District paid for Ackerman farewell video

Posted: August 29, 2011

With the first day of classes rapidly approaching, I'd like nothing better than to be writing about what's ahead for the Philadelphia School District's 2011-12 school year.

But a few details of the Arlene Ackerman long goodbye still deserve mention.

Here's one: her farewell video.

The video is long - 13 minutes, 34 seconds. And dramatic, with text reminding viewers of 5,000 years of civil rights struggles.

"An Arlene Ackerman Retrospective" draws stark contrasts between the state of education in the School District before her arrival in 2008 (bad) and after she came (much better).

Principals, parents, community members, teachers, and students speak about how things improved under Ackerman. It's set to music (Whitney Houston, "One Moment in Time").

At first, the video showed up on the district's YouTube channel. Then it was removed and put up on Ackerman's personal YouTube channel, which was created on Tuesday, the day after her separation was announced.

The video was produced and paid for by a district that's had to cut more than $629 million from its budget by laying off teachers and slashing programs and funding for individual schools.

Spokesman Fernando Gallard said he did not know how much the video had cost to produce. It was made internally - the district does have its own TV station, PSTV.

Gallard said he did not know why the decision had been made to create the video.

"That was created under the former head of this office," he said.

Gallard said the video would not be used on the district's website.

Three members of the communications office were let go the day Ackerman's separation agreement came to light. Together, communications chief Jamilah Fraser and deputy chiefs Shana Kemp and Elizabeth Childs made $440,000.

Ackerman, in remarks to WURD-AM (900) on Thursday, noted that all three had been loyal to her and said they "were all ushered out like criminals."

The district has declined to respond point by point to allegations Ackerman made in her recent media offensive.

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