We already knew that former Philly schools chief and diva Arlene Ackerman was in line for a $950,000 payout to go away. As I’ve written before, some outrageous check was inevitable due to the original sin of Ackerman’s superstar contract.
But we peeled the scab off the Ackerman deal and felt its painful sting again yesterday when the School Reform Commission issued a one-page statement as darkness fell, telling us that Arlene got her check, and that taxpayers covered the whole tab.
Why? Because most of the private donors recruited to come up with $405,000 to limit taxpayer exposure backed out after a public controversy over the propriety of funneling anonymous contributions through a tax-exempt non-profit.
And the statement dismissed the idea of suing Ackerman to recover some or all of her buyout because she appeared to have violated the provision in her separation agreement banning her from impugning the reputation of school district officials.
Ackerman had sounded off about school district finance chief Michael Masch, and it seemed like a violation of the deal.
The only explanation offered for not pursuing such a claim was that commission believes “that it is a better use of the School District’s resources to focus our time and energy on ensuring this school year is as successful as possible.”
I called the district’s spokesman to ask if the commission is seriously telling us that the district can’t run schools and file a lawsuit at the same time, but I never got a call back.
That explanation is clearly bullfeathers, so I’ll offer another one: It’s worth a few hundred thousand of your dollars to this commission to make everybody shut up and go away.
There’s plenty this commission ought to have to answer for, including its disgraceful handling of Martin Luther King High. Provoking a fight with Ackerman will only increase the likelihood of embarrassing details coming into the light of day.
So the commission, whose members never said anything about the separation agreement when they passed it, now gives a non-explanation for its decision and hides behind a one-age statement. They should be ashamed.
Two other items to share:
For the second time, a planned “pool party with Ed Rendell” fundraiser for Philadelphia City Commission candidate Stephanie Singer has been cancelled due to horrific weather.
I’m thinking maybe the Lord just doesn’t want to see Ed with his shirt off. Maybe you guys could make this thing a cocktail party and spare us all another natural disaster.
And finally, here’s an interesting historic reference point for President Obama’s speech on jobs tonight, published in Politico.com by local consultant Dan McElhatton, Jr.
Here’s yesterday’s statement from the School Reform Commission on the Ackerman payout.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 7, 2011
Statement Regarding Disbursement of Payment to Dr. Arlene Ackerman
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