Less than a week after School District of Philadelphia Superintendent Arlene Ackerman told her employers to “sentence me … or set me free,” they chose the latter — and paid her generously in return.
Ackerman stepped down yesterday after coming to an agreement with the School Reform Commission on a $905,000 lump sum payment. Her gargantuan settlement left many ruminating on the state of Philadelphia's School District and wondering what needs to be done to repair it.
“Ackerman certainly left the school district’s relationship with Harrisburg fractured, and Harrisburg provides two-thirds of the funds to the district,” said State Rep. Michael McGeehan, D-Philadelphia, who called the former superintendent a “divisive” figure.
“I think the district needs a complete and utter transformation,” McGeehan continued, noting that there are several bills in circulation that promote different visions for a school district overhaul.
“There are systemic problems that need to be addressed.”
Mayor Michael Nutter hinted about the possibility of major changes yesterday when discussing the search for Ackerman’s replacement. “We need to think about what a school district of the 21st century looks like,” he said. “Should we solely search for one person, or is it really about a team or a team approach?”
McGeehan said that the suggestions being discussed in Harrisburg include an elected or locally appointed school board and regional school districts separated by neighborhood, each with its own superintendent. “I just don’t want to, after going through this extraordinary public display, find ourselves back in the same situation in a year,” he said. “We have to find a long-term solution.”
Nunery in for interim
Deputy Superintendent Leroy Nunery will step in for Ackerman as interim superintendent until a permanent replacement is found. He was a finalist for the job in 2008 when Ackerman was hired.
Nunery has his own baggage: He recently raised eyebrows when he attended a closed-door meeting at Martin Luther King Jr. High School that prompted educational services provider Mosaica Turnaround Partners to back out of plans to operate the school.