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Philadelphia School Commission Chairman Steps Down

Robert Archie Jr., the chairman of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission, and fellow commissioner Johnny Irizarry stepped down from their posts today, effective immediately.

Mr. Archie made the announcement through an email sent from his public relations firm, which was published in its entirety at the Philadelphia School Notebook blog. In the letter, Archie said that Mayor Michael Nutter should have a chance to carry out his educational programs with a new set of school leaders. (The Philadelphia Inquirer also has a story on the resignations.)

The SRC has five members, three of whom are appointed by the governor of Pennsylvania, and two who are appointed by the city's mayor. Both Archie and Irizarry are appointees of the mayor. The commission serves in the same management role for the 154,000-stduent district as a school board.

Philadelphia media have reported that Archie was under fire for his role in pushing for a particular charter operator to manage a low-performing high school in the district called Martin Luther King High. Archie and State Rep. Dwight Evans have ties to Foundations Inc., a Moorestown, N.J.-based company. However, a parent committee supported Mosaica Education Inc., a New York City-based charter operator.

The board eventually voted for Mosaica, but the operator walked away after a private meeting with Archie and Evans. Foundations also took itself out of the running, and Martin Luther King High is now receiving intensive services from the district and is not operated by a charter.

The mayor's chief integrity officer has been investigating Archie's role in the charter school situation because of Archie's previous declaration of a conflict of interest in votes concerning Foundations. The report has not been released.

Former Philadelphia School Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, who said she was pressured to support Foundations as a charter operator and has cited that situation as one of the reasons behind her August resignation, said that she worked well with both Archie and Irizarry.

"Up until recently, actually, until the stuff with Martin Luther King [High], I can't think of anything negative I would have ever said" about the board, said Ackerman, who said she learned about the resignations when a reporter called to ask her for comment this afternoon.

"As a person, I think [Archie] is a good man and he meant well," said Ackerman, who received a $905,000 buyout when she left the Philadelphia school system. "Certainly things began to unravel with me and Bob Archie over the King issue. I think that was the beginning of the end for me, and it may have been the beginning of the end of for him."

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