In the midst of the worst budget crisis the Philadelphia School District had ever seen, Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman was no longer speaking to her chief financial officer.
Nor was she meeting with her cabinet, according to multiple district sources.
And, as a $629 million gap loomed and the district was urging parents to lobby for more funding, internally there were warring budgets - the superintendent's and chief financial officer Michael Masch's.
The situation illustrated the chaos and breakdown in communication between Ackerman and much of her senior staff, which ultimately led to the end of her superintendency, multiple sources said.
Ackerman on Thursday continued her post-employment offensive, publicly criticizing Mayor Nutter, Masch and others, saying she was "asked to do things that were totally unconscionable."
In comments on WURD-AM (900), she encouraged parents in failing schools to "vote with their feet" and take their children out of the district. She said she would hold seminars in the next few weeks to help parents understand how to navigate the system. And she said vouchers "may be an alternative."
Ackerman also strongly denounced Masch, whom she blamed for the district's budget woes.
"This was Michael Masch's job, to keep control of the money," she said. "I was worried about the money."
She said she asked Masch - a budget secretary under Gov. Ed Rendell - to step down, and said that was perhaps the beginning of her undoing. Masch is still CFO.
But the Nutter administration contends that Ackerman had a management problem.
During her three years in Philadelphia, Ackerman went through four chiefs of staff, three chief academic officers, and three communications officers.
"She has good principles. She has good vision. She could not run that district," said a source high in the Nutter administration.
The School Reform Commission approved Ackerman's buyout for close to $1 million this week, capping a tumultuous summer of talks to end her superintendency.
Masch would not discuss Ackerman's allegations. District spokesman Fernando Gallard said the SRC and Ackerman had "a different view of facts and events."
"Our decision not to respond to statements regarding the past does not indicate that we believe those statements to be accurate or factual, however, particularly with respect to the School District's senior staff," Gallard said.
Ackerman, who spent more than 40 years as a teacher, principal, and senior administrator in public school systems, said on the radio that she was pressured by politicians and by the teachers' union to make choices that she believed were bad for the district's 155,000 students.
She also accused Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan of serving his members but not children.
Jordan would not address Ackerman's allegations.
"She got $1 million, and that's just not enough," Jordan said. "She wants to stay in the spotlight."
Ackerman has said that the mayor had asked her to put full-day kindergarten on the chopping block - that Nutter wanted to use it as a bargaining chip with city and state officials.
Asked about full-day kindergarten at a news conference Thursday, Nutter said that "the former superintendent can say whatever she wants to say. It's America. She's wrong."
Councilman Bill Green said that "I, and I think a majority of Council, always believed it was a disingenuous political gambit. Whose gambit it was, I'll let them fight it out."
Ackerman ultimately used federal Title I money to fund full-day kindergarten. She informed Nutter of her plan just an hour before she announced it to the public, according to Nutter administration members who said they had met with her the day before.
The move put Nutter on shaky political ground as he continued to advocate for additional money to help bridge the district's budget gap.
Soon after, he demanded that the district and SRC sign an "education accountability agreement" granting the city unprecedented access to district goings-on.
And by the beginning of July, the SRC and Ackerman had begun talks to get her out of the district.
The SRC considered other options, including paying her the full $1.5 million due under her contract, firing her for cause, or using special powers given to the SRC under the state takeover law to abrogate her contract.
Giving her the full payout was not an option, the Nutter administration source said. Instead, officials negotiated with Ackerman.
"We would have been in court forever any other way," the source said.
Nutter was clear that the district not spend more than $500,000 on the buyout, but talks ultimately stalled.
The unusual $905,000 deal - with $500,000 of district money and $405,000 in private, anonymous contributions funneled through a nonprofit with ties to the district - was a way out.
Nutter has acknowledged making a few calls to donors. He defended the private, anonymous donations.
"If a person wishes to make a donation to a legitimate legal entity and asks for anonymity, then I think in that situation the preference of that particular donor has to be respected," he said at his Thursday news conference.
In her interview with WURD, Ackerman called acting Superintendent Leroy Nunery II, her former deputy, "a good man. I hope that he will do the right thing. Let's see if he can withstand the pressure that will be put on him."
SRC Chairman Robert L. Archie Jr. did not return a call seeking comment. Ackerman's attorney would not make her available. Nunery also declined to comment.