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Arlene Ackerman Gets $905,000 Buyout As Philadelphia Schools Chief

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Arlene Ackerman is out as Philadelphia schools superintendent just two weeks before the new school year begins.

Her attorney, Robert Nix, confirmed this morning to KYW Newsradio that Ackerman’s reign as head of the Philadelphia school system is over, after working out a separation agreement that will give her her full salary for the remainder of her original five-year contract.

Ackerman has been under pressure for much of her tenure in Philadelphia, over several issues  (see previous story): racial violence at South Philadelphia High School, a no-bid contract awarded to a minority firm (see related story), and the whopping budget deficit (see related story).

The School Reform Commission issued a statement that Ackerman will be paid $905,000, comprised of $500,000 from the SRC and $405,000 from “anonymous private contributions.”

Critics wasted little time to point out two major issues with Dr. Ackerman’s buyout. The first is the sheer size – nearly $1 million. The second is where the money is coming from. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are coming from secret donors Mayor Michael Nutter says at least in part he helped solicit.

Parents United for a Public Education says “The $905,000 is an outrageous sum for a starving district where families and school staff are scrambling to meet basic needs.”

“The lack of transparency is outrageous,” says Zachary Stalberg of the government watchdog group Committee of 70.

He doesn’t like how the deal got done.

Private donors paying big money is a problem, according to Stalberg.

“Usually people give money and expect something in return. As long as it’s secret, the public has no idea weather someone ever gets in return for this money,” Stalberg said.

Read the Joint Statement on Ackerman’s Departure (.pdf format)

Nix says the agreement is in the best interest of both his client and the School District of Philadelphia.

“It’s for the benefit of the children, for a smooth transition that doesn’t go into some sort of ugly litigation or all kinds of things that can happen when a relationship comes to an end,” Nix told KYW Newsradio.

Nix says Ackerman has agreed to forego her salary for the one-year-contract extension the School Reform Commission gave her last February on the condition that the money be earmarked for the “promise academies” that were a key part of her “Imagine 2014″ school reform plan (see related story).

The furor over Ackerman’s leadership came to a head earlier this year when it was suddenly revealed that the school district faced a deficit of more than $620 million.  Some of those involved in those negotiations to help the district deal with this massive deficit became unhappy with Ackerman’s leadership style, including top city officials.

An effort arose to see that she would depart much sooner than at the conclusion of her current contract, which runs through 2014.

Union Leaders React to Ackerman’s Departure

Ackerman’s deputy, Leroy Nunery, has been appointed acting superintendent while a national search is conducted for a permanent replacement.

Reported by Pat Loeb and Mike DeNardo, KYW Newsradio; Todd Quinones, CBS3

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