L.A. Unified has already purchased 75,000 iPads, half with Pearson software. Here, second graders at Baldwin Hills Elementary swipe through their iPads for the first time and call out the apps they see. Maya Sugarman/KPCC
August 29, 05:00 AM :: Los Angeles Unified officials who evaluated bids for its massive technology project received iPads from Pearson, met with a Pearson software executive and attended a weekend sales pitch for that software — all ahead of the public bid process, documents show.
The revelation is important because Superintendent John Deasy has repeatedly said the bid process was not affected by early conversations on the software — which he asserts were limited to a small pilot project.
According to travel reports received through a public records act request, Susan Tandberg and Gerardo Loera, top administrators in the district's office of curriculum and instruction, attended a Pearson conference at a Palm Desert resort in July 2012 where all attendees were given iPads loaded with Pearson's learning software.
A third office of curriculum and instruction staffer, Carol Askin, also attended the conference and would have received an iPad, records show.
Both Tandberg and Askin later sat on committees that directly reviewed bids for the $500 million one-to-one technology contract. Loera served as a "technical advisor" to those evaluation committees.
In addition, Tandberg, Loera and their boss, Jaime Aquino, agreed to met with Sherry King, vice president of Pearson's iPad software initiative, in October 2012, according to internal emails.
King also suggested the L.A. Unified team meet with her twice more in November, "to start some planning," the emails show.
Tandberg, Loera and Askin issued a joint statement through district's office of communication, saying their attendance at the conference "in no way influenced [their] decision" in evaluating bids.
"In our profession, we talk to numerous education companies and vendors every day," the statement said.
L.A. Unified Superintendent John Deasy canceled the iPad/Pearson contract on Monday after KPCC published emails showing he and other L.A. Unified officials had meetings and conversations with Pearson and Apple executives starting a year before the contract was awarded.
California's Fair Political Practices Commission bars gifts from a single source exceeding $440 in a year. L.A. Unified purchasing policy also prohibits companies from making gifts of that size.
Apple's suggested retail for new iPads at the time was $500-$700, depending on storage capacity. Pearson quoted L.A. Unified $50 per year per device for its software, which is still in development.
Loera did not declare the iPad on the school district's mandatory gift disclosure forms. Tandberg declared $500, what she estimated Pearson covered of her food and lodging, but also did not disclose the iPad.
Testifying in public hearings before a school board committee in the 2013-14 school year, Loera explained that because the district paid for a portion of the conference, he did not consider the devices a gift. Other district officials testified the devices became district property, not personal gifts.
Tandberg approved a $50,000 payment to Pearson for 50 L.A. Unified employees - including her - to attend the July 2012 Pearson conference, documents show. Pearson's foundation subsidized the rest of the expenses.
Deasy has declined to comment to KPCC since last week, but has pointed out to other media that he was not on the bid selection committees nor did he participate in creating the bid requirements.
School district officials appointed 40 staff members to review the 19 proposals received by the district in March 2013, records show.
KPCC has found inconsistencies in how district staff scored Pearson's competition for the software. Some products either weren't scored at all or score sheets were lost. At least two popular, gamed-based programs were discarded as “digital textbooks," causing their scores to plummet.
"A number of questions were asked regarding potential conflicts and gifts involving Apple-Pearson and LAUSD decision-makers," board member Monica Ratliff wrote in a report released Tuesday, the culmination of her work leading a committee looking into the project throughout the 2013-14 school year.
As for the meetings, Pearson officials on Monday said they agreed with Deasy's statements to other media that the early communications between the company and L.A. Unified officials related only to planning an eight-classroom pilot program.
However, emails show L.A. Unified officials discussing training 2,000 teachers on the Pearson software and Pearson offered to hire four, full-time staff members to help train teachers – an extraordinary expense an eight-classroom pilot.
- Did LAUSD pay the conference attendees to attend, or only pay for their attendance? Were they reimbursed for their mileage? Were they volunteers …or voluntold?
- Because the district paid for a portion of the conference, Leora did not consider the devices a gift, It isn’t like the attendees paid for the other portion of the conference - wouldn’t that make them district property?
- It is clear that the attendees paid for no portion of conference, accommodations or meals. The tab was picked up by LAUSD & Pearson. Did Pearson pay Apple for the iPads?
- Were these iPads included in the inventory of electronic devices accounted and unaccounted for in the IG audit reported this week?
- And unreported above: Superintendent Deasy attended and made a presentation to the Pearson conference at a Palm Desert resort in July 2012
Pearson 4-Day Bringing Common Core to the Classroom Training, July 16-20, 2012, Palm Desert, CA.
in July of 2012 Pearson hosted a training for approximately 300 people from various schools and districts around the country. It was referred to as the Pearson 4-Day Bringing Common Core to the Classroom Training. They paid for 5 days and 4 nights of accommodations, hotel and food and you left with a free IPad.
About 50 teachers from LAUSD attended as well as Jaime Aquino and Dr. Deasy who spoke at one of the sessions. UTLA President Warren Fletcher insisted that some of the teachers selected for the trip be of his choosing, Dr. Aquino said the training was full, so Warren paid for 3 teachers to attend on UTLA’s dime.
Day One: Plenary session: Judy Codding, Managing Director, CCSoC; Marjorie Scardino, CEO Pearson plc.
Day Two: Plenary session: Vicki Phillips, Director of Education, College Ready, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Day Three: Note: This day was split into subject area for the morning, and into grade-level subject blocks in the afternoon.
- Plenary Session: Dr. Deasy.
- Session C: ELA
- Session D: 9-12 ELA
- Presentation: Projects and Out-of-School Learning:Kathleen Cushman. Independent Write and Co-Founder of What Kids Can Do; Stephanie Norby, Director of Education, Smithsonian Institute.
Day Four: Plenary Session: Cyndie Schmeiser, Former President, Education Division, ACT.
Session E: John Twing, Pearson Assessment and Information
Session F: 9-12 ELA Personalization and Projects
Session F: Mathematics
Plenary Session: Polling and Student Voice: Russell Quaglia, The Quaglia Institute for Student Aspirations.
Day Five: This short day included an additional presentation and focus groups where Pearson staff attempted to elicit responses from the attendees.
NOTE: THE FOLLOWING IS FROM A POSTING ON THE STAMFORD, CT. SCHOOL DISTRICT WEBSITE AND REFERS TO WHAT IS APPARENTLY THE SAME CONFERENCE:
The Pearson Foundation is offering a three-day (sic) professional development opportunity entitled Bring Common Core to the Classroom , July 16-20, 2012 in Palm Desert, California. From this professional development, the Pearson Institute will establish a national network of classroom educators who will help courses and a dynamic library of resources to meet the demands of the CCSS in Literacy and Mathematics.
Teachers who attend this training will be engaged in small group seminars on the CCSS and instructional strategies designed for student success. Teachers will also have the opportunity to review digital resources and provide feedback and suggestions. .
Teachers who attend will receive:
- Four days of professional development
- Housing for four nights,
- All meals for Monday night through Friday morning
- Airline transportation and transfer to the hotel
- Paid registration fee
- Use of a district iPad (given to the district from the Pearson Foundation)
●● The Stamford schools figured out who the iPads belonged to!