clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Ackerman’s tenure in Philadelphia: 2008-11 key events

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

  • Summer 2008 Arlene Ackerman joins the Philadelphia School District as CEO. She brings with her leadership experience in D.C., San Francisco, and Seattle. Ackerman was selected from among three finalists for the position.
  • Spring 2009 Ackerman unveils her five-year strategic plan, Imagine 2014. The School Reform Commission approves the plan with an estimated first-year budget of $126 million.
  • Summer 2009 SRC member Heidi Ramirez steps down. Ramirez and Ackerman had tense public clashes.
  • Fall 2009 The District faces an unexpected deficit of more than $160 million. Federal stimulus dollars help fill in the gap, and the District budget ends up 12 percent larger than the previous year.
  • December 2009 Asian students are attacked by classmates at South Philadelphia High. Students boycott the school for more than a week, citing an unsatisfactory response from the District. Ackerman at first refuses to meet with the students and stands by Principal LaGreta Brown. A year later, the District settles a civil rights suit with the U.S. Department of Justice. DOJ finds that the District acted with "deliberate indifference" to the students’ needs.
  • January 2010 The District and Philadelphia Federation of Teachers negotiate a new three-year contract. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten calls the contract a "breakthrough."
  • Spring 2010 Ackerman’s Renaissance Schools turnaround initiative is launched; 14 low-performing schools are slated for makeovers.
  • Summer 2010 West Philly High School’s planned transition to a Renaissance School stalls. Principal Saliyah Cruz is removed.
  • Summer 2010 The District begins a "weighted-student funding" pilot program.
  • Summer 2010 Parent University, one of Ackerman’s key Imagine 2014 initiatives that soon earns her national attention, holds its first graduation.
  • Summer 2010 Ackerman shakes up central administration leadership and moves to a new assistant superintendent structure.
  • Summer 2010 The District celebrates the eighth straight year of PSSA gains.
  • September 2010 The first Promise Academies begin operation.
  • October 2010 Ackerman is named best urban superintendent by the Council for Great City Schools.
  • December 2010 The Inquirer publishes a story alleging Ackerman mishandled the awarding of a contract to a minority-owned firm. Hundreds of Ackerman supporters attend the next SRC meeting, and more than 40 offer public testimony.
  • December 2010 Ackerman and Mayor Nutter hold a press conference to note that due to a loss of stimulus funds, the District faces a $234 million budget gap; Ackerman calls news reports of a larger deficit "purely speculative."
  • January 2011 Universal Companies wins a federal planning grant to study the creation of a Promise Neighborhood in South Philly. The District and Universal announce they will create a new type of Renaissance School, Promise Neighborhood Partnership School.
  • January 2011 Year two of the Renaissance Schools initiative announced.
  • February 2011 District announces plans to deal with the budget deficit, now estimated as $400-500 million or more. Ackerman says she will take 20 furlough days. The size of the gap later grows to more than $600 million.
  • February 2011 Audenried teacher Hope Moffett, whose school is slated to become a Renaissance School, speaks out against the plans, and she faces disciplinary action.
  • February 2011 Ackerman is honored by the American Association of School Administrators with their Dr. Effie H. Jones Humanitarian Award for her work on educational equity.
  • February 2011 The SRC approves a one-year extension of Ackerman’s contract, through June 2014.
  • March 2011 Ackerman says she has no knowledge of the back-door dealings that take place regarding the match of Martin Luther King High School with a Renaissance School provider.
  • April 2011 The District unveils its three-year facilities master plan after several community meetings at which no information about specific schools was revealed.
  • May 2011 District officials present a budget to City Council and ask for additional funds from the city. The mayor vows to save full-day kindergarten.
  • June 2011 Ackerman abruptly announces that the District found a way to pay for full-day kindergarten by using federal Title I dollars, angering Mayor Nutter. He demands more transparency from the District, leading to an "educational accountability agreement" with the city and state.
  • June 2011 Despite the rift with Ackerman, Nutter and City Council agree on a plan to give the District $53 million in additional funding, saving yellow bus service and the city’s alternative, accelerated schools.
  • June 2011 District announces that test scores are up for a ninth straight year, and calls on the state to provide additional funds. But state aid falls short of District expectations, forcing additional budget cuts.
  • July 2011 Twenty-eight District schools flagged for irregularities in a state statistical analysis of 2009 test scores; after an internal probe the District announces that 13 warrant further investigation for possible cheating.
  • July 2011 To make ends meet, the District lays off more than 1,000 teachers and more than 400 central office staff.
  • August 2011 The SRC announces that to help close the huge budget gap, it will scale back the Promise Academy initiative, spurring protests from supporters. Rumors fly that Ackerman is negotiating her exit or being forced out.
  • August 2011 District and Mayor Nutter confirm that Ackerman will leave immediately, with a buyout of her contract worth $905,000. The buyout is to be funded with $500,000 from the District and $405,000 from anonymous private donations. Criticisms of the anonymous contributions abound, and PA Auditor General Jack Wagner says he will investigate the deal.
  • August 2011 The SRC accepts the separation agreement between Ackerman and the District. The agreement defines the terms of her buyout and says that both parties agree not to make public comments that would "injure" one another’s reputations.
  • August 2011 Ackerman speaks with media outlets about the political missteps and other issues that lead to her departure. She is critical of the mayor and the District’s chief financial officer; some say her statements violate the separation agreement.
  • September 2011 District pays Ackerman her $905,000 buyout check and reveals that the anonymous donors have pulled out and the entire tab is being covered by District.

The COVID-19 outbreak is changing our daily reality

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit newsroom dedicated to providing the information families and educators need, but this kind of work isn't possible without your help.

Connect with your community

Find upcoming Philadelphia events