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SRC crafts criteria for new superintendent

By Paul Socolar on Jan 13, 2012 01:09 PM

The School Reform Commission has drafted six criteria for the superintendent the District is preparing to hire, as well as a more detailed timeline for the search.

The draft criteria, outlined in a recent presentation by commissioners Lorene Cary and Feather Houstoun at the Philadelphia Education Fund, emphasize the need "to coordinate and motivate a diverse group of managers of different types of schools in different types of settings."

The criteria also reflect an interest from the new SRC in more autonomy for individual schools and a less centralized approach to leadership.

The draft timeline, also listed in the presentation, calls for advertising the position in early March following a period of community feedback. A hiring decision would come in mid-May. According to a District statement earlier this week, "While the goal is to announce a new superintendent by July, hiring will only proceed if the right candidate is found."

The open position is so far being referred to as "superintendent" – a title adopted by Arlene Ackerman when she took the top District job in 2008 – rather than the title of "CEO" that was preferred by the SRC when Paul Vallas was hired to head the District in 2002.

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Comments (36)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 13, 2012 6:16 pm

What, the new superintendent doesn't need to know anything about educating young people? Doesn't need to respect teachers and seek out their input and feedback?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 13, 2012 7:23 pm

All he or she needs to know is that Corbett and his ilk call the shots and the kids and families mean nothing.

Submitted by Greg (not verified) on February 28, 2012 3:36 am

Unfortunately, this is true.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 14, 2012 12:41 pm

I assume the SRC will say those under the Superintendent will know something about education. Lets hope they pick better than Ackerman or Nunnery. Who downtown knows anything, especially who is left in curriculum, about doing more than teaching to the PSSA? One of my children is in high school in a "second tier" (e.g. not Central, Masterman, Girls) magnet high school. We received notice of what will be emphasized in the school. Strategies and goals are for test prep. I'd like to think we are preparing our students for more than a test. I hope the SRC and Nutter, whose members with children only have attended "the best" (Masterman and private school) realize that most parents in SDP want our children to have the same opportunities as their children.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 14, 2012 2:56 pm

They will only do the test prep stuff because that's what the pols want, at least for city dwellers.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 14, 2012 3:20 pm

Ackerman's entire career was in education. You could argue that she was misguided, but among her flaws, not knowing about education wasn't one of them. In fact, one could argue that the problem was that ALL she knew was classroom-level education. Running a school district isn't the same thing as being a teacher, and Ackerman was really bad at most of the things necessary to run a district (i.e. evaluating adult talents, hiring/firing, budgeting, dealing with politics to get funding, etc.)

I am really skeptical of people who have zero education experience running a district. But I'm also pretty skeptical of people with only education experience running a district.

Running the District is like being a CEO. You don't have to know exactly how to do the work on the ground, but you need to understand how to set up a system where the people on the ground can do their work. Ackerman failed at that. She had some sense of what it takes to be a good teacher, but she had no idea how to run a system where teachers could do that (or how to hire other leaders who could implement things effectively).

The shift towards more school-based power is something in the right direction.

Submitted by tom-104 on January 14, 2012 3:20 pm

Ackerman came to Philadelphia with an agenda. She was on the board of the Broad Foundation while she was Superintendent, one of the leading promoters of privatization. Everything she did was devoted to supporting that agenda, not education. I, therefore, do not think she is typical of what a genuine educator would do as Superintendent.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 14, 2012 4:36 pm

I honestly think her agenda was to get 3-5 more years of salary before retirement. I never really perceived a very strong ideological agenda. Certain charter networks with great national reputations could barely get a foot into Philly. She was pretty hostile towards Teach For America. I think those around Ackerman may have had agendas, but she herself was mostly just self-serving. By the end, the SRC was cutting deals with charters behind her back. I think Ackerman was basically an aloof detached bully with almost no coherent agenda other than trying to take credit for anything that works well. (Promise Academies, for example are the opposite of privatizing. Paying unionized teachers 20% more with no actual plan for the extra hours -- that's a caricature of the very thing the pro-charter people would say is wrong with public systems).

Also, what is a "genuine" educator? And who is to judge what that means? I think Corrective Math/Reading, for example, are horribly out of place, especially in high schools. But they were brought in to address a very genuine concern about the reading (and math) levels of students. It was clearly the wrong solution, but I don't think it was done entirely for business reasons. Frankly, I think the curriculum people in the District are mostly incompetent, but I don't think it's for a lack of education background. I think it's mostly just not being very good at curriculum.

I think walk-through teams are another example. Most were teachers, some for a very long time. It doesn't mean they are good at supervising. In fact, a lot of them are terrible. And some of the worst are long-time teachers (a lot of "Well, I did this way, therefore, this is the only way...") A useful analogy is sports coaching. Some of the best coaches barely/never played, but they really understand the game (and maybe just don't have the talents to perform). They make great coaches. On the other hand, some really great players make awful coaches -- they just aren't good at evaluating/teaching others.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 14, 2012 5:43 pm

EVERYTHING done in the School District is business oriented. Unless you order from one of their vendors, code for friends, the purchase will be rejected. Their vendors charge more, sometimes much more than others but that's the hook up you have to accept.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 14, 2012 5:37 pm

Ackerman had connections to McGraw Hill (publisher of corrective crap). After enough uproar from teachers, it was used more judicially in "empowerment" high schools.

That said, there was and is no understanding of curriculum at the SDP. Under Vallas it was Holt aligned with test prep. Now, it is directives out of the AD1 (high school regional office) that is no more than drilling "eligible content" test prep with Wayman's 7 step drill.

When we are told about curriculum via Darien Driver, we are told out "curriculum partners" are the source. All we have had since Vallas is publisher's material (or on-line programs) promoted as "curriculum." Sitting with a textbook and assigning pages is not creating curriculum.

We need SDP leadership that includes people who demonstrated great teaching - not personal connections - and personal, political and social skills to run a large bureaucracy that works with teachers to create curriculum suited for their schools. I have little respect for the walk through team members because they do not have a history of great teaching. They have played the game to "move up."

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on January 15, 2012 9:22 am

When our leaders have to turn to publishing companies to tell teachers how to teach, write our curriculum, impose their materials upon us, and prepare scripts for teachers, I submit there is little hope for us as a school system.

A better way is to allow and empower teachers to use their expertise to develop their own programs, choose their own materials, design their own lessons and do their own research. Teachers are the experts and if they are not, we need to pay for them to go to graduate programs to become those experts.

What we have witnessed since the state takeover of our schools is the de-professionalization of teaching and learning. It is sad to watch it unfold.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 15, 2012 10:03 am

But I will submit that, while there are teachers who do complain about having to use scripted materials (i.e., Corrective Reading/Math), they know deep down that they are getting paid to, well, "teach" something that is relative easy (earning a nice paycheck for what basically is small-group remedial "instruction" that has no bearing on actual report card grades).

The Core Curriculum, while not perfect, is also not necessarily something bad, despite it being a large cut and paste job from the publishers' teachers' guides (for the four core subject areas anyway). The planning and scheduling timelines keeps everyone on track and that is a very good thing, something that was missing before the state takeover. I will mention that someone needs to proofread those PST's -- for what people at 440 got paid to create these documents, there shouldn't be any mistakes or typos.

Teachers, I feel, do have the ability to choose and employ whatever strategies they want to meet the weekly objectives while still using the mandated materials. Good teachers will do exactly that. It's really not just about what pages have to be covered -- it's about how those pages are presented by the teacher and how they want their students to respond to the material to demonstrate mastery of the objective(s). A school's leader should be able to recognize when a teacher is doing exactly that, and of course, allowing for flexibility is helpful.

The one thing that I will say about some of the mandated core materials is that they need to be updated with newly copyrighted materials. I believe most of the materials from the core curriculum are from 2003 or so. Having access to the publishers' on-line activities would also enhance classroom instruction. (Yes, some texts are available online, but not everything is.)

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on January 15, 2012 12:28 pm

Small group remedial reading instruction provided by a certified reading specialist in a diagnostic - prescriptive manner is exactly what most high achieving suburban districts provide to their students when they begin to fall behind. They are not constrained by any artificial timelines. All elementary reading programs I know of have a "scope and sequence" to guide regular teachers by.

Reading is a "cognitive ability" which students develop at their own rates. Reading ability is not a curriculum to be learned or memorized. The notion of "individualized instruction" tailored to meet individual needs has been with us for well over fifty years. Not many argue with the notion of a "core curriculum" for the major subject areas.

As to whether teachers can deviate from the prescriptions of our one size fits all timelines, is largely dependent on the wisdom of the principal at the school. At the last school I worked in as an AP, a high school, I was told by the principal point blank to write up every teacher who was not exactly on time with the pacing schedules or she would write me up.

Certainly, in today's environment, a teacher who said, "I do not want to teach that way -- I want to do project based learning instead." would likely run into adversity.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 15, 2012 1:58 pm

Unfortunately this "remedial" instruction is poorly applied. I would rather design my own lessons that have to read from a deathly boring script. It has little useful effect because the student assignments are crap. I have special ed. students mixed in the same class with some of our brightest students from the top grade. It's too hard for some and way too easy for others. Attempts to make the principal aware of this fact have been repeatedly rebuffed because the principal can't be bothered to change things. It's just easier to blame the previous administration for these groupings than to do the truly right thing. Add to this the fact that this program is designed for 5 to 6 students at a time, but instead is forced upon 26 or more students.Recently the online textbooks have been shut down due to something about a "Certificate Error". Flexibility should be encouraged, but isn't due to knowitall administrators who are more concerned about imposing their will upon their staffs than allowing teachers to draw upon their own experience.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on January 15, 2012 2:52 pm

I may have poorly expressed my point. The remedial instruction that is "Corrective Reading" and scripted is not remedial instruction at all. It is poor instruction. It is nothing more than skill "kill and drill" instruction and teaching as test preparation.

That is not remediation of reading disability at all. That is not what I or any reading specialist I know would recommend or do. You can't script remediation. Each student is different as you say with different reading levels, interests, abilities and disabilities.

Reading specialists normally analyze students' abilities and disabilities using a variety of measures and provide appropriate instruction at instructional and independent levels. All of the reading specialists I have worked with used authentic materials and guided instruction with Socratic questioning. How can probing and expansive questions be scripted?

As you point out, there is also the major issue of homogeneous vs. heterogeneous grouping because in heterogeneous groups the top students dominate and the low students hide their inability as best they can. The disparity between high and low students increases as students progress through the years.

The science and craft of remediation is wholly different than what is happening in most ofPhiladelphia's schools.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 15, 2012 5:37 pm

Maybe you could point this out to the administration that insists we follow this nonsense?. It is just taking away valuable teaching time we need for other things.

Submitted by tom-104 on January 14, 2012 6:13 pm

Regarding Ackerman's connections with the Broad Foundation. I posted the following several weeks ago during the holiday break. Follow the links and you will see that she definitely had an agenda:
Ackerman started serving on the Board of Directors of the Broad Foundation on March 19, 2009, while she was Superintendent of Philadelphia public schools. Other members included Joel Klein, chancellor of NYC schools (who went on the join Rupert Murdock's News Corporation as executive vice president) and Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of DC public schools. (See this PDF for reference Ackerman's name was dropped from the Board of Directors on their website this past summer when the scandal over her dismissal erupted.

For more information on the Broad Foundation see this fact sheet from Parents Across America:

These two paragraphs in regards to the past several years in Philadelphia public schools should be noted from the section “How the Broad Foundation affects public school families” from the PAA article linked above:

“Broad and his foundation believe that public schools should be run like a business. One of the tenets of his philosophy is to produce system change by “investing in a disruptive force.” Continual reorganizations, firings of staff, and experimentation to create chaos or “churn” is believed to be productive and beneficial, as it weakens the ability of communities to resist change.”

“A hallmark of the Broad-style leadership is closing existing schools rather than attempting to improve them, increasing class size, opening charter schools, imposing high-stakes test-based accountability systems on teachers and students, and implementing of pay for performance schemes. The brusque and often punitive management style of Broad-trained leaders has frequently alienated parents and teachers and sparked protests.”

Ackerman was bought out of her contract in San Francisco in mid-2006 after six years as Superintendent. During the period after she left San Francisco she was the first Superintendent-in-residence for the Broad Foundation’s Superintendent’s Academy in 2007-2008. (Do a search in the PDF for “Ackerman”.)

When the scandal over which charter provider should take over Martin Luther King broke, Mayor Nutter appointed Chief Integrity Officer Joan Markman to do an investigation. (The full report is at In the report, there are two separate instances where it states Ackerman was being “shadowed” by trainees from the Broad Foundation’s Superintendent’s Academy. (Do a search for “Broad Superintendent Academy” in the PDF.)

This raises several questions. Was Ackerman using her position as Superintendent of Philadelphia public schools to have an additional source of income from the Broad Academy? Is this legal? Who in the District and in city government knew of her affiliation with the Broad Foundation? Given that the Broad Foundation is one of the leading national organizations promoting the privitization of public schools, is this affiliation why she was appointed Superintendent of Philadelphia public Schools despite her past history?

Submitted by Teach (not verified) on January 13, 2012 7:25 pm

My thoughts exactly. It's a travesty that an understanding of modern pedagogy isn't the first priority, let alone an unnecessary (and probably pesky) field of expertise.

Again, where is the editorial board of The Notebook, The Inquirer, The Daily News when this sort of story is published? Where is the outrage?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 13, 2012 8:36 pm

We can only hope that clear thinking people see this for what it is--a power grab by the rich which will necessarily and by design, make slave labor a thing of the future, no longer just the past. Corbett means us or our kids no good and we need to force all of this to stop. The SRC with the backing of big money, continues to bitch slap the city dwellers around without even a pretense about our opinions.

Submitted by Taxpayer (not verified) on January 14, 2012 12:55 pm

Sounds good to me. We should push down decision making as far as we can. Only a teacher in a classroom knows what is best for their students. They should be given a wide latitude in how they conduct the teaching process. In return, those who are successful should be highly paid and those who are not should be let go. The only struggle will be how to measure success. There are many ways to do that. The union will be of no help as they only care about tenure and how much money they can extract from the teachers' pay packages.

Submitted by Paul Socolar on January 14, 2012 1:28 pm

Worth noting that these are draft criteria, and there is a process planned to solicit public feedback on the search in January and February. Speaking for the Notebook, our editorial board did weigh in once on these issues and we're eager to hear some more dialogue on this before we weigh in again.

A couple of the SRC's points - their emphasis on team-building and greater school autonomy - are aligned with what the Notebook editorial board suggested when we proposed some criteria for the District's new leader in a brief editorial in our current print edition:

We don't need a savior to tell everyone what to do; we need a listener dedicated to bringing out the best from the 20,000 employees of this organization. Someone who, while mindful of the challenges, is willing and able to build on strengths within and around the system. Someone who can motivate and support principals in making their schools better. Nothing is more indispensable to real educational improvement than helping assemble strong school-based teams that bring together parents, community and staff to focus on teaching and learning.

Submitted by tom-104 on January 14, 2012 2:19 pm

What I will be looking at is will they be picking someone who puts education first. Someone who sees pedagogy as a science and knows child psychology. The makeup of the selection committee is not encouraging. I fear their main concern will be how do we accelerate the push for the privatization of public education.

Submitted by Milsey (not verified) on January 14, 2012 3:18 pm

I do not feel safe at my school. They need to restore deans of discipline, or at least a security guard for every school. I have had a student shove me, and another student groped me when I took his cell phone.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 14, 2012 4:06 pm

Look everybody--The Far bigger issue than who will be Sup. is the whole charter fiasco. Unless we, the people, demand better, we will get the same old, same old. Ackerman was brought here to destroy traditional public education and that's what she did. Anybody who know how to google, knew that about her reputation and, of course, her involvement in Foundations. The boobs who run this site can delete my posts but the truth is easy to see for those interested in looking at it.

Submitted by Paul Socolar on January 14, 2012 5:00 pm

A quick clarification to our readers: In general, the readers on this site do a good job of self-policing and maintaining a constructive dialogue. Notebook staff do act as moderators and while it’s generally as a last resort we do occasionally delete comments that violate the terms of use below that are posted on this site.

By using this service you agree not to post material that is obscene, harassing, defamatory, or otherwise objectionable. We reserve the right to delete or remove any material deemed to be in violation of this rule, and to ban anyone who violates this rule.

When commenters engage in name-calling in their comments, it’s a judgment call – but it is not a difficult judgment if it's a one-liner with no redeeming value. For example, earlier today we deleted a 5-word comment replying to another commenter by calling them a “boob.”

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 15, 2012 11:21 am

I agree-All of this is FIXED as much as the so called fair minded people who run this site, hate to hear that. Ackerman was here for a specific purpose and she did exactly that until she went too far too soon and pissed off the big money folks, then she had to go. The next person in will carry the baton too and within 8 years, Public Ed. here will be gone UNLESS WE DEMAND MORE FOR OUR KIDS. Of course, these scum bags are not welcomed in more organized, affluent suburbs where people are more well rounded and here it comes, smarter. Everybody knew about Ackerman and Foundations when they hired her. Wake Up, People !!
Get your collective noses out of the Sports Pages and stop being conned into caring about the Kardashion Sisters etc. We have the met the enemy and it is WE.

Submitted by tom-104 on January 15, 2012 3:52 pm

Sometimes it helps us get perspective on our own situation if we follow what is going on in another city. The problems in Philadelphia are not unique. Check out what is going on in Chicago under Obama's former Chief of Staff, Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emmanuel. Ackerman used some of these same tactics. See

"Rahm's Rent-A-Preacher and Rent-A-Protest exposed, even to elected state officials" at:

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 16, 2012 2:39 pm

So true--I have said repeatedly that all this union busting and its appendages are a concerted effort by the rich to dismantle the working class. As Vincent Hughes likes to say, "Elections matter" and the elections on 2010 where the GOP demolished the Dems in several states, energized this Tea Party mentality to destroy the union folks etc. Working people everywhere, union and non union better join together and fight this takeover or we're all dead meat. Obama has been a terrible disappointment for the poor and middle class but look at the nuts running against him. We MUST support him and he knows it too. America is NOT broke--we remain the richest country in the history of the world. All of this shock and awe financial crap is just that--crap !! Wall Street and the big banks are richer than EVER so they're not in trouble---just us, the working class. More and more of this Occupy mentality needs to expand along with the workers in Wisconsin and Ohio, showing the way for all of us. This is life or death for us and I choose life and yes BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 15, 2012 6:07 pm

Who has seen PFT approved Lesson Plan template? Did principals get it first? Why?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 15, 2012 6:50 pm

I thought that it was due out on 1/9/2012, but I haven't seen the new lesson plan format and no one seems to even know about it despite the fact that an email was sent out telling folk that it was coming. I am not sure that principals will see it first because my principal had no idea of what I was talking about when I mentioned it.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 16, 2012 10:30 am

The PFT is dragging its heels again. Of course, they aren't the ones doing these punishment plans every week. If they did they would have had it done by now. Typical "that's your problem" mentality.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 16, 2012 11:33 am

I would imagine that -- like every year -- there are issues over what teachers are contractually obligated to present to principals for lesson plans vs. what the principal tells teachers should be in their lesson plans. Perhaps that was a "frequently asked question" and the forthcoming new template is a final answer on the matter.

Submitted by Autumn.X on January 17, 2012 9:34 am

I hope that the criteria that is expected before will continue to be met after they have obtained their positions. There is noting worse than people pretending to be something they are not just to get a position.


    Setting criteria for positions is important and has its advantages but so is really checking into their records and past to make sure that they will continue to perform as expected.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 17, 2012 5:18 am

I want an actual store that sells laptops MEANT FOR gaming, that use Windows 7. Thanks, I couldnt find any myself. good gaming laptops

Submitted by Andreea (not verified) on April 21, 2012 1:51 pm

I remember one time at our university a similar action was held and we had lots of fun! For lots of us crafting is a hobby, so after seeing these printed magnets we thought that we could do them as well. And we did! We were so excited :)

Submitted by PurpleHope (not verified) on November 21, 2012 2:09 pm
I guess that the requirements are not that severe. Every community college graduate should be fine. It's important that they give jobs to everyone.

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