Arlene Ackerman: A Lesson in Political Stones

Arlene Ackerman: A Lesson in Political Stones


by Daryl Gale, The Philadelphia Tribune

As every living soul in Philadelphia has no doubt heard by now, Dr. Arlene Ackerman, former school district CEO, has applied for unemployment compensation. In fact, like the Kennedy assassination, you can probably say exactly where you were and what you were doing when you got the news.

The blogosphere crackled to life immediately, and talk radio call-in lines lit up with all the pent-up outrage and vitriol from folks who haven’t had an Ackerman sighting in months. The comments section of and other local news outlets were soon overflowing with renewed hatred for a woman who defied the age old code of crooks everywhere: “Take the money and run.”

By agreeing to fork over the queenly sum of nearly a million bucks in exit money, I’m sure the folks over at the School District — not to mention City Hall — were just hoping Ackerman would, well, exit.

Nope, not Arlene. She’ll take the money, thank you, but she’s not going anywhere.

Call it guts, chutzpah, temerity, cojones, nerve, stones — call it what you will, she has it in spades. I have never seen the equivalent in 20-plus years of covering politics and politicians. The woman truly and genuinely has no shame. None at all. In politics, though, this can prove a definite advantage.

She was able to negotiate, while under great public and private pressure to resign, a settlement package that not only paid her handsomely to step down, but also anticipated her application for unemployment compensation and prohibited the District from objecting to it.

I don’t care who you are, that’s flat-out brilliant. That’s old school stuff right there. We are clearly in the presence of greatness.

This should be a textbook case, studied and scrutinized by all petty politicians and assorted get-over artists for years to come. The Ricky Marianos, Vinny Fumos and Corey Kemps of the world have finally been shown up as the bumbling fools and rank amateurs they are. Stand aside, and bow in reverence to a true master of the craft.

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— Photo credit: Abdul R. Sulayman, The Philadelphia Tribune