Arlene Ackerman, who is scheduled to start as chief executive officer of the Philadelphia School District on June 2, got a jump-start yesterday by announcing key administration appointments and unveiling her sweeping goals and 100-day priorities.
During her surprise appearance at a sparsely attended budget-adoption meeting of the School Reform Commission, Ackerman also promised to hold adults accountable for student achievement, said she'd reduce the size of the central administration and pledged to allocate resources in a more equitable way.
"Nothing gets in my way when I am thinking about reaching young people and how important it is for them to achieve, so that they have choices," Ackerman told the audience.
To help her reach these goals, Ackerman, who previously ran the school districts in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., tapped two familiar faces to the 167,000-student school district.
Michael J. Masch, Gov. Rendell's budget secretary, will become the district's chief business officer, a new position that will include the responsibilities now handled by the interim chief financial officer and interim chief operating officer.
Masch, a former member of the reform commission, will be paid $220,000 a year.
Tomas Hanna, now deputy superintendent of operations for the Providence, R.I, school district, will be chief of school operations.
Hanna, a former Philadelphia teacher, principal and senior vice president of human resources, will be paid $180,000 a year.
Both men, native Philadelphians, will start July 1.
Also, Ackerman announced that she would act as chief academic officer until she hires someone for the job in about six months.
The number of regional superintendents, meanwhile, will grow from eight to 12 to reduce the number of schools each supervises, from as many as 38 to between 18 to 20, she said.
Each regional official will receive more authority and report directly to Ackerman. Currently they report to outgoing interim Chief Academic Officer Cassandra Jones.
Rumors that Masch would return to the district had been floating around for months. Rendell yesterday praised the move, noting that Masch is departing his administration having balanced the state's books.
"The fact that the commonwealth is one of few states running a budget surplus while other states are grappling with billion-dollar deficits is a tribute to his wise stewardship," Rendell said in a statement.
Said Ackerman: "We've got a real numbers guy here, and he is committed to making sure we stay within our fiscal limitations and actually seeing if we can find a way to produce more revenue, rather than less.
Masch, who attended the SRC meeting, said: "There are lots and lots of things that I want to look at in terms of how we do things, how things are organized. I'm not meaning to say that I think this is a badly run organization, because I don't think that it is. . . . But it's still not as good as it can be."
Masch said he would oversee a host of departments including budget, finance, procurement, facilities, maintenance, information technology, food service, transportation and construction.
"The goal should be to do all that in a way that helps principals, teachers and ultimately students and to do it with the smallest number of resources possible to free up the maximum number of dollars for teaching and learning," Masch said.
Hanna could not be reached last night.
Ackerman, following the meeting, said one of her initial impressions of the school district is that the foundation for success is in place. She noted the district's core curriculum, its magnet schools, academic options and support by Rendell and Mayor Nutter.
"That's a pretty good place to start," she said.
She said she would establish performance targets for her executive team and other administrators, while seeking feedback from parents, teachers, principals and others.
"We need 360 degrees of feedback going on," she said. *