Tuesday, September 09, 2014


Annie Gilbertson  | 89.3 KPCC http://bit.ly/1AwY6GG


September 9th, 2014, 6:49pm  ::  The Los Angeles Unified school board voted Tuesday to buy a Microsoft email archiving service programmed to automatically destroy staff emails after one year.

The decision comes less than three weeks after KPCC published two-year-old internal emails that raised questions about whether Superintendent John Deasy's meetings and discussions with Apple and textbook publisher Pearson influenced the school district's historic $500 million technology contract.

Under the new system, L.A. Unified will be able to deny California Public Records Act requests for emails more than one year old, according to school district general counsel David Holmquist. KPCC had obtained the emails through the public records act.

The measure passed 6-0, with new school board member George McKenna abstaining from the vote.

"The term of one year, is that an arbitrary number or is that the board’s decision, the vendor’s decision?” McKenna asked Ron Chandler, chief information officer for L.A. Unified, during Tuesday's board meeting.

Chandler pointed to a two-year-old policy bulletin mandating the district store emails for a "maximum of one year only."

"Because the District relies on public funds, it is imperative for the District to minimize its costs and, therefore, dispose of information and Records in a timely manner," according to the policy.

“I think we should keep them a little longer," board member Monica Ratliff said. However, she ultimately approved the purchase, which will cost $294,500.

Emails from 2012 obtained by KPCC show Deasy and top staffers met with Pearson executives who were pitching their k-12 software nearly a year ahead of the competitive bid. Details of Pearson's offer later resembled resembled what L.A. Unified required in it's request for proposals to provide each student and teacher a tablet.

Deasy has said the discussions concerned a pilot project that never came to be - not about committing to purchase Pearson's product.

Pearson and Apple won the contract.

Three days after KPCC published the internal emails, the school district canceled the contract and Deasy said he would open a new competitive bidding process.

The rollout of the iPad program has been plagued with problems, from unfinished software and stolen devices to insufficient wifi at most district schools. The project will ultimately cost about $1.3 billion, including $800 million in upgrades to schools' access to the internet.

The Los Angeles District Attorney's Office declined to prosecute anyone in the school district based on a probe of the iPad/Pearson purchase by the Inspector General earlier this year. That report did not include the emails. The Inspector General has since re-opened his investigation.

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