L.A. school board to vote on reappointing iPad program critic to panel

L.A. school board to vote on reappointing iPad program critic to panel
Avery Sheppard explores the possibilities with his new iPad provided by the Los Angeles Unified School District on Aug. 27, 2013. (Bob Chamerlin / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles school officials are scheduled Tuesday to vote on whether to reappoint a critic of the iPad project to a committee that oversees the spending of school construction bonds.

The Board of Education removed architect Stuart Magruder from consideration in May. Board member Tamar Galatzan had accused Magruder of improperly intruding into instructional decisions.


The Bond Oversight Committee reviews projects for which voter-approved bonds are used. L.A. Unified is  planning to provide every student, teacher and school administrator with a computer, an effort that will consume more than $1 billion — all of the technology money still available from these bonds. The district’s original choice of device was the iPad, which officials planned to distribute to all on a rapid timetable.

In response to input from critics, including Magruder, the school system has slowed down the project and also looked anew at other devices. Galatzan has been among the most ardent backers of the iPad effort.

Galatzan also criticized Magruder for allegedly insisting on architecture services as a condition for every project that he would approve.

Magruder has denied that allegation and other members of the panel defended his integrity.

The committee unanimously approved a letter to the school board objecting to Magruder's exclusion.

"Independence of the Bond Oversight Committee is vital to its proper function," the letter said. "Disagreement with the comments, questions, and votes of a duly appointed member of the BOC is not a valid justification for the Board to refuse to reappoint that member."

Also a district parent, Magruder remains the nominee of the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects, one of several groups allowed to select a member for the panel. The school board, which selects two parent members, is required to ratify the choice of each outside group. There is disagreement over whether it has the authority to reject a nominee.

At the prior board meeting, Galatzan proposed moving forward with another oversight nominee, Barry Waite, and taking no vote on Magruder, which forced Magruder off the committee.

Four of the six board members approved Waite: Galatzan, Monica Garcia, Richard Vladovic and Bennett Kayser.

Kayser said he supports Magruder but had not wanted to hold up the other nominee at the time. He is expected to back Magruder on Tuesday. In the earlier vote, Steve Zimmer opposed the nominee to protest the exclusion of Magruder. Monica Ratliff abstained.  A seventh board seat is temporarily vacant.

Magruder, 47, will need four votes. The architect said he would not attend the board meeting because he did not want to seem confrontational.

"The matter is not about me personally," Magruder said. "We thought it would be more effective if the bond oversight committee as a body speaks as well as interested members of the public."

Also Tuesday, the board will hear testimony from various groups about its budget plan for next year.

The board is scheduled to vote on a final budget next week.


Twitter: @howardblume