An exorbitant number of speakers have registered to speak at the School Reform Commission's 2p.m. meeting today to rally behind Superintendent Arlene Ackerman who came under fire after she abruptly switched vendors without following proper procedure.

Thirty people — including City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds-Brown and local NAACP president Jerry Mondesire will be on hand to defend Ackerman's handling of the situation in which she gave a $7.5 million no-bid contract with Security & Data Technologies Inc. (SDT) of Newtown Township to local, minority-owned firm, IBS Communications Inc., as the Inqy reported last week. A state lawmaker has asked for a probe into the matter which the state Department of Education has done.

In a statement earlier this week, the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus also endorsed the schools chief.

"I am proud and encouraged that Dr. Ackerman is taking on the issue of inclusion, diversity and opportunity in an effort to spread the school district's contracts among all the communities," said State Rep. Ronald Waters, who is also scheduled to speak today.

Not everyone is convinced that the overwhelming show of support is borne from good intentions.

"It's funny that all these people can show up to defend Arlene Ackerman, but not come to talk about when Asian students were getting beat up or that kids are failing out of school," said a former district employee.

Meanwhile, 30 others who signed up to speak will address matters regarding literacy, centralized funding for instrumental music and charter school expansion.

Just before the meeting is to start, representatives of several charter schools will hold a rally outside of district headquarters expressing their concern about the delays in approving their requests to expand their schools.

Last year, charters requested over 9,000 new student "seats," in many cases to add grade levels, plan new campuses or expand schools.

Fewer than 1,000 of these requests were granted, after numerous delays in the decision making process, making it impossible to adequately prepare or physically expand schools.

District policy requires a decision to be made on tabled requests within six to eight weeks, according to a statement they released today. Yet many of these schools have waited eight or more months without answers. Without a decision by the SRC, these schools – with waiting lists in the hundreds – will have to defer students for another year. In some cases financing for new construction will be lost, the statement read.