SRC accepts buyout of Arlene Ackerman

PHILADELPHIA - August 24, 2011

The SRC approved the buyout in a 4-0 vote.

The vote was met with jeers from the audience. In fact, before the vote, they had to repeatedly call for calm as Ackerman supporters condemned the SRC and Mayor Michael Nutter.

"She deserved not to be lynched by three or four black men," said community activist Novella Williams.

Many questioned the $905,000 buyout, with $405,000 coming from anonymous donors.

Board chairman Robert Archie tried to explain their actions.

"Our main focus is the children and going forward, and going forward we hope to put all the other distractions aside," said SRC Chairman Robert Archie.

Following the meeting, SRC chairman Robert Archie refused to identify those donors.

"I cannot sir," Archie said. "They're anonymous."

The State of Pennsylvania may force the SRC to reveal who those donors are. State Auditor General Jack Wagner has launched an investigation.

"We want the public to know. It's not just us knowing, we want the public to know what the heck happened," Wagner said.

Action News has also learned the state is conducting audits on other aspects of the school district's finances. We've also learned the FBI is investigating the district on multiple levels.

Government watchdogs, like the Committee of Seventy, say the deal with Ackerman raises serious questions. Chief among them - who are the donors and what do they want in return?

"We fear, because of the secrecy involved here, that it is people who have gotten contracts or who want contracts," said Zach Stalberg of the Committee of Seventy.

People are also questioning the use of a non-profit charity to funnel the $405,000 to Ackerman. She, along with SRC Chairmen Robert Archie and Acting Superintendent Leroy Nunery all sit on the board of that charity.

"They did a favor for Mayor Nutter. They did a favor for the SRC. What is the burden of that favor? What is the taxpayer going to have to pay for that favor? Corporations don't give money away for free, we need to have transparency," said Emanuel Bussie.

It was by far one of the most contentious meetings of the School Reform Commission ever held.

In the end, the board voted unanimously to approve the agreement which prompted some to call for the ouster of all of them.

Acting Superintendent Leroy Nunnery is also drawing fire even before he gets off the ground.

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