Waste, abuse and some good ideas for Philadelphia schools – More Ackermania

    We aren’t going to beat the Arlene Ackerman horse forever, but I must note three valuable contributions to the public discourse on the subject of our former and well-compensated school superintendent, all from very savvy women in the media and educational community.

    First, the Inquirer’s Kirsten Graham gives us the galling news that the school district paid to produce the misty-eyed tribute video about Ackerman below, which now resides on her website. And the just-as-galling news that three Ackerman PR minions who were let go along with Ackerman were costing taxpayers a combined salary of $440,000 a year.

    I knew that people around the government were annoyed at the size of Ackerman’s spin machine. I didn’t realize they were paid so well.

    Second, Holly Otterbein of the It’s Our Money project tells us something I didn’t know: every time anybody asks for a copy of Ackerman’s buyout agreement from the school district, they inform Ackerman and tell her who wants it.

    Otterbein, a new and enterprising addition to the It’s Our Money team, asks Pennsylvania’s chief open records officer what she makes of this provision. Find out what she says here.

    Finally, it’s a shame that the fine piece by Helen Gym of Parents United on the post-Ackerman era happened to be featured in the least-delivered Sunday Inquirer of the year, thanks to nature’s fury.

    Gym offers plenty of sound thinking on what to do and and what not to do as the district seeks new leadership. Here’s a taste:

    “No more messiahs, no more reform: There’s a popular notion that somewhere out there is a mythological superintendent who, if we pay enough money and stay out of the way, will fix our schools. These district leaders are an “army of one,” according to Rethinking Schools writer Leigh Dingerson, and they push dramatic reform agendas that too often disregard existing efforts. Philadelphia schools don’t need more drama; this system needs stabilization after a decade of massive charter expansion and turnaround. The next superintendent must build and effectively manage a team-oriented approach that assesses what’s working and that oversees operations, including the difficult task of closing schools.”

    Reading the piece made me think: Isn’t it time to bring Gym into the school administration as a policy advisor for the next superintendent? Just a thought.

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