Wednesday, January 15, 2014


Boardmembers Galatzan and Zimmer work out an amendment “…to just leave it up to the superintendent”.

L.A. school board moves forward with computer effort

The board votes to distribute iPads to 38 more campuses, start purchasing laptops for seven high schools and buy as many tablets as needed for state testing.

By Howard Blume | LA Times |

9:42 PM PST, January 14, 2014  ::  Continuing its efforts to provide every student with a computer, the Los Angeles Board of Education on Tuesday agreed to distribute iPads to 38 more campuses, begin the process of purchasing laptops for seven high schools and buy as many tablets as needed for new state tests in the spring.

In doing so, the board adopted the proposal of schools Supt. John Deasy rather than following the advice of an oversight panel that had recommended purchasing thousands fewer of the devices.

The goal of the $1-billion effort is to provide a computer to every student, teacher and administrator in the nation's second-largest school system.

Board members approved a $115-million proposal that removed entirely a cap on how many iPads the district could buy for standardized testing scheduled for the spring. But they insist the number will be well below the 67,500 tablets the district staff had recommended.

The iPads used for testing will be shared by different classes during the six weeks of testing.

The oversight committee, relying on a district analysis, had recommended purchasing about 38,500 tablets for testing.

Senior L.A. Unified officials, however, decided that schools should have more tablets in the event of unexpected problems.

A majority of the oversight panel decided there was no justification for the 30,000 additional tablets. Even the lower figure, 38,500, was likely to be much larger than needed, according to a review by a consultant for the oversight committee.

In addition, the district estimate didn't take into account computer equipment that schools already possess. L.A. Unified only recently began to tabulate such assets and doesn't yet have the results.

The board should move fast because delivering the new iPads could take as long as seven weeks, Deasy said.

Critics have accused officials of trying to buy as many iPads as quickly as possible to make it difficult to stop the effort.

L.A. Unified is paying $768 per iPad, one of the highest prices among school districts because it selected a relatively expensive device and included curriculum in the cost. The plan, which includes network upgrades at schools, is expected to consume all the technology funds available through voter-approved school-construction bonds.

Board member Monica Garcia said moving quickly was an educational imperative.

"The whole point of this program is to revolutionize instruction," Garcia said. Low-income students don't get access "to what is a part of all our worlds today.... I don't understand how cutting back what's good is good for kids."

The proposal, approved unanimously, expands the iPad effort, which began in the fall at 47 schools. The laptop trial at high schools was launched out of concerns by board members that iPads might be the wrong device for older students.

Start-up problems delayed the iPad rollout and officials eventually slowed it down further.

In other developments, Deasy announced that Apple Inc., the maker of the iPad, had agreed to provide the latest tablets at no additional charge. Until now, the district has been locked into paying top dollar for a discontinued model.

Officials had defended that situation by saying it was better for all students to have the same device.

L.A. Unified also is negotiating to pay $200 to $300 per device less for the iPads used only for testing, said Mark Hovatter, the district's head of facilities.

The discount would lower the price per iPad to a total more in line with what some school districts are paying. The tablets, however, would not include curriculum developed by Pearson. Also not included in the testing package would be three days of training from Apple and Pearson and an Apple TV box that is provided to every classroom under the full contract, Hovatter said.

The curriculum is being excluded because the license to use it lasts only three years, said Scott Folsom, a member of the oversight committee, which reviews school bond spending.

In other action, the board agreed to allow member Steve Zimmer to develop a plan for an appointed caretaker in District 1. That seat was held by former member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, who died in December. A special election to replace her is scheduled for June.

LA Unified board OKs more iPads, caretaker for vacancy

by Vanessa Romo, LA School Report |

Posted on January 14, 2014   ::  The LA Unified School Board made two major decisions today that will go a long way toward shaping the months ahead.

The six members green-lighted Phase 2 of the iPad plan, ensuring enough tablets for standardized testing in the Spring, and they approved the appointment of a non-voting representative to serve District 1 until later in the year.

In a unanimous vote on the iPads, the board put into action essentially the same plan that was before them two ago. This next phase will bring the tablets to 38 new campuses, provide high school students at seven schools with a laptop, acquire keyboards for Phase 1 and 2 schools and equip all schools with enough iPads for all students to take the Smarter Balanced field test in the spring. The cost is estimated to be $115 million.

The decision went against the advice of the Bond Oversight Committee, which recommended that the board limit the number of devices it procures through the end of the year.

“I suggest we be very careful about buying more than we need,” , chair of the BOC, cautioned the board.

A study by the oversight committee had determined the district would need 38,535 tablets to implement the standardized test, not 67,500 as the district had sought.

English explained this was due to a change by the state to shorten the test by half.

“The difference between buying 37,000 and 67,000 in interest alone for one year is half a million dollars,” he said.

But in approving the measure the board eliminated language specifying a cap. Instead, as board member Tamar Galatzan said, “We are taking out the conclusion of how many we are buying and are asking the staff to be as diligent as possible to purchase the fewest number of devices it can to ensure students will succeed.”

One bright spot in the iPad discussion — and over which there was no debate — came from Superintendent John Deasy. After numerous efforts to improve the contract with Apple, he got assurances from the company that no matter when the district buys the iPads, Apple will sell it the latest version.

The vote to find a caretaker for the District 1 seat left vacant by the death of Marguerite LaMotte came with high drama.

In their initial vote, the members deadlocked at 3-3, effectively killing a plan from Steve Zimmer that would create a committee to define the job description, set an application process and identify one or more candidates to be appointed to the position.

But minutes later, Bennett Kayser, who had voted against it, interrupted a discussion that had begun on something else to say he was changing his mind. That made for a 4-2 vote to get a non-voting person into the seat by March 4, a date beyond the filing deadline for the June 3 primary election for a permanent – and voting – interim.

Zimmer, who was appointed chairman of the new committee, said the March date was selected to take politics out of the caretaker selection process.

The winner of the primary – or an Aug. 12 runoff if it’s necessary – will serve out LaMotte’s term, which ends June 30, 2015.

The most contentious part of the debate leading to the first vote focused on whether the caretaker would have the same voting rights as the other six members.

Board President Richard Vladovic made it clear that the person named would not. He said the district had received six legal opinions, including one from the district’s own legal counsel, “and they all say the same thing,” that a temporary, non-elected person sitting in a board chair is legally barred from voting.

“There’s no ambiguity from any of the legal opinions we’ve received,” he said.

Perhaps ironically, Kayser was part of a commission years ago that wrote the LA City Charter that set the rules deny caretaker appointments a vote once a special election to fill a vacancy has been scheduled.

In the first vote, he joined Monica Garcia and Monica Ratliff in opposing the measure, with Vladovic, Galatzan and Zimmer, voting in favor. He changed his position, he said, to give District 1 constituents at least a symbolic presence on the board.

“It seems to me,” he said, suggesting the Charter is ill-serving the school district, “this is a perfect example of why we should have an appointed representative take the seat.”

LA school board green lights up to 100,000 more iPads

Annie Gilbertson | Pass / Fail | 89.3 KPCC

January 14th, 2014, 8:13pm  ::  The Los Angeles Unified School Board voted Tuesday to allow Superintendent John Deasy to decide how many iPads to purchase for students to take new digital state tests. The board also affirmed a decision to run a laptop pilot of 19,300 and buy 28,000 more iPads loaded with Pearson learning software.

Deasy said giving students access to technology was "a civil rights issue" in addition to being vital to spring testing.

The district estimates the deal will cost  about $127 million dollars.

The decision marks a rare occurrence -  the board went against recommendations of the Bond Oversight Committee, tasked with monitoring spending of school construction bond funds.

Stephen English chairs the committee and asked the board to move forward more modestly until the district had time to gather more information such as how many computers are already on campuses and how the iPad pilot of 30,000 devices was panning out.

“The district will learn a lot of lessons of how it works in the field, and get a better idea of how many they need,” English said, adding the fact that the district has been unable to keep inventory of its current computers should give the board pause.

“The loss ratio could be substantial," he said.

Despite the concerns, the resolution passed unanimously. Though it did so only after hours of deliberation.

The school board could not agree on how many iPads are needed.

Deasy requested 67,500 iPads for testing, but district documents show the estimate of need - which does not account for current computer inventory - is closer to 38,500 this year. 

Deasy said that's because students are only taking half of the exams this year, and they will need the full 67,500 in 2015.

Board member Steven Zimmer argued to go with the smaller estimate, saying it would be better to wait for inventory numbers to come in and adjust if the board undershot.

“If the survey comes back that we need to augment or add I’ll be urging my colleagues to not delay,” Zimmer said.

Board member Monica Garcia said the wait-and-see approach could add obstacles come testing time if not enough iPads got to schools.

“We have slowed down the process and we continue to make it smaller and smaller even though we all say we are committed to make it happening," Garcia said.

Board member Tamar Galatzan and Steve Zimmer worked out an amendment to just leave it up to the superintendent.


LAUSD moves forward with second phase of iPad rollout

By Dakota Smith, Los Angeles Daily News |

1/14/14, 8:37 PM PST | Updated 5AM 1/15/2014  ::  Amid scrutiny over Los Angeles Unified School District’s $1 billion iPad program, board members moved Tuesday to put more devices into the hands of thousands of students.

The board voted to approve the second phase of its iPad program, allowing 38 campuses to receive tablets. Supporters said that was needed so students can take required tests on the devices this spring.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the six board members disagreed on how many tablets to purchase, and ultimately voted to buy as many devices as needed for students to test on.

That number wasn’t defined by board members, leaving the final cost of this rollout uncertain.

The iPad program has drawn heat amid reports of the costs of the program, and concerns about security after students bypassed restriction measures on the tablets. The selection of Upper Saddle River, New Jersey-based Pearson Education Inc. to provide the instructional software has also been criticized.

But in a move that apparently helped sway the board, Superintendent John Deasy told members that he’d secured a deal with Apple to buy the tablets at the same price the district purchased its original devices. The school board paid about $768 per tablet in the first phase.

Deasy backed the purchase of up to 67,500 tablets at Tuesday’s meeting, so students could use the devices through next year.

But that figure drew concern from Stephen English, who chairs the committee that reviews plans for using construction bond revenue, and who suggested capping the number at around 38,000 tablets.

“The losses on that could be substantial ... it impacts the integrity of the entire program,” English told the board members, urging them to buy a lower number.

Board members Steve Zimmer and Monica Ratliff also questioned purchasing 67,000 tablets, leading the board to agree to only limit the number of tablets to those needed to test on this spring.

The district’s long-range plan is to give all 600,000 students computer tablets.

The board also voted at Tuesday’s meeting to appoint a nonvoting, interim representative for District 1.

Board member and District 1 member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte died in December, leaving the seat vacant until a June special election. It’s expected the representative will be chosen in March.

The board was originally slated to discuss the second phase of the rollout late last year, but delayed the vote after LaMotte’s death.

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