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Next phase of L.A. iPad plan is back on school board's agenda

Two board members are trying to skirt a delay in efforts to provide iPads to every student, teacher and administrator in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The unusual maneuver is being pursued by board members Monica Garcia and Tamar Galatzan, who are the most enthusiastic backers of the $1-billion technology program.

Garcia and Galatzan are asking the board to waive its regular rules and take up approval of the next phase on Tuesday. They are making their proposal via a board resolution, which appeared Friday on the upcoming meeting’s agenda. Their move came two days after the iPad project was removed from the same agenda, pushing it to the January meeting.

L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy said he postponed the item at the request of board members, out of respect for Board of Education member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, who died last week. But Deasy and other members of the senior staff are nonetheless concerned about the effect of such a postponement.

The next phase of the plan calls for spending $115 million to provide iPads to students and staff at 38 schools. It also would authorize the purchase of more than 67,000 iPads to be used for standardized tests that will take place in the spring. Finally, the plan calls for establishing a test of laptop computers at seven high schools—to see if they work better for older students than iPads. The iPad rollout began in the fall with 47 schools.

Senior district administrators have contended that a vote in December would be necessary to acquire devices in time for them to be used for the state’s new form of standardized testing, which is meant to be given on computer. Time also was short to get started before the end of the year with the test of laptops.

"We were on a strict time line that has already been pushed to the edge," Galatzan said. "That’s why it was being brought back in December. Whether it’s tablets, laptops or whatever, there’s a whole bunch of steps that have to happen."

"I don’t think we serve the kids well by delaying the action for any reason," Garcia said. "I appreciate that this is a difficult time for the board, for the organization and for Ms. LaMotte's family."

But board member Steve Zimmer said it would be inappropriate to take up anything but mandatory business until after LaMotte’s funeral, which is scheduled for later in the week. He also wants to avoid contention, over such matters as iPads, in a meeting some board members regard as a tribute for LaMotte.

Board member Monica Ratliff said she also preferred to wait, but said she left the matter to the superintendent’s discretion.

Problems with the iPad rollout have resulted in delays to the project, which is being paid for with school-construction bonds. An independent committee that oversees school bond spending has asked for a a further scaleback, but its decision is not binding on the Board of Education. 

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Twitter: @howardblume | howard.blume@latimes.com

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