PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Amid rumors swirling about the future of Philadelphia schools chief Arlene Ackerman, her administration today announced deep cuts in one of her signature programs.

Instead of eleven new “promise academies” in September, the district now plans only three, cutting $18 million from the program to partially offset the $35 million less in state money than had been previously expected.

“Promise academies” are poorly performing schools getting extra resources; six are currently operating in Philadelphia.

Ben Simmoneau reports…

Word of the cuts were greeted angrily by activists like Pamela Williams (below right) at today’s School Reform Commission meeting.

(Schools activist Pamela Williams. Credit: Mike DeNardo)

“Now you have a choice to make!” she shouted at the commissioners.  “You ask that governor for the $15 million or whatever it takes to open all of these Promise Academies!  And you tell him we need it now!”

After the meeting, schools superintendent Arlene Ackerman did little to dispel rumors that she was on the way out.

“I have to have the support of the people who hired me,” Ackerman told reporters, “but I am going to fight.”

(Reporter:)   “Do you have it, ma’am?”
(Ackerman:)  “I think you should ask them.”

We did.  Commission member Johnny Irizarry declined to comment, and a spokesman said chairman Robert Archie would issue a written statement.

The SRC later released a one-line statement saying it remains committed to working with Ackerman as stated under her contract.

Reported by Mike DeNardo, KYW Newsradio 1060

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KYW’s Steve Tawa reports that “promise academy” teachers learned about the changes today while at a teacher development course in Northeast Philadelphia.

Teachers at the workshop say the “promise academy” concept make a difference in speeding reforms at the lowest-performing schools in the city.

“Students in my classroom that were reading at a preschool level in second grade are now up to grade level — in one year,” says Jodi Salberg, who taught second grade at Potter-Thomas Elementary School in Kensington.

Another teacher, Nikki Willoughby, who works at Ethel Allen school in North Philadelphia, understands the rationale behind slowing down the rollout of Promise Academies.

“If it’s going to help us keep our jobs, I’m all for it,” she said.

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