Few would question Superintendent Arlene Ackerman's intent to have qualified minority contractors work in the Philadelphia schools ("Ackerman's promotion of diversity is admirable," Wednesday). It's how the superintendent unilaterally hired IBS that is the issue.
I also applaud the Urban League's fight "to bring parity and power for African Americans," but the only segment of our local population being disrespected and underrepresented in this most recent incident is the taxpayers of every age, disability, and color who reside, work, or have businesses in Philadelphia. They should be able to expect that the leadership of the city will spend their money wisely and well.
As an African American business owner, I support the efforts of Philadelphia School District Superintendent Arlene Ackerman to promote minority-owned businesses ("Phila. school chief is praised," Thursday).
Those who assail Ackerman and her actions are those who generally benefit from this culture of exclusion. No blue-ribbon panel, legislative-induced policies, or court intervention can change the culture that reinforces the exclusion of minorities from business opportunities within the school district. Only courageous leadership through direct action can make such a change, and Ackerman has made this evident.
Ackerman's use of black-owned businesses in a majority-black school district would be ideal given its high dropout and low graduation rates for African American males. This shows our students that working hard and staying in school does create employment opportunities by strengthening and growing minority-owned businesses. This becomes a testament that hard work does, in fact, pay off.
William R. Miller IV
Ross Associates Inc.
With an agenda as daunting as hers, why is Superintendent Arlene Ackerman embroiling herself in issues that will take time away from ensuring that schoolchildren receive the education they deserve? Her "emergency situation" explanation appears to be a convenient rationalization for overreaching her authority. Thankfully, school districts are required to employ contractors using equitable criteria that won't waste limited funds. If Ackerman feels those criteria are not correct, it is her right as a superintendent and citizen to lobby for better ones. In the meantime, our schools need a leader who is working full time on our children's most pressing educational needs.
Edwin H. Smith
It's too bad Inquirer articles don't have room for the broader context that Arlene Ackerman's school reforms are ambitious and, judging by rising test scores and improving graduation rates, successful ("Don't trust public officials? Why not?" Sunday).
Ackerman isn't perfect. She should learn from her mistakes and, like anyone, there are lines that she can cross that will lead to her departure. But if taxpayers refuse to accept the continued failure of our region's largest educational district, with its accompanying impact on the future of our workforce, then one thing must matter above all others when it comes to judging Ackerman: the children's education. In that area, it's noteworthy that Ackerman was recently named the nation's top urban educator by the Council of Great City Schools.
Losing her now would be a setback for our region, the city's children, and - whether they know it or not - statewide taxpayers who help fund Philadelphia's schools.
President & CEO
Main Line Chamber of Commerce
As someone who worked closely with Richardson Dilworth, and always admired his ultimate devotion to his adopted city of Philadelphia, I believe his spirit must be smiling somewhere at the news of the transformation of Dilworth Plaza into such a splendid urban oasis for the people of the city he loved so much ("Council advances plaza lease plan," Thursday). He would be so very proud.
J. William Jones
King of Prussia
Karen Heller's tongue-in-cheek column on the ""breakfast-gate" imbroglio involving Montgomery County Commissioners Joe Hoeffel and Jim Matthews underscores a potentially explosive issue that threatens to derail a possible Democratic takeover of the board in 2011 ("Unlikely alliance chats, chews," Wednesday). I refer to Democratic chairman Marcel Groen's suggestion that the time has come to replace the "childish" Hoeffel. This from a chairman who has yet to deliver a Democratic majority on the County Commission despite a 30,000-vote registration edge.
It is Groen who should go, not Hoeffel,who has served the county with honor and dignity as a state representative, congressman, and now commissioner.
Bernard J. Enright
It is extremely disappointing that two Montgomery County leaders of opposite parties are apparently in trouble for regularly getting together for quiet, friendly, and constructive breakfasts ("Children's hour," Friday). Wouldn't it be exciting if our leadership in Washington got into the same habit!
T. W. Costikyan