donate some of the money, however, when there is anger in the air, you can forget about donations, but it would be nice if it went to helping the children. It would surprise me if a donation happened. But wait, some money was given to the Promise Academies, right, there you go, a donation was made. I am no longer surprised.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 7, 2011 6:47 pm

Ackerman's $500,000 buyout with District funds becomes a $905,000 one plus benefits. There is still $75 million claimed in needed union concessions which the District is now going to lay off 20-30 Assistant Principals. Wonder what they're going to do for the rest of that money?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 7, 2011 7:22 pm

where did you hear this at?

Submitted by tom-104 on September 7, 2011 8:56 pm

The information about the lay off of Assistant Principals is here:

http://tinyurl.com/3rb72k5

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 7, 2011 8:27 pm

interesting.. piss poor timing though.. where will they find jobs at the 3 week into the school year.. shucks.. I know of several first year AP's.. Will AP layoffs be seniority based? So these AP's are out of a job the 1st month of the school year.. damn..

Submitted by Teach (not verified) on September 7, 2011 9:14 pm

Really dishonorable. The district had to know this was coming. They could have given them time to apply for jobs outside the district.

This is punishment for CASA refusing to renegotiate its contract, pure and simple.

Submitted by Ms. Chips (not verified) on September 7, 2011 7:43 pm

What is the entire cost, exactly?

What did her last expense reports total?
Is she now paying her own rent?
Why is she still using the SDP leased SUV?

In a democratic system, this would not be secret. We are being forced to pay, but not told for what. Mr. Butkovitz, have you been bought off, too?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 7, 2011 7:14 pm

OBVIOUSLY, the snakes were worried about what the Queen of snakes might say if they challenged her further. A POX on all their houses.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 7, 2011 7:00 pm

Lay-off letters went out today for Assistant Principals...there was no warning etc....the letters will be in hand by Friday!.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 7, 2011 9:35 pm

Not true according to Jerry Jordan's Office.

Submitted by Ms. Chips (not verified) on September 7, 2011 9:14 pm

Are APs PFT or CASA?

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert (not verified) on September 7, 2011 9:23 pm

APs are not in the PFT.

Submitted by Linda (not verified) on September 7, 2011 8:57 pm

wwwwwoooooooowwwwww!!!!!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 7, 2011 8:29 pm

There are teachers at my school with 35+ students and not enough books or desks. This is a travesty of monumental proportions. If this is how the children are put first, I would hate to see how they would fare if given no consideration at all.

Submitted by Helen Gym on September 8, 2011 11:59 am

Hi: Feel free to contact me or any of the Notebook staff privately off line about overcrowded classrooms. Things can only change if we bring specific examples to the forefront of the conversation. Thanks for posting.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 10, 2011 8:40 am

Hi Helen, I need to speak to you privately about the huge disfunction at my school. the first day....not enough desks, not enough teachers, 44 altrnative students in one classroom, actually sitting on counter tops and standing. Kids eating lunch in their classrooms. We have wasted a whole week of educating our children. We have no room and they just keep coming. How does one possibly teach in this setting. Parents are showing up because their child was enrolled in another school and it closed.....parents didn't even know it closed. The busses are not picking up the children to bring them to school. Many kids missed 2 days of school because their bus never came.....I could go on and on.
I would like to speak to you. How do I get intouch with you?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 7, 2011 9:16 pm

Wrong again--almost all of them are in the PFT unless they opted out when becoming administrators. Good point though.

Submitted by SDOP_Educator (not verified) on September 7, 2011 9:52 pm

AP's are not in the PFT. They are automatically withdrawn from the PFT and automatically pay at least partial CASA dues even if they do not fill out official documents to join the union. AP's cannot be in PFT and still evaluate PFT.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 7, 2011 9:25 pm

As long as they pay union dues, they remain in the PFT. Technically, it is against union standards but they can do both. I do both.

Submitted by SDOP_Educator (not verified) on September 7, 2011 10:31 pm

I suggest you check your contract. If you are paying both dues then you are simply making donations to PFT. I made that mistake when I first started in administration. Your ARE NOT represented by PFT.

3.3 The School District and CASA agree to create the positions of probationary principal and probationary assistant principal. These positions will be part of the CASA unit and be represented by CASA....

Submitted by Pink Slipped (not verified) on September 7, 2011 9:29 pm

Just wondering... Could laid-off assistant principals bump laid-off teachers for classroom positions? Could they bump a recalled teacher out?

Submitted by Wake Up Philly (not verified) on September 8, 2011 9:58 am

No - not from what I have been told.

Submitted by Pink Slipped (not verified) on September 7, 2011 9:04 pm

Just wondering... Could laid-off assistant principals bump laid-off teachers for classroom positions? Could they bump a recalled teacher out?

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert (not verified) on September 7, 2011 9:22 pm

No--they are no longer on any teacher list, they are administrators--and if it is true that they can remain in the PFT, they should not be allowed to. Teachers should find out if their AP is in still in the PFT, if they are, they cannot do an official evaluation!

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on September 7, 2011 10:03 pm

I am not giving any legal opinions on this one, but I do say you all have raised a whole bunch of serious legal issues here. You are really sharp. Isn't there a story about Pandora's box somewhere in Greek mythology?

This stuff just can't be made up. Only in the School District of Philadelphia. I have been around for 35 years and I thought I saw everything. If you don't have a sense of humor, it's gotta make you cry.

just hang in there everyone and try to focus on the children. They need you.

Submitted by Wake Up Philly (not verified) on September 8, 2011 9:45 am

Great comment - I know it is a tough time for all but I hope people follow your advice!

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on September 8, 2011 9:47 am

Deidre Farmbry gave us all that very same advice when the state originally took over the school district. It carried me through that turmoil.

I know it is difficult but teaching and leading teachers really is a Great profession. Really, it is.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 7, 2011 10:39 pm

This whole thing makes me just shake my head in disbelief. The most disheartening part is that the entire thing makes you feel so helpless. Clearly the Mayor, SRC and District leadership don't care what people think about all of this and feel like they can do whatever they want, regardless of the feelings of the taxpayers. What do you do? Voting people out of office doesn't work because the replacements are likely to be just as greedy and disgusting as Ackerman was/is. If I had any more hair to pull out after this insane year I would, but I don't. All you can do is sigh and hope that things get better.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 7, 2011 11:07 pm

Anyone else think its ironic and nauseating that this story is right above the story about the how everyone is doing more with less? Well everyone except for Ackerman.

Submitted by Brian (not verified) on September 7, 2011 11:58 pm

Now that she is gone, can I get my teaching job back that I lost because Ackerman filled some principal positions with uncertified puppets who did not knwo what they were doing? I am not working, but I could chip in a couple of dollars and a few Chucky Cheese tokens for to help with the cost of getting rid of her.

Submitted by soonersculptor on September 8, 2011 1:57 am

You are not alone. There are several of us. We are looking into several options. Would it be possible to make contact away from this site? There is strength in numbers. BTW the State Board of Ed. says it is illegal to have an uncertified principal in any Phila. School District school, due in part to the state takeover, and other factors. I was told decisions made by these principals are not valid due to legal issues as well as the School Code of 1949 and other mitigating factors.

Submitted by Brian (not verified) on September 7, 2011 11:17 pm

So now that she is gone, can I get my teaching job back? It was because Ackerman filled a few principal positions with her puppets (who I swear could not have been certified) that I was unfaily dismissed. Even though I still am not working I would be happy to contribute to get rid of her. I think a few dollars and some tokens from Chucky Cheese would be enough.

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on September 8, 2011 1:00 pm

Philly Inky said 27 Veeps got canned.

Submitted by Name the VPs that got canned, please (not verified) on September 8, 2011 6:13 pm

Who got letters and how was the decision made?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 8, 2011 7:36 pm

Hopefully by the CASA union agreement. I don't think they are going to share private personnel matters with us. I know how furious I would have been had they published the teacher layoff list publicly on the internet.

Submitted by Canning (not verified) on September 8, 2011 7:00 pm

How was the decision made?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 8, 2011 2:54 pm

VP's that were at one time teachers can not be laid off. The district must restore them to their last position just as they did for the Regional Superintendents and Assistant Superintendents jobs. Those with no past history with the district were laid off. Those who had history with the district were restored to principalship it they chose. Any other scenario would break from past practice.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 8, 2011 4:47 pm

ap's are laid off...and no they cant return to teaching positions because that would mean bumping pft members....

Submitted by Teachwhocares on September 8, 2011 8:16 pm

Two different unions, right? From what I have read, the AP's can't bump a teacher.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 8, 2011 2:58 pm

Can someone pleasssssse donate a moving van for the queen so we can close this chapter.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 8, 2011 4:36 pm

I work at Ethan Allen and one of our Assistant Principals was laid off. She was in good spirits today but I know she is hurting. She use to teach here too. So sad.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 8, 2011 7:41 pm

Since the SRC brokered her buyout deal why not have each of them pay? Put your money where your mouth is!

Submitted by Linda (not verified) on September 8, 2011 8:51 pm

So what is the plan for the Veeps?....Do they get a buy out? or are they just OUT?....if any are/were good teachers, then why not use them? ....then again, they were used to pay part of the $63.5 million budget/ Ackerman's payout (or both).....will more folks be cut? Who if anyone is left?

Submitted by Teachwhocares on September 8, 2011 8:55 pm

My understanding is that they can't bump a teacher out of a positon because we are in two different unions. So who knows what will happen. Last person left, please turn out the lights and shut the door.(ha,ha, not funny but true).

Submitted by Audax (not verified) on September 9, 2011 12:27 pm

So, we can buy her out but we can't afford to keep varsity sports like Indoor Track, Swimming, or Bowling? Sad, because, you know, "it's all about the kids!"

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 9, 2011 9:52 pm

$905,000 for a bribe.

Getting rid of Arlene Ackerman, Priceless

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 9, 2011 10:53 pm

Agree. They should have opened up the donations-- by now they would have more than 500k and I would have been more than happy to put my name on my 2 cents.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 24, 2014 8:50 am

I wish we could get rid off HITE also  so we gt out School District back.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 24, 2014 7:28 am

So far this year, I have spent about $300 and will probably spend more. I will submit my receipts for the $100 and I will write off $250 on my taxes and be done with it.

Those with no past history with the district were laid off. Those who had history with the district were restored to principalship it they chose. Any other scenario would break from past practice.  MY BLOG

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