Some numbers hit the public with the impact of, well, an earthquake.

Like this one: $905,000. That's nine hundred and five thousand dollars. A 9, followed by five digits.

That's how much Philadelphia's ex-Superintendent Arlene Ackerman will be paid to take her Sade imitation to some other city, and leave our public schools alone.

A cool half million of that is taxpayer money. The rest comes from a still secret circle of donors who apparently thought much civic good would flow from putting that "ex-" in front of Ackerman's title. They were willing to pony up just to see her ride out of town.

The buyout figure—which amounts to roughly 43 times the average per capita income in Philadelphia—leads to an obvious question: What could that money have bought for the school children of Philadelphia and the people who are going to stick around to do the hard work of teaching them?

Particularly in a deficit-riddled school system that this year laid off 2,418 people, half of them teachers, and accepted another 1,200 early retirements.

Well, Ackerman's platinum parachute could pay the salary and benefits of at least 12 teachers (based on the average district salary).

Since "it's all about the kids," here are some other things you could have bought with that $905,000 to help Philly school kids.

  • Round trips to school via SEPTA—291,935 of them.
  • Or 853 13-inch MacBook Pro laptops, sales tax included.
  • Or, if you persuaded, say, Steve Jobs, say, to donate the laptops, you could create a new generation of digital artists, by equipping them all with, say, Corel Painter 12 software.
  • Or 4,738 Cremona student violins for music class, sales tax included.
  • Or 2,207 field trips for classes of 30 to the National Constitution Center on Independence Mall—lunch, bus ride and bus parking included. 
  • Or installed 1,181 Panasonic Elite Electronic Whiteboards, those interactive digital boards, at the front of the classrooms to bring the Internet to kids' fingertips. (Yes, sales tax included.)
  • Or, if you want to rock it more old school, you could buy a whole lot of No. 2 hexagonal, unsharpened pencils—for all that standardized test-taking today's students must survive. How many pencils exactly? 7,240,000.
  • Print textbooks now are old school, too, but those of you prone to nostalgia about the way school ought to be, know that with that buyout boodle you could order 8,457 copies of McGraw-Hill's handsomely illustrated Glencoe World History text.

And you'd still have money left over to buy Ackerman's successor this other title from McGraw-Hill's bookshelf: Leadership Essentials—Myths and Realities.

Wonder if there's already a chapter on the Philadelphia schools in there.

 


Your thoughts: What would you do with $905,000? What do you think Ackerman should do with the money? Tell us in the comments below.