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Ackerman Out as Philadelphia Schools Leader

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Arlene Ackerman, the superintendent of the Philadelphia school system who found herself increasingly under fire in the past several weeks, is leaving the leadership immediately, according to a statement today from the district.

Despite the calls for her departure, Robert Archie, the chairman of the district's School Reform Commission, had nothing but positive words for Ackerman in the statement:

"Dr. Ackerman did not shy away from taking on the tough issues that had been neglected for decades such as rightsizing the District through a five-year master facilities plan aimed at better utilizing our resources and implementing new accountability measures for staff. And Dr. Ackerman demonstrated real results: three years of gains in test scores; a 29 percent decline in violent incidents; 7 percent gains in the six-year graduation rates; and lastly, Parent University where more than 40,000 parents took courses throughout the past three years."

But a budget crisis, a potential cheating scandal involving several schools in Philadelphia, and complaints about her leadership style were among the issues that soured many Philadelphians on her tenure. The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote an article Sunday that compiled many of those complaints and reiterated that Ackerman was on the way out.

Ackerman will receive a $905,000 buyout package, $500,000 of which will be paid for by the school district and $405,000 which will come from private sources, paid in part by private, anonymous sources, according to a district statement posted by the website Philadelphia Public School Notebook.

A little over two weeks ago, the Philadelphia School Reform Commission, which oversees the nation's eighth largest district, had released a terse statement of support for Ackerman.

Ackerman said at a meeting after the statement was released that she was prepared to stay on and "fight." But her later moves gave the appearance that she was saying goodbye to the district, including a defiant speech Friday in which she told school leaders to "sentence me...or let me free." Her supporters gave her a standing ovation.

Leroy Nunery, the current deputy superintendent for the school district will step into the interim role while the board searches for a new leader, the statement from the district noted. Schools in the city start September 6.


Photo: Philadelphia schools Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, center, receives a standing ovation last week after addressing principals gathered at Lincoln High School for their annual convocation. (Clem Murray/Philadelphia Inquirer/AP)

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