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by Dina Estelle Williams

There is hope that systems will be in place and students, administrators, and teachers will be ready for an exciting school year on September 6, the first day of school in the Philadelphia school district, despite the recent departure of the superintendent for the 8th largest school district in the country.

At a leadership conference on August 18, Ackerman approached the podium with background music playing from soulful singer’s Sade song, “Is it a crime.”  She then began her remarks with Maya Angelou’s phenomenal poem, “Still I Rise,” saying that it served as inspiration and motivation to her in some of her most challenging times, both professionally and personally. 

The 64-year educator ended her speech instructing the audience to stand and “sing this Philly song with me and we’ll do a happy dance,” referring to Teddy Pendergrass’ “Wake Up Everybody.”

Did Ackerman publicly dare her bosses to fire her? 

Regardless if she did, Ackerman was forced out of her superintendent position just 4 days later on Monday August 22. 

At the close of school in June 2011, the district laid off more than 3,000 employees, including 1,500 teachers. As of Tuesday, Estelle Matthews, the district’s chief talent development officer, said the number of teacher vacancies had been reduced to 556 and 388 teachers were called back to work. 

According to PhillyNews.com, on August 24 the School Reform Commission signed off and agreed to the termination.  The district will pay Ackerman $500,000 and an additional $405,000 will come from anonymous donors, whose contributions will be funneled through a nonprofit foundation.  Ackerman’s base salary was $348,140.  Her contract was due to expire in 2014.  Ackerman’s attorney, Robert S. Nix, stated she got “everything that was coming to her under her contract.”

Ackerman received accolades for attempting to speed achievement in poor schools and for engaging district parents. She cited 22 accomplishments in her “Letter to the Philadelphia Community.” 

Read Ackerman’s letter:


Ackerman was a professor at Columbia University before her Philadelphia arrival.  Prior to that, she led school reform movements in San Francisco, Washington D.C., Seattle, and Philadelphia. 

Click below to watch Dr. Ackerman’s Leadership Conference Speech.


Click below to watch the Channel 6, “Action News” video about Ackerman’s forced departure.