Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Arlene Ackerman's paranoid delusions

When rumors surfaced Monday that Philly schools Superintendent Arlene Ackerman might be leaving town, I was hopeful. Not just because her administration continues to block me from following its Twitter feed—but for less selfish, substantive reasons. Like her questionable budgeting acumen. Her slowness in responding to violence at South Philadelphia High School. Her decision to be defensive instead of proactive when it comes to the broader problem of school violence. The list could go on. I wasn't hopeful that she was leaving because she's awesome.

Ackerman's staying, though. What's interesting is how she's responding to those rumors of her departure:
Schools chief Arlene C. Ackerman on Monday shot down rumors she is in talks to leave the Philadelphia School District, and suggested that those who want her gone are uncomfortable with the thought of all public-school children succeeding.

Many initiatives in Ackerman's three-year superintendency have been focused on funneling resources to struggling schools, and, she said, "that is maybe threatening to some people, but I came here to do a job, and I'm going to do that job. All the rest of this is just noise."
Oh, sure, Dr. Ackerman. You're under fire because your critics hate kids. That's it.

We're faced here with a couple of options. Either Ackerman believes what she's saying, in which case her head is filled with paranoid delusions. Or she's intentionally trying to delegitimize her critics by ascribing evil motives to them. Which might be a savvy survival technique, but sucks in terms of serving the students in her district.

From where I sit, it appears that Ackerman is the figure who is motivated by politics and turf defense. Her critics probably have some of that going on, too, but they can also make a substantive case that Ackerman's leadership is bad for the district—and thus for the kids. It would be nice to see Ackerman focused on leading the district instead of tearing down her opponents.

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