By Howard Blume. LA Times | http://lat.ms/172GSBr
October 2, 2013, 5:53 p.m. :: 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. She told colleagues at Tuesday's school board meeting that a special session was needed to sort out issues and problems that have arisen in the $1-billion project.
L.A. school board member Monica Ratliff called for a special meeting about the district's $1-billion iPad project. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times / July 2, 2013)>>
Having the meeting on Oct. 29 will mean pushing back a board retreat, which was intended to smooth out relationships and set budget priorities among members of the seven-member body
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, so L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy directed that students are to use iPads only at school until further notice.
There's also confusion over responsibility forms parents were asked to sign. In an interview Tuesday, Deasy said there should be no confusion over this matter. If an accident or theft results in the loss or damage of an iPad, then the family will bear no responsibility, he said. If the harm is caused by willful negligence or worse, then the district would seek redress for the cost. Apple, the manufacturer, will repair or replace devices up to five percent of the value of the contract.
The board approved the special meeting by a vote of 5 to 2.
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 the Pearson corporation to provide it.
Steve Zimmer also voted in favor of the meeting, while insisting he still has confidence in the team handling the project.
The no votes were cast by Monica Garcia and Tamar Galatzan.
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. Galatzan added that she didn't want board discussion 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.”