The news comes days after some critics said that Ackerman's decision to continue to lavish the program with extra money and resources, in the face of cuts to the basics like teaching jobs, shows that she cares too much about pet projects.
Officials heard from some politicians and taxpayers who pleaded with the district to scale back the expensive and controversial program in light of the district's fragile financial situation.
They obviously didn't listen.
"Even in tough economic times, organizations must find ways to recognize employees who commit significant time and energy outside of their typical assignments to help the organization meet its mission," said the spokeswoman, Elizabeth Childs.
Robert McGrogan, president of the Commonwealth Association of School Administrators, which represents principals, said the only contractual financial incentives should be tied to performance.
"I don't know why either a retention bonus or any other additional compensation wasn't publicly announced at the time of taking that position," he said. "What the district has essentially done [is] they made the pot sweeter for some than others."
The four administrators - Lois Mondesire, Elois Dupree, Edward Penn and Eileen Spagnola - spent several months selecting turnaround principals and went "above and beyond their duties as a building principal to ensure that the district was able to successfully implement this initiative," Childs said.
All received their lump-sum payments in June 2010.
In another display of generosity, officials say they'll hand out six $10,000 retention bonuses in November to principals entering their second years in the revamped institutions. Penn will get one - as will William Wade, who received a bonus last year as principal at Vaux High and is slated to get another this fall as principal of Martin Luther King High.
Promise Academies - 17 overhauled district schools with longer school days and years, new teaching staffs and resources - came under fire in June when district officials tried to exempt the academies' teachers from layoffs. The state Supreme Court issued a stay delaying a Common Pleas Court hearing on the lawsuit filed by the teachers' union against the district over the layoffs.