Superintendent Arlene Ackerman said Friday that she knew one West Philadelphia High parent was a part-time employee of a nonprofit at the center of controversy over a potential conflict of interest.
The issue led this week to the Philadelphia School District's halting plans to overhaul West in September.
In a news conference, Ackerman said she "didn't have a problem" with parent Carla Jackson working part time for the Philadelphia Education Fund, which has ties to a firm that had sought to run West. She said she had hoped Jackson, a member of the School Advisory Council, would abstain from casting a vote for West's manager.
The Education Fund paid three parents a small stipend to get other parents involved in the school. Jackson still works part time there.
"We don't blame them," Ackerman said of the parents Friday. "What they should have done is step down."
The Education Fund has a long history with Johns Hopkins/Diplomas Now, the provider selected by West's School Advisory Council to manage the school.
Carol Fixman, director of the Education Fund, said her staff alerted the four parents to make their employment known to the district.
"They assured us they had done that," Fixman said.
Two of the parents paid by the Education Fund voted for Hopkins; Jackson and one other did not. A legal analysis performed by the Education Law Center concluded there was no conflict of interest, but the district is still investigating.
Robert L. Archie Jr., chair of the School Reform Commission, became aware of the potential conflict on May 26, the day of a commission meeting. He said he didn't recall who alerted him to it, but he said a majority of commissioners agreed it was best not to vote for a resolution approving Hopkins.
The advisory council members said they decided as a group not to comment.
The 15-member council, made up of eight parents and seven community members, must be restructured, Ackerman said.
"It can't stay as it is," she said. "We'll reconstitute the council and move on."
West will remain a district-run school with the same empowerment supports it receives now still in effect next year, Ackerman said.
The school has made progress under Principal Saliyah Cruz, who's been there for three years. She will remain at West next school year, Ackerman said.
Last month, Cruz was one of 16 principals the district named as lacking state certification. But her situation has been resolved and her credentials are up to date, a spokesman said.
Of the school's 72 teachers, 19 had taken other jobs at the end of the day Thursday, the most recent figures the district could provide. But Cruz said more may sign on to stay, despite the uncertainty of knowing their positions are guaranteed for only a year.
Meanwhile, State Rep. James R. Roebuck Jr. (D., Phila.) decried the problems that have derailed West.
"I'm concerned with the process," he said. "There's been constant intervention in the process, and the result has always come out the same."
Ackerman and Archie defended the process and pointed out that it worked fine in all the other schools.
"This was the first year of the whole Renaissance process, and in 13 of the 14 schools, it went well," Ackerman said. "We had a little bump here."
Archie said the "bump" would ultimately benefit the school.
"The delay or deferral actually gives us more options for next year," Archie said.