Statement on the CEO of schools


February 27, 2008

Parents United statement on Dr. Arlene Ackerman's contract negotiations 

Dear Members of the School Reform Commission:

Parents United for Public Education congratulates the SRC on the selection of Dr. Arlene Ackerman as CEO. We look forward to working with her to build a quality school agenda. 

Before Dr. Ackerman’s tenure begins, we ask the SRC to take this time to consider lessons we have learned in the past regarding ethical and performance standards for District officials and Commission members. These are issues that are long-standing in the District and need to be broadly infused throughout the system. However, the current contract negotiations with Dr. Ackerman present an ideal time to lay a new groundwork for a more ethical, transparent, and publicly accountable system. 

We ask that you adopt the following recommendations:

  • Salary and severance: We understand that in order to attract quality candidates we need to pay them competitively. At the same time, the SRC shocked much of the public with revelations that it paid former CEO Paul Vallas a $100,000 annual bonus on top of a $275,000 salary and allocated generous severance packages to both Mr. Vallas and the outgoing CFO. Dr. Ackerman’s San Francisco tenure included a housing allowance and a $375,000 severance payment even if she quit (according to news reports). We ask the SRC to set an open and public salary and discontinue the golden parachute at the end of any employee's term, which often creates resentment and lack of trust from the public at a difficult time of transition.
  • Annual Performance Evaluations: As the District discusses long-term contracts with its employees we ask that there be annual performance evaluations for top officials. The evaluations should set and quantify goals in key areas and allow an opportunity for parents, school staff and community members to weigh in confidentially about the CEO's progress.
  • Conflict of Interest: In a multibillion dollar system with limited public scrutiny, parents are deeply concerned about ethics and transparency. We ask that you insist upon full disclosure of any conflicts of interests, ongoing financial ventures, personal and professional relationships with contract providers, etc. for all officials, commission members and top district employees. In addition, we ask that there be a clear limitation on gifts as well as clear boundaries regarding political campaigns and contributions.
  • Monitoring of Expenses: Last year’s revelations of credit card expense accounts used for fine dining and non-essential District needs upset many parents especially at a time when the district was reporting a deficit spiraling into the hundreds of millions of dollars. We ask that the SRC clearly delineate appropriate (as well as inappropriate) expenses for all its employees and the SRC itself.
  • Openness and transparency: As you know, Parents United remains strongly committed to an open and transparent dialogue with the schools. We ask the SRC to avoid the creation of a publicity machine within the District which can often be a barrier to true dialogue and interaction. We also ask that the SRC be mindful that district employees should be able to interact with the press without fear of recrimination. We understand the need for a “tight ship” but prohibiting employees from talking with the media often results in the opposite perception.

Please feel free to contact Parents United about these issues. 


Helen Gym

Aissia Richardson

Rev. LeRoi Simmons

Gerald Wright

on behalf of the Leadership Collective of Parents United for Public Education.

February 19, 2008 

Parents United statement on the appointment of Dr. Arlene Ackerman as CEO of the Philadelphia Public Schools

Parents United for Public Education welcomes Dr. Arlene Ackerman as
CEO of the Philadelphia public schools and looks forward to working
with her to create quality schools for all children.

In the past year, Parents United for Public Education and other parent
groups have been a driving force for change and accountability in the
school district. We have worked hard to emphasize proven academic
reforms and redirect resources into our schools district-wide. At the
same time, we have called for accountability for reforms that don't
work, and a more open, transparent decision-making process involving
parents at every level.

Parent efforts to lobby city and state agencies for more funds have resulted in millions of dollars going to the District that were not there before. But we expect a change in how that money is spent. Our top priorities are on creating baseline school budgets that ensure quality at every school. We are concerned that budget formulas don't penalize small schools and small school efforts and keep the needs of the Corrective Action II schools in mind. We want accountability for failing managers of schools and we want money directed toward reform efforts that work – like reduced class size and expanding teacher quality. We want to see resources driven to classrooms, with priorities toward district-wide initiatives that benefit all children. We also want change at the district in terms of its relationships with parents and community. We expect an open and transparent district where parents will be co-decision-makers to ensure that our schools are quality institutions. We need to rebuild trust and faith in the leaders of our school system.

We look forward to continuing a productive partnership with Dr.
Ackerman for the future of all our children.

July 11, 2007 

Statement on severance pay for former CEO Paul Vallas

Although Parents United respects the responsibility of the School District to honor contracts, we were surprised to read this morning that Mr. Vallas's resignation date was changed to July 6, making him eligible for a $100,000 bonus. The District has repeatedly reported to the media and to the public that Mr. Vallas's resignation would be effective June 30, which would not entitle him to that money. Parents United believes that the $180,000 functions as an effective "bonus" which we find wholly inappropriate given our current budget situation. 

This is yet another expensive example of how the district seems to find hundreds of thousands of dollars for things other than the classroom. Schools, parents and classrooms have been told over and over about why we don't have money for reduced class size, librarians, art, music, books and other school basics, but we see money flowing out the door every day for things which aren't central to the district's mission - protecting our classrooms at all costs. That sends a terrible message to the public about who and what is valued. At this point, the school district seems to care more about patronage, politics and personal favors than it does about educating our students to the best of our ability.

More statements  

Statement on elimination of transpasses (6/24/08) 

Statement on the EMO decision (6/19/08)

Statement on GCA requirements (1/15/08) 

Statement on the appointment of Heidi Ramirez to the SRC (11/5/07)    

Statement on vote of No Confidence (5/29/07)