Arlene C. Ackerman, one of the nation’s highest-profile big-city schools chiefs and an unwavering advocate for equity in public schooling, died Feb. 2 in Albuquerque, N.M. She was 66.
Ms. Ackerman, who most recently served as the schools chief in Philadelphia, died from pancreatic cancer a few months after being diagnosed, according to media reports. She had also served stints as superintendent in San Francisco and the District of Columbia.
Known for her decisive leadership style, Ms. Ackerman faced some of the most vexing issues in public schooling. In San Francisco, she undertook a strategy to raise achievement by funneling more money and the best teachers into the city’s lowest-performing schools, an agenda she also followed in Philadelphia. Ms. Ackerman, who clashed with the San Francisco school board, was criticized for not collaborating more with parents and the teachers’ union.
Her most recent superintendency, in Philadelphia, ended bitterly in 2011, when the city’s appointed school board asked her to resign and bought out her five-year contract for $905,000, with more than half paid by the district and the balance by private funders. In 2010, Ms. Ackerman won the Council of the Great City Schools’ highest honor for urban superintendents.
A version of this article appeared in the February 20, 2013 edition of Education Week as Veteran Superintendent Dies