PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The school district is scaling back Superintendent Arlene Ackerman’s controversial Promise Academies while the schools chief says she wants to stay on the job.

Continued budget pressures are causing the district to trim back expansion of Promise Academy schools from eleven to three this fall, and drop Saturday classes for all of them. Activists including Pamela Williams angrily told the School Reform Commission that children were being shortchanged.

“If you take the Promise Academies from the 154,000 students that we educate, 85 percent of them are African-American, then it’s a disgrace.”

After the meeting, Superintendent Arlene Ackerman addressed rumors of buyout talks by telling reporters she wanted to stay but needed the support of the people who hired her. Commissioner Johnny Irizarry wouldn’t comment.

“I can’t answer that right now.”

(DeNardo:) “How about you personally? Does she have your support?”

“I can’t answer that right now.”

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

Meanwhile, the head of the teacher’s union wants Arlene Ackerman to leave.

Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan is using his strongest words yet, saying “it’s time for new leadership at the school district.”

“The superintendent is not collaborative,” Jordan said. “We’re not going to reopen our contract with someone who has indicated to the members of the PFT her total disdain and disrespect for the educators in this city.”

Jordan lists several examples, including her threat to recommend that the SRC cancel union contracts, and previous statements that Promise Academy teachers could not be laid off.

“She wanted to give them a favor. My members are unhappy about it. I’m unhappy about it. Therefore, we cannot work with the superintendent.”

The district is counting on $75-million in givebacks from its five unions. The PFT is the largest.

Reported by Mike DeNardo and Steve Tawa, KYW Newsradio 1060

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