BOOKS ARE valuable resources that foster learning. Textbooks in particular are instrumental in guiding the academic progress of students in our schools. Therefore, making sure that all our students have access to textbooks in their classrooms is an incredibly important priority.

As the new superintendent, one of my top concerns in June was to ensure that all our schools had enough core-subject textbooks for student use at the beginning of the new school year. Even though the district spent an estimated $30 million this year, and another $94 million since 2005 on the purchase of textbooks for all students, the fact that some of our students still do not have access to texts is totally unacceptable. The district must become better financial stewards of the public funds.

To that end, there will be districtwide accountability systems in place for textbooks that hold everyone responsible for the proper use and return of these instructional resources annually. We will:

* Assess all schools to determine the individual book needs in each classroom and place new book orders where appropriate immediately.

* Implement a new automated tracking system next spring that tracks textbook orders from the district office to individual classrooms.

* Enforce district policy that holds students and parents accountable for lost or damaged textbooks.

* Hold building administrators accountable for ensuring that books are available for each student at the start of each school year and collected at the end of the school year.

Teachers and students with textbook issues should first contact their principals and then their regional school district offices if further action is required. Additionally, I may be reached through the superintendent's parent ombudsman at 215-400-6161 or my e-mail address:

I pledge to the Philadelphia community that the perennial issue of inadequate access to textbooks will become a problem of the past. Thank you for your cooperation and support. *

Arlene C. Ackerman is superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia.