The death of school board member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte is being cited as the reason for delaying a vote on the next phase of the $1-billion iPad project in L.A. Unified.
By Howard Blume, LA Times | http://lat.ms/1cKbAG6
December 11, 2013, 6:37 p.m. :: Los Angeles Unified School District officials have delayed Tuesday's scheduled vote on the next phase of a $1-billion effort to provide iPads to every student, teacher and school administrator.
The vote had already been delayed a week with the cancellation of all meetings after the death Dec. 5 of board member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte. Now, the matter is tentatively pushed into January, which could create problems for the planned deployment of the devices.
In a brief email, L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy said the postponement was "out of respect" for LaMotte, at the request of board members.
Other items will be taken up at the Dec. 17 meeting, including whether to fill LaMotte's seat by appointment or through a special election.
Two board members — Tamar Galatzan and Monica Garcia — immediately objected to the change in plans regarding the iPad vote. They have been the most vocal about moving forward as quickly as possible.
"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."
Garcia noted that the board had voted 6 to 1 to move forward with a compromise iPad plan in November, pending review by the independent committee that oversees school bond spending.
The oversight committee reviewed the proposal because the project is funded with school construction bonds. The committee wanted a further scaleback of the iPad roll-out, but its decision is not binding on the Board of Education.
Garcia said she was frustrated that an earlier board decision could, in effect, be entirely thwarted by the delay.
Senior district administrators had contended that a vote in December was necessary to purchase devices in time for them to be used for new standardized tests in the spring. Time also was short to get started before the end of the year with a test of laptops at seven high schools.
"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."
The latest proposal called for spending $115 million to provide iPads to students and staff at 38 schools; 47 schools were part of an initial tablet distribution in the fall. The plan also called for purchasing more than 67,000 iPads that could be used for standardized tests.
It wasn't clear which board members requested the delay, and no other board members responded immediately to questions about the topic. Board President Richard Vladovic was especially close to LaMotte; the two had been representing L.A. Unified at a conference in San Diego when LaMotte was found unresponsive in her hotel room.
On the issue of replacing LaMotte, Garcia and Galatzan said they favored holding a special election.