Ackerman rumors swirling after talk-show host's Facebook posting

Posted: August 01, 2011

THE "Ackerman Rumor Mill" was stirred yet again yesterday when radio talk-show host E. Steven Collins posted on Facebook that Superintendent Arlene Ackerman was as good as gone.

"Sorry to see her go! But Arlene Ackerman is gone! So not good for Philly kids and parents!" Collins, a staunch Ackerman supporter who considers her a friend, wrote late Saturday night.

His comment sparked a litany of responses with nearly 200 supporters and critics - the vast majority supporters - weighing in on the rumor that's had tongues wagging for weeks.

Even though Ackerman and her representatives have stressed again and again that she's not going anywhere.

But Collins, like many, believes it's just a matter of time before Ackerman is "pushed out."

"It's imminent," said Collins, who said he got the news from "reliable sources" in education. "She doesn't want to go, but she's realistic."

For all its ambiguity, Ackerman's possible departure has gripped many in education and political circles despite repeated attempts by the schools chief to quell the talk.

Ackerman has become a polarizing figure in Philadelphia, with politicians and some of her own employees ready to skewer her.

Meanwhile, her supporters - including parents and clergy - applaud her for refusing to play politics. They say she has done a good job of putting children first.

Ackerman's spot on the hot seat was secured in June while, in the middle of a budget crisis, her move to save full-day kindergarten from the budget ax was seen as stepping on Mayor Nutter's toes.

Nutter had been pushing for City Council to pass tax increases to send more money to the district - with full-day kindergarten a top priority - when Ackerman announced she had saved the program.

Nutter then demanded the district agree to provide the city and state with more information about contracts, salaries, benefits and other matters.

The rumors gained even more traction when Ackerman signed paperwork giving Deputy Superintendent Leroy Nunery authority to sign important paperwork this summer. The district said it was a routine move while she was on vacation.

Meanwhile, members of the School Reform Commission have remained largely mum about the rumors. Chairman Robert Archie and his cohorts have dodged such inquiries, leaving Ackerman to fend them off herself.

"This may be wishful thinking for some, but I'm here," Ackerman said in June. "I just want to be really clear about that. There are no [resignation] discussions under way."

She has not spoken publicly since.

If Ackerman does leave, she stands to walk away with a hefty severance package (as much as $1.5 million, according to an Inquirer analysis), but will not be able to see her Imagine 2014 reform plan through to fruition.

"If she didn't move to change the status quo, they would love her," Collins said of Ackerman's foes. "I think it's clear that race and money are super deluxe factors in pushing her out of Philadelphia."

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