The effort to raise $405,000 in private donations to help buy out former Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman’s contract has unraveled. “The public concerns about the use of anonymous private donations led almost all donors to withdraw their pledges,” the School Reform Commission said in a statement released Wednesday night.
Ackerman was paid $905,000 to walk away- $405,000 of which was to come from secret donations to a nonprofit. Officials declined to be specific on how much in donations was raised or who had contributed.
But the district decided to make the full payment the School Reform Commission announced in a six-paragraph statement. “We . . . believe that it is a better use of the School District’s resources to focus our time and energy on ensuring that this school year is as successful as possible,” the SRC statement said.
They blamed the plan’s failure on public pressure against keeping the donors anonymous. State Auditor General Jack Wagner notified the district by letter last week that his office was auditing the buyout agreement. Among the objectives was to uncover the identities of the donors.
There was widespread speculation last week that one or more of the donors had backed out due to public scrutiny and pressure to uncover their identities. A local attorney had written to the IRS asking for an investigation of the private donations to the nonprofit.
The district has asked the Philadelphia’s Children First Fund, a nonprofit that was collecting the donations, to return the money that was collected.
The developments drew criticism from community activists.
“It’s a train wreck,” said Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, a supporter of Ackerman. “This has been poorly managed from beginning to end.”