Wednesday, October 23, 2013


By Barbara Jones, Los Angeles Daily News  |

In this Aug. 27, 2013 file photo, a student at Cimarron Elementary School in Hawthorne drew a bucket to fill with ideas on an LAUSD-issued iPad. (Photo by Brad Graverson/Torrance Daily Breeze)

10/22/13, 7:45 PM PDT  ::  New questions arose Tuesday about Los Angeles Unified’s iPad project, including concerns about ownership of instructional software and new budget estimates showing the district would have to buy 600,000 tablets in order to get a promised high-volume discount.

During a meeting of the school board’s Budget and Facilities Committee, officials homed in on long-range costs of equipping every student and teacher with a state-of-the-art tablet computer. District staff members deflected many of the questions, vowing to provide answers, along with a five-year plan, during an Oct. 29 board meeting scheduled to specifically debate the iPad issue.

“You’re going to see everything you wanted to see and then some,” said Daphne Congdon, director of Information Technology, Finance and Administration.

“I’m going to hold you to that,” said panelist Stephen English, who also chairs the district’s Bond Oversight Committee.

Congdon and other officials took the Budget Committee through updated figures for the first phase of the technology project, which involves buying about 30,000 iPads for 47 schools using revenue from voter-approved construction bonds.

Officials have said the district is paying $678 for each iPad, which includes a heavy-duty carrying case and an instructional software package being developed by Pearson Education Inc. But on Tuesday, they said that is the price tag after a discount that would be applied retroactively if the district proceeds with a plan to buy upwards of 600,000 devices.

Otherwise, Congdon said, the iPads would cost $770 each, including taxes and an e-waste recycling fee.

Based on that figure, Congdon estimated the cost of iPads for Phase 1 at nearly $25 million, compared with $20 million under the initial budget. The district budgeted another $25 million for computer carts, security programs, staffing, infrastructure and other system costs.

There’s no allocation in the $50 million Phase 1 budget for computer keypads. Congdon said that expense will be included in the long-range plan — a decision made after keypad bids for the first phase came in higher than officials were willing to pay.

Officials also had questions about the three-year license for Pearson software that comes preloaded on the iPads, and whether the lessons would simply “disappear” from the tablets when the contract expires.

Facilities Division chief Mark Hovatter explained after the meeting that the district would own all the content on the iPad for the life of the tablet — officials hope that will be five years, or more. However, Pearson would provide upgrades or updated content only while the license is active. After three years, the deal would have to be renegotiated or a new vendor found.

Committee members grilled staffers on wide variety of issues, including progress in installing wireless technology in more than 1,000 campuses. More than 200 schools are in the process of being upgraded, while funding for improvements at 300 other schools hasn’t yet been approved.

Questions about the procurement process that led to the Apple contract continued during an evening meeting of the Common Core Techology Committee.

Officials have said the district would buy iPads for the remainder of the project unless there are significant problems.

The district has had to deal with a security breach that allowed about 300 high school students to use their iPads to access Facebook and other unauthorized websites. Some schools temporarily suspended use of the tablets until they can work out the logistics of storing the iPads.

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