L.A. school board to review $1-billion iPad project
The Los Angeles Board of Education has scheduled a special Oct. 29 meeting to review efforts to provide iPads to every student and teacher in the nation’s second-largest school system.
The meeting was proposed by board member Monica Ratliff, who chairs a district committee that is overseeing technology in L.A. Unified, including major elements of the $1-billion iPad project.
The next phase of the iPad project “will cost a quarter of a billion dollars or more,” Ratliff told The Times. “Clearly, the board and the district should have answers to the many questions that have arisen.”
The iPad rollout — at about two dozen schools so far — has encountered some high-profile problems, including a security breach that involved more than 300 students who deleted a security filter so they could reach unauthorized websites. That episode resulted in students relinquishing iPads at three high schools. The security breach occurred when students took their devices off campus; as a result, L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy directed all schools to keep the iPads on campus until further notice.
There’s also confusion over responsibility forms that parents were asked to sign, according to some parents, students and teachers.
“The policy related to those questions should be in writing and available to the public,” Ratliff said.
In an interview, Deasy said there should be no confusion over this matter. If an accident or theft results in the loss or damage of an iPad, the family will bear no responsibility, he said. If the harm is caused by willful negligence or worse, the district would seek redress for the cost. Apple Inc., the manufacturer, will repair or replace devices up to 5% of the value of the contract.
Late last week, apparent confusion also emerged over the need for mechanical keyboards. Senior officials have asserted in public meetings that keyboards aren’t required when using iPads for new state standardized exams. The test makers, a consortium called Smarter Balanced, insisted otherwise in interviews with The Times.
The board approved the special meeting by a 5-2 vote.
Board member Bennett Kayser said he would like the discussion to include software installed on the iPads. He said he has questions about the quality of the curriculum and the choice of Pearson Education Inc. to provide it.
Steve Zimmer also voted in favor of the meeting while insisting he still has confidence in the team handling the project.
Monica Garcia and Tamar Galatzan cast the no votes.
In an interview, Galatzan said many old issues have resurfaced without justification. They were handled thoughtfully and thoroughly by senior staff over the last year, largely before Ratliff joined the board in July, she said.
Galatzan added that she didn’t want board discussions driven by negative and often inaccurate media coverage of the project.
She said the rollout has been stellar, for example, at the Valley Academy of Arts and Sciences in Granada Hills.
Students and staff there “are loving the iPads and the curriculum around it,” Galatzan said. “We work with them to troubleshoot when issues come up, and we’ll continue to do that.”
Having the meeting Oct. 29 will mean pushing back a Board of Education retreat, which was intended to smooth out relationships and set budget priorities for the fractious seven-member body.
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