Philadelphia School Head Is Given $1 Million Buyout . . . And Then Files For Unemployment Benefits

Former Philadelphia schools superintendent Arlene Ackerman is the center of a firestorm this week after she accepted a roughly $1 million buyout from the city and then promptly filed for unemployment benefits. The outrage over the unemployment claim may be better directed at the school district’s handing out obscene salaries and buyouts.

School District spokesman Fernando Gallard confirmed that Ackerman has demanded state unemployment benefits and , as part of her $905,000 buyout, the School Reform Commission agreed not to contest any unemployment claims she might file.

The buyout reportedly included $500,000 from the district and $405,000 from anonymous private contributions. I wonder how the private donors feel about the money going to a person who still files unemployment claims after pocketing a cool million.

Ackerman’s tenure has been described as a “tumultuous and sometimes-turbulent reign.” While there were improvements in some scores of the students, there is an expanding cheating scandal in the schools and Ackerman was criticized for not responding effectively to allegations of widespread harassment of Asian students by African-American students at one of the largest high schools. She was also criticized for intervening in a security contract to give the contract to a minority company over the company that had prevailed in the bidding process. With such controversies and a growing budget crisis, Ackerman was reportedly stripped of her powers before agreeing to the windfall buyout. A website was created to advocate her removal.

Ackerman took a confrontational approach to critics and dared the Board to fire her. In one public event, she declared “Sentence me. I dare you. Or set me free. But I admit to you today that I am guilty. Guilty of just being me.” [With a million dollars as the punishment, I would dare my employer to fire me as well. Indeed, I am pretty ticked off that none of you has offered one cent in private donations toward my termination.]

The buyout was made larger by the fact that the district recently extended the contract term from 2013 to 2014. They then moved to remove her. I think the unemployment benefits are somewhere down on the list of things in the controversy to be outraged over.

9 thoughts on “Philadelphia School Head Is Given $1 Million Buyout . . . And Then Files For Unemployment Benefits

  1. I’m from Vermont, where Ben and Jerry’s started. They had a policy on pay, where the highest paid individual at the company could make no more than seven (I think it was) times more per annum than the lowest paid worker.

    Considering that so many of our nation’s school teachers are unionized, it is surprising that the union has not addressed the issue of the shocking discrepancy between the pay of administrators versus faculty.

    Heck, our whole country would adopt the B&J’s policy if social justice was taken seriously.

  2. I know nothing about the Philadelphia School system and this person’s management. However, the size of the buyout does arouse suspicions that there is much going on below the surface. Ms. Ackerman, obviously unpopular with the powers that be would seem to have negotiated a great deal. Perhaps the motives of the School Board were less than noble and the “buyout” is a payment for her silence.

    What interests me about the rising school scores and the concomitant cheating allegations is the possible similarity to the situation in Atlanta. I’ve believed from the beginning the “No Child Left Behind” was bad law based on a specious premise. The idea that standardized testing at various grade levels is an incentive for educators to perform better is a false one, used by some who would judge education by business standards. Children are not products and educated minds cannot be produced via “assembly line” quality controls. It is really a methodology for dealing with the real problem in our educational system that we as a nation seem unable to face macro-cosmically.

    The premise of our school system is that education can be mass taught on the level of the child’s age. As A.S. Neill showed in “Summerhill” link here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._S._Neill and here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summerhill_School. While we can’t adopt this methodology wholesale as a nation, is does give what to me at least is a rational framework to begin.

    The cheap solution institutionalizing mass testing, based on business school premises, is a false one. It is now being shown to lead to poorer education and falsification of results by educators. The former comes from the huge amount of class time taken up preparing for the narrow skills needed to succeed in these exams, rather than reaching broader educational goals The latter falsification issue is that it adds incentives and places negative consequences on teachers/administrators whose children don’t test well. This leads some to game the system.

    Finally, “No Child Left Behind” pretty much ignored the greatest reason why
    there are so many problems in our educational system. That is the problem of class and money. Wealthy schools districts are well funded and successful. School districts of the less than elite classes are not funded as well, they attract newer or less skilled educators and generally lack the resources needed.

  3. Well said Mike. I would guess that there is some issue the Board would prefer not be made public. Roger, teacher’s unions have brought up the admininstrator pay level and in some cases, the number of administrators. They cannot control what the School Boards do. They can only try to improve their members situations.

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