|Image by MayaEvening|
Echoing the Justice Department’s paranoid threats against WikiLeaks, the Philadelphia School District’s general counsel warned employees that if they disclosed “confidential information about property, personnel matters or affairs of the district or its employees,” they could be fired and criminally prosecuted.
Like the Justice Department, military and White House, Superintendent Arlene Ackerman and her school board have plenty of dirty laundry they would prefer not be aired publicly, particularly the $7.5 million no-bid contract Ackerman gave to a vendor, despite its previous cost overruns that were 12 times their original estimate, or the raise she gave herself that pushed her salary higher than those of the mayor or governor.
|Arlene Ackerman at the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia|
After questions were raised about the no-bid contract, six employees were suspended with pay and the district hired a law firm to investigate the source of the leaks. When journalist Phil Goldsmith wrote about the inflated salaries of district administrators, Ackerman issued a decree blocking anyone from accessing the payroll system, including the city controller.
Ackerman has a long history of enriching herself, while stifling dissent and ruling autocratically, going back at least to her tenure as head of San Francisco Unified. In San Francisco she finagled a $375,000 severance package that applied even she quit. She also issued a gag order on SFUSD employees in an attempt to quash dissent. “I can’t continue to tolerate the dissension,” Ackerman said about her SFUSD staff and teachers. Ultimately, she was forced by the progressive school board to resign in 2006 because they couldn’t stand working with her.