PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — For the first time Thursday, Arlene Ackerman admitted her future as Philadelphia Schools Superintendent is in doubt, and she called on the School Reform Commission to make a decision quickly: either support her or ask her to leave.
Ackerman’s comments come after weeks of speculation about her future in Philadelphia as it appeared she was losing the support of the SRC. On Wednesday, she met behind closed doors with supporters to map a path forward while publicly saying she planned to stay on as superintendent.
But on Thursday, addressing the district’s principals before the start of the new school year, she acknowledged that year might not include her.
“Whatever happens to me, I have touched the future of thousands of children in Philadelphia for the better,” she told the principals. “I’m guilty of doing this job, even if it means I won’t be able to keep a job.”
During Ackerman’s remarks, she blamed her aggressive management style for her current predicament but did not apologize for it.
“I’m guilty of putting children, not politics, first,” she said. “I’m guilty of believing when kids fail, the system fails and adults have to be held accountable.”
Since the spring, the district has struggled with a $650 million budget shortfall, and over the last few weeks, Ackerman appeared to lose the support of her bosses – the School Reform Commission. At a meeting on August 3, they took up a plan to cut one of her favorite programs, “Promise Academies.” Under that program, the district invests extra dollars in its lowest-performing schools to turn them around. But “Promise Academies” are expensive, and some say the district cannot afford them.
On Wednesday one of Ackerman’s biggest supporters, State Senator Anthony Williams told reporters she had lost the support of SRC Chairman Robert Archie.
“I don’t know. I haven’t heard that from Mr. Archie,” she said Thursday when asked about that. But she admitted the SRC may be considering making a change in her position. She called on them to make a decision quickly.
“I think it’s important for the school district to move on, whatever the decisions are going to be,” she said. “It’s only fair for the students, whatever the changes may be … to know what to expect.”
She would not talk about whether she believes she deserves a buyout (under her contract she could get up to $1.5 million to leave her post now). But she said she’s at peace with whatever her future holds.
Archie has stayed largely silent on Ackerman’s future, except to issue a brief statement of support, saying he would not speculate further. A spokesman said Wednesday that he’s on vacation.
Reported by Ben Simmoneau, CBS 3