The Los Angeles Unified school board members were conspicuously courteous to the administration staff and to one another at last week's meeting, their first since the hullabaloo over Supt.
Last week was the first public test of whether the board could change. And the results, overall, were good.
It helped, in ways, that the meeting was devoted to the troubled plan to provide every student in
This time, led mostly by its newest member, Monica Ratliff, the board asked more penetrating questions. It was clear about its goals and about which direction to take. Poor students need access to technology, which is reshaping education and the work world. A project to equip L.A. Unified's students will go forward. But that doesn't mean it will happen as fast as the administration wants or necessarily with all the same equipment.
Interestingly, most of the grandstanding and hyperbole in the meeting was not by the board but by a defensive Deputy Supt. Jaime Aquino. At one point, referring to students who swiftly found an end-run around the iPads' inadequate security system, he downplayed and mischaracterized the problem, saying that they had merely "personalized" their tablets. Several times, he disparagingly referred to criticism of the project as "noise," until he was gently upbraided by board member Steve Zimmer, who reminded him that there were valid concerns in that noise.
Ratliff introduced a motion, which the board will consider Tuesday, to slow the rollout, sticking to the relatively small Phase 1 purchase of 45,000 iPads through this academic year while the district tries to resolve such issues as theft, breakage and security, and to study whether using a mix of equipment, not just iPads, might work better. Those are good ideas, worthy of approval.
Counterproposals are expected on Tuesday; the board should stay focused on doing this project carefully rather than quickly.