Here’s how not to begin an editorial about the departure of an arrogant and divisive “public servant” who hung on until the school district and anonymous donors gave her $905,000 to go away:
It’s a shame that it had to end this way – with Philadelphia schools Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman being unceremoniously shown the door – but to a large extent the educator’s demise was self-inflicted. For someone who had led two other large, urban school districts, Ackerman showed none of the political and public-relations savvy that’s necessary to survive in such a venomous environment. Knowing today’s big-city superintendents rarely last five years, she nonetheless refused to tone down what was widely perceived as an imperious demeanor so that the public would pay more attention to her praiseworthy attempts to better educate Philadelphia’s children…
The idea that Ackerman was “unceremoniously shown the door” doesn’t jibe with the reality of her huge consolation prize. Workers all over the country, including many thousands of schoolteachers, are routinely “shown the door.” Only the Ackermans among us walk away with obscenely large amounts of money for agreeing to not work anymore.
In noting Ackerman’s lack of “political and public-relations savvy” in her performance as superintendent, the editorial writer failed to raise an obvious question: Why was her contract extended this year when it was obvious she didn’t have the “savvy” to handle the job or the good sense to leave public relations to her well-paid PR staff?
Also, why did the writer resort to weasel words — “what was widely perceived as an imperious manner” — in describing a woman notorious for the disrespect she showed teachers who didn’t bow down to her? And what was “praiseworthy” about her job performance?
Implicit in the writer’s dreary language was the Inquirer‘s bizarre refusal to acknowledge public outrage regarding Ackerman’s tacky, drawn-out exit. She was in charge of a cash-strapped school district, did a bad job (please, don’t tell me about the farce of improved test scores) for which she was extremely well-paid, and then refused to hit the road until she was awarded another truckload of loot.
One more question for the Inky: Why are your editorial writers bland and timid at exactly the times they should be boldly inquisitive and sensitive to public opinion?
I’ll take my answers off the air, thanks.
Footnote: Gov. Tom Corbett and his contempt for the public school system, as well as the apparent incompetence of the state-created School Reform Commission, deserve much of the blame for the chaos in Philly’s schools. Ackerman was awful, but Harrisburg is the enemy of Philly and always will be.