For months, the Maven website also has highlighted Ackerman's praise for Shaw's business services in a blurb above a list of Maven's clients.
Questioned about that, Ackerman's spokeswoman, Shana Kemp, denied that the blurb was an approved endorsement and said "the district does not endorse any specific businesses for any purpose." She said Tuesday that the district would ask Maven to remove the text, but the blurb was still on the site Thursday evening.
Altogether, Ackerman spent nearly $18,000 over about three years for local dining, travel, and other costs, or around $600 a month. That's far less than the bills she ran up as schools chief in San Francisco, where her business spending came under fire, and not out of line with what senior executives of large operations spend, according to compensation experts.
But the records also shed light on who has Ackerman's ear as she presides over a district with a $2.8 billion budget that is struggling to close a budget gap of more than $650 million.
Shaw is listed as the superintendent's dining companion 22 times out of 58 local meals, and at two other dinners in Washington.
She was originally hired by the district to acclimate Ackerman to the community - a process Shaw calls "onboarding" on her website, which says: "Maven was chosen due to its contacts with community and business leaders, as well as relationships with local and state politicians."
Shaw's onboarding contract was succeeded by a lobbying deal with the School District that began in May 2009 and ended this year after the district's budget crisis began to unfold.
On the website, Ackerman is quoted as crediting Shaw's firm with "jump-starting my orientation to key community leaders and government officials facilitating the sweeping much-needed changes that would take place to reform the Philadelphia School District. . . . I would use Maven to onboard key staff."
Shaw would not discuss her relationship with Ackerman other than to say she had not worked for the district since January.
The Ackerman blurb appears above Maven's client list, which includes Foundations Inc., a New Jersey educational consulting company that oversaw Martin Luther King High School for seven years. This year, the School Reform Commission approved a rival firm, Mosaica, to operate King as a charter.
After the intervention of State Rep. Dwight Evans, a longtime friend and associate of Shaw's, Foundations supplanted Mosaica, but subsequently withdrew amid a public outcry.
At least one other firm listed as a Shaw client - U.S. Facilities Inc. - has sought business with the district, but lost out on a multimillion-dollar maintenance contract. It was re-bid this year after a complaint that the district's procurement chief had unduly interfered with the bidding.
Before setting up Maven, Shaw worked for U.S. Facilities' parent company for 15 years.
Shaw and Ackerman were regulars at Devon, meeting about twice a month on average over Ackerman's first year.
Often, the agenda listed on the expense report was "Onboarding." Other times it was "planning" or "transitioning."
This month, The Inquirer reported that Shaw had not repaid the city for a loan Maven received from a now-defunct economic development program known as Minority Ventures Partners. City records show the loan was for $150,000, but Shaw said she received $90,000 and did not pay anything back because no one ever asked her to do so.
The Inquirer examined just over 100 receipts of meals - 58 in Philadelphia - for which Ackerman was reimbursed from February 2008 through March of this year. Those expenses, which include local dining, travel and meal allowances, total $12,304.46.
Add hotel and other expenses, and the total approaches $18,000.
Don Delves, president of the Delves Group, a Chicago-based consulting firm that advises on executive compensation, said that while he was not an expert on the public sector, "for a person . . . running that large an organization, that's fairly reasonable."
Jamilah Fraser, another Ackerman spokeswoman, said the superintendent's spending was appropriate and said all of it had been approved by the SRC.
The records show that much of the spending came before Ackerman dramatically dialed back her expenses this year as the district grapples with the budget gap. The district has been forced to lay off teachers and slash programs considered key to helping reform the system.
Fraser also noted that this year, Ackerman decided to work 20 days without pay for a savings of over $30,000 for the district.
In her previous post as San Francisco schools chief, Ackerman drew criticism when she ran up more than $45,000 in charges, mostly for 32 work-related trips in 2005. Ackerman spent most of the money on meals, airline tickets, and hotels.
At that time, some staffers and board members suggested her expenses were too costly during a tough financial time for that district. The San Francisco school board ultimately paid the expenses and awarded Ackerman a $325,000 buyout package.
As in Philadelphia, Ackerman favored upscale restaurants to conduct district business.
In Philadelphia, she was reimbursed for meals with her guests at Devon 35 times for a total of $4,169. On average, the lunches and dinners there cost about $41 per person, not including alcohol, which was typically deducted.
The briefing dinner with Shaw cost $126.67, including a $20 tip. Ackerman subtracted $22 for wine and filed for the rest.
Ackerman had five meals - four at Devon - with Elois Brooks, a longtime friend who was her deputy in San Francisco and was brought to Philadelphia as a consultant. Two of those included Shaw. The meetings were for onboarding, transition, and planning, according to the records.
She had three meals, all at Devon, with Kent McGuire, the former dean of the College of Education at Temple University. One meal subject was "Partnership," another was "Imagine 2014," the title of Ackerman's school reform program, which has been severely curtailed by the SRC. The last one, in March 2010, just says "Lunch mtg."
In December 2009, Ackerman and former School Reform Commission Chair Sandra Dungee Glenn dined at the Water Works, the Kelly Drive spot with a prime view of the Schuylkill.
They spent $153 on a meal that included bronzino, octopus, lobster couscous, and four $12 pieces of artisan pie.
The meeting, records show, was to discuss "Learning Stormwater," an environmental curriculum created by the nonprofit group that Dungee Glenn heads. The district did not purchase the curriculum, officials said.
Some of Ackerman's guests were public officials, such as Donna Cooper, who was one of former Gov. Ed Rendell's senior advisers, and Camille Barnett, Mayor Nutter's former managing director. She also had brunch at the Park Hyatt with Nutter's wife, Lisa, the head of Philadelphia Academies Inc., an education nonprofit that works with the district.
Some larger bills for group functions - often involving her senior staff - also were included in the expense reports.
In March 2010, Ackerman brought a group of eight guests to Devon for a briefing that included district finance chief Michael Masch and other administrators. Together they spent $630, of which the superintendent was made whole on $425, including the $106 tip.
Other expense items included $571 for a year-end review meeting in 2009 with Shaw and some of Ackerman's senior staff at the Pyramid Club, a private business club 52 floors above Center City. The records show a $1,600 expense for hosting up to 19 guests at Maggiano's Little Italy, and $618 at La Bourse in the Sofitel hotel.
Fraser, the district spokeswoman, said Ackerman often works 12-plus hour days.
"Many of those hours are spent meeting with other educators, business leaders, community members and other stakeholders," Fraser said in a statement. "Some are lunch and dinner meetings, and some require travel."
Contact staff writer Kristen Graham at 215-854-5146, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @newskag. Read her blog, "Philly School Files," at www.philly.com/schoolfiles.
Inquirer staff writer Joseph Tanfani contributed to this article.