Former city school chief Arlene C. Ackerman has said she did not order the raises given to some Philadelphia School District employees over the last few months.

Ackerman, in an e-mail to The Inquirer, characterized allegations leveled against former district human resources executive Estelle Matthews as serious.

Matthews was escorted out of district headquarters last week; a spokesman said she was "allowed to resign" from her job.

The district's inspector general recently gave the School Reform Commission the draft report from an investigation that found several questionable pay increases totaling more than $80,000 were awarded to Matthews' friends and their relatives.

The raises were given while thousands of employees were being laid off and schools were being ordered to cut programs and staff to close a $629 million district budget gap.

There were also allegations that Matthews' son was given district jobs despite lacking qualifications. Matthews has said she did nothing wrong.

Ackerman said that during her tenure, raises would have been approved by Leroy Nunery II, who was her deputy at the time and is now acting superintendent.

Ackerman wrote that she was "horrified and saddened when I heard the news" about the raises and the allegations against Matthews.

She said she and Matthews had a "good working relationship" but were not personal friends. The two have not seen or spoken since Ackerman left the district with a $905,000 payout in August.

"None of the raises or promotions of the employees listed in the paper were recommended, authorized, or approved by me," Ackerman wrote.

She said that under her watch, personnel changes, actions, and exceptions had to be approved by Nunery.

"In fact, the entire budget-reduction process was supervised by him and Michael Masch," the chief financial officer, whom Ackerman has since said she tried to fire but was blocked from doing so.

Neither Nunery nor Masch could be reached for comment.

Ackerman pointed out that she took unpaid furlough days - essentially a pay cut - when news of the district's dire fiscal situation surfaced. But she has taken heat recently for filing for unemployment despite receiving the buyout package.

Contact staff writer Kristen Graham at 215-854-5146, kgraham@phillynews.com, or @newskag on Twitter. Read her blog, "Philly School Files," at www.philly.com/schoolfiles.