Sunday, August 31, 2014


LA Daily News Editorial |

●●: This slipped through the 4LAKids cracks two weeks ago. It is no less timely.

8/15/14, 2:44 PM PDT   ::  Of the many battlefields where the half-century-old War on Poverty has been fought, there may be none so important — or difficult to conquer — as our public classrooms.

Here in Southern California, the connection between education and poverty is clear: More than 25 percent of the region’s workers without a high school diploma live in poverty, according to U.S. Census data, and the total number of those living in poverty jumped from 1.9 million in 1990 to 3.2 million in 2012.

This troubling trend has been brought sharply into focus by the Southern California Association of Governments, which reports that the poverty rate has increased three times as fast the population has grown in the six-county region it serves.

Business owners looking to prosper, association officials say, must join the fight to end poverty.

Why? Because poor communities translate into poor business growth opportunities.

Everyone knows regulations and taxes in California stifle the abilities of some businesses to grow. But an unskilled labor force is equally as damaging to the state’s sluggish economic recovery, SCAG officials have found.

That’s why the association plans to mark the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s declaration of an “unconditional war on poverty in America” with a gathering Wednesday of business, civic, educational and nonprofit leaders in the hopes they will begin a regional discussion about their role in the fight.

Federal subsidy programs have lifted millions of families over the poverty line, SCAG officials say, but discussions about how these and other families will truly prosper always return to education.

In meetings throughout Southern California, SCAG leaders have been talking up the role business leaders play in ensuring that K-12 schools, community colleges and universities are training students for the right kinds of jobs, especially in high-tech industries.

In partnering with schools, business leaders can be a formidable foe against union interests and other forces that threaten the educational system’s ability to quickly adapt to the needs of emerging industries.

Business leaders must ask, are students learning the kinds of skills employers want and need? Are the students engaged and do they understand the relevance of their studies to future job opportunities? If not, what can business and civic leaders do to help? Partnerships like the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce’s financial literacy program for sixth-graders, for example, are a practical way to influence the labor market.

Wednesday’s summit is first step toward creating these kinds of coalitions. For their own good, business owners must take more than a passing interest in their local schools.

EARLY CHILDHOOD ED GETS FUNDING BOOST: LAUSD will restore funding for thousands of early childhood education student slots that had been cut + smf’s 2¢

By Sara Hayden, LA Times |

Aug 30, 2014  ::  The Los Angeles Unified Board of Education passed a resolution Tuesday to increase funding by millions of dollars for the district's early education program.

The resolution, which passed in a 6-1 vote, is intended to eventually restore funding over the next few years for thousands of slots for children in early childhood education programs that have been slashed since 2007-08 as a result of the recession.

“We were hoping the state or federal government would step up, but we can’t wait any longer, so we decided to invest ourselves,” said Juan de la Cruz, deputy chief of staff for board member Bennett Kayser.

Los Angeles Unified's early childhood education programs will receive up to $4.9 million in 2014-15, according to De la Cruz. An additional $14 million will be added in 2015-16 and another $20 million will be added in 2016-17. Funding is expected to come from a mix of state, federal and local sources.

It’s “an investment that will help ensure more children are prepared for success in the classroom and in life,” said a statement from Kim Belshe, executive director of First 5 LA, which advocates for educational opportunities for children 5and under.

Much of the money will be dedicated to professional development, preschool, parent engagement and physical and mental health initiatives. It will support programs that serve low-income children, English learners and foster youth, whose reading levels and vocabulary often lag behind those of their peers.

“We want to target areas where there’s a need,” De la Cruz said.

California ranks 34th in per-pupil spending, according to the most recent data available from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Kim Pattillo Brownson, director of educational equity for the Advancement Project, a civil rights organization, said the resolution represents one of the largest California school district investments in early childhood education in the last decade.

The amount is more than twice that of the much smaller Fresno Unified School District, which had the next-largest allocation and could restore by 2016 nearly 2,000 slots that were cut.

"Although it doesn't bring us back to 2008 levels, it certainly puts us on the path," she said.

●● smf's 2¢:

  • Restoring previous cuts is is a good thing, but it is not a “funding boost!’
  • Given the current regime’s fecklessness, a board resolution doesn’t represent a budget increase – it just asks for one,  Both the Board of Ed and the superintendent could use a massive transfusion of feck.  (It’s a Scots word, I’m. a Scot. I don’t have to explain it!)

Saturday, August 30, 2014


By The Associated Press, from the LA Daily News |

8/29/14, 10:31 PM PDT | Updated: 8/29/2014 8:25 am :: LOS ANGELES  ::  California Gov. Jerry Brown late Friday appealed a court ruling that struck down tenure and other job protections for the state’s teachers.

Attorney General Kamala Harris filed the appeal in a Los Angeles County court on behalf of the governor and the state.

The move came a day after Superior Court Judge Rulf Treu finalized his June ruling that found five laws violated the California Constitution by depriving some of the state’s 6.2 million students of a quality education. He’d earlier said the system “shocks the conscience.”

The governor’s one-page notice of appeal said that under the state’s constitution “the important issues presented in this case — if they are to have statewide legal impact — must be reviewed by a higher court, either the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court of California.”

It says that for reasons that are “unclear and unexplained” actual school districts were dismissed as parties to the lawsuit before trial, meaning the court’s decision “applies only to parties that have no role or duties under the challenged lawsuits.”

It also criticizes Treu for failing to provide details on the legal basis for his reasoning, and simply making his tentative decision final instead of elaborating and expanding on in the ruling that was affirmed Thursday.

California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson had asked the attorney general for the appeal earlier Friday because he lacked the legal authority.

Torlakson was among those named in a lawsuit brought by nine students that argued California’s hiring-and-firing rules for teachers saddled schools — especially those in poor and minority neighborhoods — with bad teachers who effectively couldn’t be fired.

The judge has declined to tell the state Legislature exactly how to change the system, but he has expressed confidence it will do so in a way that passes constitutional muster.

However, Torlakson said in a statement Friday that the ruling isn’t supported by facts or law and is too vague to guide state lawmakers in making alterations.

The trial represented the latest battle in a nationwide movement to toughen the standards for granting teachers permanent employment protection and seniority-based preferences during layoffs. Dozens of states have moved in recent years to get rid of such protections or raise the standards for obtaining them.

The powerful teachers’ union in California and unions elsewhere have fought to keep the rules, arguing that they protect academic freedom and help attract teachers to a tough and badly paid profession.

Torkalson, who has union backing as he seeks reelection this fall, said teachers were being blamed unfairly for failings in the educational system.

“We do not fault doctors when the emergency room is full. We do not criticize the firefighter whose supply of water runs dry. Yet while we crowd our classrooms and fail to properly equip them with adequate resources, those who filed and support this case shamelessly seek to blame teachers who step forward every day to make a difference for our children,” Torkalson’s statement said.

A challenger to Torlakson’s re-election, Marshall Tuck, said Torlakson’s appeal effort shows that he is standing “with his Sacramento funders and not with students.”

by email to 4LAKids


Tom Torlakson for State Superintendent of Public Instruction 2014

Aug 29, 2014


Earlier today I issued a statement regarding my decision to seek appellate review of the Vergara case, which has drawn considerable public attention in recent weeks.

Here is the complete text of my public statement:

"The people who dedicate their lives to the teaching profession deserve our admiration and support. Instead, this ruling lays the failings of our education system at their feet.

"We do not fault doctors when the emergency room is full. We do not criticize the firefighter whose supply of water runs dry. Yet while we crowd our classrooms and fail to properly equip them with adequate resources, those who filed and support this case shamelessly seek to blame teachers who step forward every day to make a difference for our children.

"No teacher is perfect. A very few are not worthy of the job. School districts have always had the power to dismiss those who do not measure up, and this year I helped pass a new law that streamlined the dismissal process, while protecting the rights of both teachers and students. It is disappointing that the Court refused to even consider this important reform.

"In a cruel irony, this final ruling comes as many California teachers spend countless unpaid hours preparing to start the new school year in hopes of better serving the very students this case purportedly seeks to help.

"While the statutes in this case are not under my jurisdiction as state Superintendent, it is clear that the Court’s ruling is not supported by the facts or the law. Its vagueness provides no guidance about how the Legislature could successfully alter the challenged statutes to satisfy the Court. Accordingly, I will ask the Attorney General to seek appellate review."

Best regards,

Tom Torlakson Signature


August 28, 2014
Contact: Cynara Lilly (m) 206.915.7821 -or-

FINAL VERGARA RULING -- Tuck to Torlakson: Drop Plans to Appeal

"Kids should not have to sue to get a quality education"

Los Angeles -- In response to today's final ruling in Vergara v. California, the Marshall Tuck campaign released the following statement:

"The Vergara ruling is a big win for the kids of California. Now that the Vergara ruling is official, my opponent State Superintendent Tom Torlakson and other Sacramento insiders should do the right thing for California kids and drop any plans to appeal the ruling. I applaud the nine students who took a courageous stand for all of California’s kids. But the truth is, no student should ever have to go to court to get a quality education – and no elected official should ever put bureaucratic laws ahead of students’ interest."

The Vergara ruling found that laws governing teacher tenure, dismissal and layoffs violate the California Constitution and handcuff schools from giving every student an equal opportunity to learn from effective teachers. Judge Rolf Treu remarked that the evidence presented in the case “shocks the conscience.”

Earlier this summer Marshall outlined a plan to address the Vergara ruling based on his experience working to turn around failing schools. Read the whole plan here.

In addition to releasing his plan, Tuck also invited parents, teachers, students and community members to join him in calling on Tom Torlakson and the State of California to drop any plans to defend the broken system by appealing the Vergara ruling.


Letters to the editor of the Los Angeles Times |

Aug 29, 2014

To the editor: Every new detail about the iPad debacle underscores Supt. John Deasy’s ineptitude and disrespect for teachers, students and schools.  ( "Calls mount for new LAUSD inquiry," Aug. 27, and “Can Supt. Deasy survive iPad fiasco?” Column, Aug. 28)

Of course iPads are missing and huge amounts of funds wasted. They were thrown at overcrowded, understaffed, overstressed and crumbling schools.

Now L.A. Unified will be indefinitely tied up with this deplorable scandal, more investigations, and then on to the next billion-dollar money pit.

We need a competent leader who actually listens to and supports educators while prioritizing safe, well-maintained schools and enriching curriculum. Why is that such a pipe dream?

Wendy Blais, North Hills


To the editor: I am writing to express my appreciation toward The Times’ reporters and investigators for calling into question the legitimacy of L.A. Unified’s $1-billion iPad program.

As a public high school teacher for the district, I urge you to continue to shed light on the situation.

The Times must maintain its integrity by offering equal weight to both sides of every issue, and it must work to expose corruption and injustice in California’s public and private institutions for public benefit. Amid layoffs, underfunded school sites and lack of school supplies, and a stagnation in teacher salary, it is imperative this story should continue to be reported on extensively.

Susan Spica, Winnetka


To the editor: The decision, and subsequent process to purchase iPads for every district student, was a horrible idea from the start. If Deasy really wants to level the playing field and allow access for our less-fortunate students to a rich and meaningful education and vital life experiences, I suggest filling every school with a well-rounded arts program. That would increase creativity and intelligence, rather than sap it, as these gadgets in the hands of adolescents often do.

Bradley Greer, Altadena


To the editor: Who suffers the most from this fiasco? Students, children, kids who need what this district has failed to provide.

Only Luddites claim that students have enough experience with technology in their lives. In fact, many students are not proficient with today’s technologies in ways that provide access to college, professions and jobs. The need is real.

But Deasy, in his sweeping arrogance, believed that he could wave a wand and look like a magical provider, while in reality he was paving the corporate avenues to the district coffers so prominent in his vision of education.

Lynne Culp, Van Nuys


To the editor: Executives of the L.A. school system apparently steered a billion-dollar contract to a former employer and big business, likely resulting in an incredible loss of funds from a botched deal.

Actually, it’s small businesses that create the greatest number of jobs in our country and are the basic framework of our free-enterprise system.

But if small businesses are excluded from contracting opportunities, we as taxpayers and as citizens suffer.

We must stop preferential treatment, and we must demand full disclosure and transparency in the disbursement of government funds. People have a right to know where their money is going.

Raymond J. Bishop, Tarzana

  • The writer is chairman of the Los Angeles County Small Business Commission.

IN L.A. UNIFIED, PROFESSIONAL CONFLICTS AND PERSONAL AGENDAS HAVE OUTSIZED INFLUENCE: The iPad fiasco is a rebuke of Supt. John Deasy's single-minded way of doing business

L.A. Unified exemplifies the forces that stifle public school reform


by Sandy Banks, Los Angeles Times columnist |


Supt. John Deasy

L.A. Unified Supt. John Deasy sees education as a social justice issue, but he loses points when he casts his opponents as enemies of children's civil rights. (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

Aug 30, 2014  ::  By now, Los Angeles Unified was supposed to be the technological model for big-city school systems.

All of its pupils would have iPads, teachers could access student data with the click of a mouse, and parents could check their children's attendance and grades daily online.

But the student data and tracking system stumbled out of the gate three weeks ago when the new school year began. On some campuses teachers had no rosters, student schedules were scrambled and classrooms were either empty or overflowing. The computer system was so overloaded, it couldn't process simple commands.

Alex Caputo Pearl

L.A. teachers union President Alex Caputo Pearl blames Deasy's "autocratic style" for the technology missteps. (Katie Falkenberg, Los Angeles Times)

And the iPad project — the crown jewel of Supt. John Deasy's reform campaign — was bungled so badly in its rollout last year that district-wide expansion was scaled back, then scrapped this week in the midst of concerns that the contracting process was tilted toward companies Deasy favored.

So instead of a groundbreaker, the district has become a national model of the tensions that stifle public school reform. Our technology projects were stranded between high-minded ideals and grass-roots realities; tripped up by jockeying over priorities, politics and power.


Deasy is devoted to reforming the district and he won't apologize for that. He sees education as a social justice issue; his job is to level the playing field for underprivileged kids.

He gets high marks around the country for his passion and his zeal. But inside the district, the superintendent is considered by many to be self-righteous and thin-skinned. Community groups praise his advocacy, but the teachers union considers him an adversary.

Union president Alex Caputo-Pearl blames Deasy's "autocratic style" for the technology missteps. He said Deasy's inner circle minimized early reports of problems and rejected teachers' suggestion that the student tracking system be phased in.

The union leader wants a team of parents, teachers, students and staff to consult with district leaders on future tech projects. But Deasy, he said, wants to limit their power. That battle is likely to play out during negotiations over contracts for teachers, who complain that too little attention is paid to instruction and too much to technology.

[John Deasy] has a vision and no one can get there fast enough for him. He underestimates how long it takes in LAUSD to turn the ship even a few degrees. - Tamar Galatzan, school board member

The district's technology czar, Ron Chandler, insists the beleaguered new data system will win over its detractors. He admits it may have been rushed and apologized for the problem-plagued rollout. But the problems owed less to lack of input than lack of consensus, he said. "We had really good positive dialogue, but it was hard to get agreement on some things."

That's partly because the computer system is so large and so complex. But it's also emblematic of a district where professional conflicts and personal agendas have outsized influence.

Chandler walked me through the tech project, explaining the need for an interface, the importance of owning the code, the efficacy and functionality of various modules.

I understood none of that. But I do understand the teachers' frustration over error messages, blank screens and long waits to input data.

The computer network "maxed out" on the second day of school, Chandler said. "Everybody's trying to use the system... They're waiting in a long virtual queue, and all they see is that spinning wheel" on the computer screen.

I see a metaphor for L.A. Unified in that stalled computer example.

We root for progress, but all we see is a perpetually spinning wheel, delaying or derailing whatever new scheme is supposed to fix our schools.


I don't think Deasy understands that his benevolent dictator persona — whether that's valid or not — is costing him public support.

He ought to get credit for successfully promoting important ideals — like a revamp of school discipline practices and increased financial support for struggling schools.


But he loses points when he casts his opponents as enemies of children's civil rights. Deasy doesn't have a monopoly on wanting the best for Los Angeles students. In order to run a district this large, you have to do a lot of listening. That is not the strong suit of our hard-charging superintendent.

"John Deasy is impatient," said school board member Tamar Galatzan, a Deasy supporter. "That is one of his greatest flaws, and also probably what's driving him to push so hard.

"He believes, as many of us do, in making technology accessible to every kid ... And he wants that to happen five minutes ago," Galatzan said. "He has a vision and no one can get there fast enough for him. He underestimates how long it takes in LAUSD to turn the ship even a few degrees."

Deasy told me this week that he's trying "to build a more collaborative process." Still, it's going to be hard for him to erase the stain of the iPad fiasco.

He hasn't acknowledged that things have gone wrong in ways that are bigger than a few embarrassing emails or computer programming glitches.

The hitch in the iPad program is not merely a pause to correct "suboptimal" measures, as Deasy likes to insist. It's a rebuke of his way of doing business. And that's what he needs to fix.

I think he gets that intellectually, but it goes against his grain: "I understand it's better to be more deliberative and engage more people," he said. "But you then have to compromise speed... How many more years do you allow kids to graduate without the technology [skills] they need?"

That's a valid question. But a better question for Deasy to ponder now is what kind of superintendent does this school district need.

IPadGate: EX-LAUSD OFFICIAL DENIES STEERING CONTRACT TO FORMER EMPLOYER, Aquino says his role in contract awarded to former employer was 'by the book'

By Howard Blume, Kim Christensen |

Jaime Aquino

LAUSD Deputy Supt. Jaime Aquino gives a high five to Hillcrest Elementary School teacher Rhonda Marie Smith as teachers attend a iPad training class in 2013. Aquino is no longer with the district. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Aug 29, 2014  ::  The former Los Angeles schools official under scrutiny for his role in the district's $1.3-billion iPad program defended himself Thursday, saying that he did not improperly steer the contract to a company that once employed him.

Former Deputy Supt. Jaime Aquino said his involvement in the project was "by the book" and with the approval of the district's legal counsel.

"I have nothing to hide," Aquino said in emails to The Times.

Aquino, 49, has come under criticism for correspondence with education giant Pearson, which ultimately was chosen to provide the curriculum for the district's iPad program. Aquino had worked for a Pearson subsidiary before joining the district.

In one email, Aquino appeared to be strategizing with Pearson representatives when he wrote: "I believe we would have to make sure that your bid is the lowest one."

Document: Related: Emails from John Deasy, others regarding LAUSD iPads

Related: Emails from John Deasy, others regarding LAUSD iPads

Aquino said Thursday he was not trying to subvert the open bidding process — that he meant only to emphasize to Pearson the district's intention to choose the lowest bidder.

In the full email, sent in May 2012, Aquino expresses concerns about the cost of training 2,000 teachers who would then work with their colleagues to learn the Pearson software. He goes on to voice worries about whether the district's bandwidth can handle every student using a computer for the 2013 school year.

He also weighs whether the district should have an open bidding process, then makes the comment about Pearson coming in with the "lowest one."

"I was simply explaining that they have to be the low bidder," he told The Times. "That's not proprietary information. That's simply explaining how it works. I would say the same thing to any bidder. I had similar conversations with other vendors."

Aquino on Thursday also addressed whether he broke ethics rules by discussing contracts with Pearson at all. L.A Unified policy prohibits employees from such dealings with former employers for 12 months. Aquino joined L.A. Unified in July 2011 from America's Choice, a Pearson affiliate. Less than a year later, records show, he was exchanging the emails with Pearson.

But he said there was an explanation for that.

"While I officially terminated my employment from America's Choice on June 30, 2011, my last day of work was April 26, 2011"— just over a year before the date of the first email.

He added that schools Supt. John Deasy had asked him to be involved in talks with Pearson — and that the district's general counsel, David Holmquist, had given him the go-ahead.

Holmquist said Thursday that he was not allowed to discuss legally privileged internal communications.

Aquino left the district at the end of last year and now is an executive with New Teacher Center, which provides support and training for incoming instructors. Its clients have included L.A. Unified, but the Board of Education this week did not approve a contract extension for the firm.

Deasy has defended Aquino and said Sunday that "nothing was done in any inappropriate way whatsoever." On Monday, he suspended new purchases of iPads in response to concerns about the earlier bidding process and other issues.

The $30-million iPad contract, approved by the board in June 2013, initially was expected to expand to about $500 million, with another $500 million spent on upgrading wireless access at campuses. So far, the district has spent about $61 million to purchase about 62,000 iPads.

Until the iPad controversy thrust him into the spotlight, Aquino was relatively unknown beyond education circles.

A native of the Dominican Republic, he earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from the Instituto Tecnologico de Santo Domingo. While there he also "volunteered to teach literacy to underprivileged children and adults, to work with handicapped children and to work with people with leprosy," according to his biography.

Aquino moved to the United States in the late 1980s, and in 1990 was named New York State Bilingual Teacher of the Year. He later held various posts in the New York system and was a deputy superintendent for Hartford Public Schools.

In 2005 he moved west to become chief academic officer for Denver Public Schools. Michael Bennet, now a U.S. senator, was the superintendent who hired him. He said the school system has made "huge progress" in recent years, much of it due to Aquino's strategic planning and other work.

"He was absolutely an essential actor in all of that," Bennet said.

The current superintendent, Tom Boasberg, worked alongside Aquino as a top deputy and called him a "straight shooter."

"He is a person of complete integrity, extraordinary ability and one of the hardest-working people I've ever met in my life," Boasberg said. "He has extraordinary passion for what he does. When he left Denver, it was literally a day of mourning for the school system."

Kim Ursetta, a former president of the Denver Classroom Teachers' Assn., had a different view.

"Quite honestly, collaboration was not always at the forefront of Jaime's agenda," Ursetta said. "We would often find out about initiatives after they'd already begun.... And often times the way it rolled out was not the way he said it would be."

It was the next stop in Aquino's career that would eventually raise concerns among critics of the iPad effort.

He served as a regional manager of the education consultancy America's Choice from 2008 to July 2011. America's Choice was acquired by Pearson in 2010.

In one email exchange in May 2012, Pearson representative Judy Codding — Aquino's former boss at America's Choice — suggested to him that a bidding process was not necessary, that L.A. Unified could deal exclusively with her company.

District officials instead set up bidding that centered on signing the primary contract with a computer maker, such as Apple, and using school-construction bonds to fund the effort. The complex rating system for bidders was overseen by Aquino, as part of a small executive committee.

In June 2013, district staff told the Board of Education that the Apple/Pearson team offered not only the best product but also the best price.

Board member Steve Zimmer recalled asking Aquino if the bidding process had been beyond reproach. It was, he said Aquino responded, the best he'd ever been associated with.

After little discussion, the board approved the contract without opposition.

Friday, August 29, 2014


Annie Gilbertson | 89.3 KPCC |

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.

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
Listen Now [1 min 6 sec]

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.

2cents small Much of this is old news, repackaged anew.  Although – in the context of the newly discovered emails - it all becomes curiouser+curiouser.

  • 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.


         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!


Thomas Himes | Contra Costa Times (LAUSD might as well amuse Northern California too!) |

Posted:   08/29/2014 02:06:56 PM PDT  ::  In the third week of school, an estimated 45,000 students were missing from the Los Angeles Unified School District’s new computer system, according to a union that represents principals and administrators.

Those students were not listed in the district’s faulty record-keeping system, MiSiS, as of Monday, according to the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles. For its report, the union used an established system that forecasts enrollment, called E-cast.

Although district officials had previously said that less than 1 percent of students were affected by the faulty system, the report released Thursday by the union is the first supported measurement of widespread problems in the 650,000-student school system.

“We cannot begin to tell you the countless numbers of calls that have come into AALA about this catastrophe,” stated the report that was sent to union members.

District officials did not immediately answer questions about the report.

At one unidentified elementary school, MiSiS listed 11,000 students as being enrolled, according to the report. At another school, MiSiS had zero students enrolled.

On Sept. 12, all LAUSD schools will need to report their enrollment to the district for “norm day” – a process used to allocate funding and resources to campuses. If the computer system is not accurately reporting all students, the work will have to be done by hand.

“It also means that administrators and staff are going to be even more overworked trying to do a hand count of the number of students enrolled in the schools,” the report stated.

Counselors and other administrators have already worked overtime, dusting off old ledgers and breaking out pencils to schedule students by hand after the system’s disastrous launch on school’s first day, Aug. 12.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

iPadGate: ARE JOHN DEASY’S DAYS NUMBERED? They should be after cozy iPad deal

Opinion By Ted Rall, LA Times Editorial Cartoonist |

LAUSD's Supt. John Deasy got a little too cozy with Apple execs

Aug  27, 3:38 PM  ::  It sounded like a great idea at the time: L.A. would give students a boost into the 21st century by putting tech directly into their hands. The Los Angeles Unified School District would buy an Apple iPad for every student,  more than 600,000,  each loaded with educational software supplied by Pearson, a major education services company.

"In June 2013, the [Los Angeles] Board of Education approved a deal with the Apple/Pearson team after senior staff assured members that its proposal was both the least expensive and highest in quality, Pearson provided curriculum; Apple was to supply iPads," Howard Blume writes in The Times.

Apple's sleek tablets appeared in 47 Los Angeles public schools during the 2013-14 academic year. Right out of the gate, however, it became clear that there were problems with the $1-billion contract. At a time when the district had been through years of drastic budget cuts and brutal teacher layoffs, Apple charged L.A. more per device than other districts had paid. Pearson's software was glitchy and incomplete. Schools weren't set up to deal with security concerns -- protecting the hardware and blocking students from viewing inappropriate Internet content proved difficult.

The district bought iPads at full cost even though the model was about to be replaced by a newer version. "Students at three campuses, for example, deleted security filters so they could browse the Internet — prompting officials to prohibit the use of the devices outside school. At times, officials also provided conflicting or incorrect answers about the project to a technology committee headed by school board member Monica Ratliff," according to The Times.

When government bureaucracies wind up paying too much money to private contractors for goods and services that fall short -- especially when the deal gets cut quickly -- it's reasonable to wonder whether the bidding process was open and transparent. Based on a series of emails disclosed at the request of The Times under the California Public Records Act, communications between L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy and executives at Pearson and Apple -- as well as the complaints of rivals who tried to land the district's business -- appear to indicate that an arm's-length approach gave way to a level of institutional coziness that could be a conflict of interest, or at best, gives the appearance of a conflict of interest.

"It looked like Apple was positioned to be the choice," Chiara Tellini of Irvine-based Mind Research Institute, a company with competing curriculum to Pearson, said  to Blume.

From Blume's report:

“In one email, from May 24, 2012, then-Deputy Supt. Jaime Aquino seems to strategize with higher-ups from Pearson, an international education-services company, on how to ensure that it got the job.

" ‘I believe we would have to make sure that your bid is the lowest one,’  wrote Aquino, who was an executive with a Pearson affiliate before joining L.A. Unified.

“Deasy was one of the last to participate in that email exchange and made his comments after Aquino's, which covered several topics.

" ‘Understand your points and we need to work together on this quickly,’  Deasy wrote. ‘I want to not loose [sic] an amazing opportunity and fully recognize our current limits.’"


Blume continues, "On Sunday, Deasy said that the conversations were only about a 'pilot program we did at several schools months before we decided to do a large-scale implementation. We did work closely on this pilot.'"

Under fire and perhaps an ethics probe, L.A. Unified has suspended the Apple/Pearson deal.

"You should make every bidder think they have a slim chance of getting the job," Stuart Magruder, a school bond oversight committee member who questioned the deal at the time and got fired over it only to be later reinstated, told Times columnist Steve Lopez. Deasy " ‘didn't do that,’" said Magruder.  Lopez is not alone in wondering aloud whether Deasy's days at L.A. Unified are numbered.

If not, they ought to be. In politics as in business, there's little effective difference between the appearance of impropriety and corruption. Taxpayers have the right not to have to wonder whether their money is being safeguarded — and students have the right not to know they're being shortchanged by a regime heavy on high tech and low on actual teaching.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


mystery cartoonist Jo.Ke/Mi.Ke is a teacher in LAUSD


O.K. class, do you want to hear an updated version of Johnny Appleseed?”


Annie Gilbertson, | 89.3 KPCC |

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Aug 27, 2014 2:45 PM   ::  The inspector general of the Los Angeles Unified School Distict is reopening an investigation into the purchase of iPads and Pearson software based on findings in a KPCC investigation into communication between district officials and those companies nearly a year ahead of a public bid.

Ken Bramlett, the Inspector General for L.A. Unified, led an investigation into the district’s competitive bid earlier this year, but told KPCC Wednesday afternoon the early emails were not part of his office’s initial probe.

After reviewing more than 1,000 internal emails over several days, KPCC found Superintendent John Deasy and his staff communicated closely with executives at Pearson about purchasing learning  software under development for the iPad.

The emails show the officials detailed aspects of a one-to-one student technology program, down to the specifics of tech support and teacher training.  A year later, the requirements for proposals resembled the package Pearson was selling.

KPCC aired and published stories on those emails Friday. On Monday, Superintendent John Deasy announced he was canceling the contract with Apple and Pearson and issuing a new request for proposals for the one-to-one technology project.

L.A. Unified's technology expansion, including upgrading wifi at schools, is poised to be the largest in the country with a price tag of nearly $1.3 billion. 

In a memo, Deasy said he expects the bidders will include Apple and Pearson, the largest publishing company in the world.



by Vanessa Romo, LA School Report |

Alex Caputo-Pearl UTLA LAUSD

Alex Caputo-Pearl, President of UTLA

August 27, 2014 8:07 am  ::  It might be the new school year, but it was a series of old problems awaiting the LA Unified school board yesterday as it met long into the night with a full complement of seven members for the first time in eight months.

After the swearing in of newly-elected District 1 member George McKenna, a closed session ran 2 1/2 hours late before the board emerged for an open session and spent the first hour grilling administrators about the anything-but-smooth implementation of the district’s latest student tracking system, known as MiSiS.

For the first time in public, the officials acknowledged that mistakes — seen and unforeseen — had plagued a rollout that began in June, causing “frustration, pain and suffering in our schools,” as described by Ron Chandler, the districts Chief Information Officer.

“This was not what we expected; it’s not what our students deserve,” said Matt Hill, LA Unified’s Chief Strategy Officer, who had the final say in putting the new system online. “We knew there’d be some issues, but not of this magnitude.”

MiSiS, which stands for My Integrated Student Information System, represents the final stage of a 10-year process for upgrading systems that allow administrators to enroll students in schools, make class assignments, and allow teachers and parents to track student progress.

Criticism of its flawed implementation echoed the response to the district’s iPad rollout last year — more on that later — particularly by the leadership of the teachers union, which has blamed the system for disrupting the first weeks of school for thousands of students.

Union President Alex Caputo-Pearl took a thinly-veiled shot at Superintendent John Deasy, calling the rollout an example of “autocratic decision making,” which he said must end.

He suggested that the district and union create a joint technology committee to avoid problems caused by big technological innovations; Deasy responded later, telling the board, “We welcome and look forward to that, strongly.”

Hill and Chandler were contrite before the board, taking time to explain in great detail how the program encountered problems, some of which have been fixed. They promised that the new system has been “stabilized” but did not promise that new issues would not arise in the months ahead.

Despite the difficulties, they defended the decision to go forward, with Chandler saying, “The issues were not great enough to not use the new system.”

The prelude to the meeting was another swirl of controversy over the district’s so-called “billion dollar iPad program” and Deasy’s decision on Monday to suspend the district’s contract with Apple, Inc. and its software partner, Pearson.

A series of emails released by the district appeared to suggest that Deasy and a former lieutenant, Jaime Aquino, had worked to help the two companies win a bid for the program. Deasy announced he was curtaining the Apple deal and opening a new bidding process.

The district is now considering a new investigation into the period before the contract bidding actually began, focusing on what, if anything, Deasy and Aquino did to help the two companies win the deal. Aquino, who worked for Pearson before joining LA Unified, may be of particular interest, in light of an email he wrote to his former employer in May 2012, which said, “I believe we would have to make sure that your bid is the lowest one.”

Another slice of the iPad issue arose at the board meeting through a brief dialogue, sometimes testy, between Tamar Galatzan and Monica Ratliff, who authored a critical report that reviewed the entire iPad program.

Ratliff had made a draft of the report available to board members and senior staff, only if they agreed to sign a non-disclosure agreement, which Galatzan had refused to do, and was thus denied a copy.

Galatzan made her objections public in the open meeting, suggesting that members’ forcing each other sign such agreements was no way to conduct board business. Ratliff defended her action, saying she wanted to give recipients a chance to read it and offer comments.

“It was an attempt to maintain the integrity of the draft while it was in the draft process,” Ratliff said.

Caputo-Pearl also weighed in on the iPad program.

“We’ve always had educational concerns, we’ve also always had budget concerns… and now we’ve got a legal concern about what actually happened and whether there were illegalities in the procurement and bidding process,” he told reporters before the meeting, adding that the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office should launch a new investigation into the matter.

He said the iPad program, too, was an an example of “autocratric behavior that isn’t healthy for public education and a public institution.”

Deasy’s decision to curtail the Apple deal means that the district is scrapping Phase 3 of iPad distribution plan, although six schools have yet to receive new devices. LA Unified has already purchased tablets designated for deployment in Phase 2 of the plan.

The open meeting didn’t start until 6:20 p.m. — a full two hours and twenty minutes late — and ended at 10:43 p.m., much to the frustration hundreds of parents, teachers and students who waited on the sidewalk before being allowed into the boardroom.

“We thought it [the closed session] would go faster and it didn’t,” the newly goateed board president, Richard Vladovic, told the audience. “I apologize…I take responsibility but we had to talk and we did.”

Much of the delay was due to lengthy discussion on the district’s labor negotiations with the teachers union, which is seeking it’s first new contract in seven years.

Another reason, according to a district staffer, was that the board had a lengthy discussion on increasing the budget for the Inspector General’s office. Ken Bramlett, head of the department, reportedly requested a boost in funding in light of the mounting number of investigations his office has been asked to conduct.

In addition to demands for a new investigation into the iPad emails, Bramlett’s office has also been asked to launch an investigation into the MiSiS rollout.

Further, an investigation in June into the accounting practices for two Magnolia Academy public charter schools cost $700,000, leading to a board vote to close the two schools. They remained open after a state superior court judge ruled that LA Unified officials circumvented the legal process for closing them.

Deasy has since asked for a review of six other Magnolia charters in the district.

Before adjourning, the board voted unanimously to approve the findings of the Magnolia audit, which determined that Magnolia Science Academy 6 and Magnolia Science Academy 7 were insolvent and engaged in suspect accounting practices. The complete document has yet to be released to the public or Magnolia officials.

About two hundred Magnolia Public School students and families — two busloads — waited late into the night to plead with the board not to adopt the Inspector General’s audit findings which could lead to a retroactive non-renewal of the two school charters.

Janelle Ruley, a lawyer representing Magnolia, said the court order bars the district from taking any action against the charters.

“If the board approves [the non-renewal] it will be doing so in direct defiance of the court order…and it will cause fear and uncertainty for hundreds of families,” she said.

Magnolia’s accountant, Kim Onesko also disputed claims that the charter school management organizations is insolvent. He told the board, “Magnolia is solvent. Period.”

As for McKenna, in his first full meeting, he was more of an observer than participant. He asked no questions nor did he weigh in on any of the 22 items before the board.


Mary Plummer | 89.3 KPCC

File: Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy  speaks during a press conference at South Region High School #2 in Los Angeles on Feb. 6, 2012.

File: Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy speaks during a press conference at South Region High School #2 in Los Angeles on Feb. 6, 2012. AFP/AFP/Getty Images

August 26, 10:53 PM  ::  Los Angeles Unified school board member Monica Ratliff formally released a report that was leaked to media last week, outlining concerns about the district's iPad project.

The report was released during the first public school board meeting of the school year.

Ratliff and school board member Tamar Galatzan engaged in a heated back and forth over Ratliff's decision to require a lengthy confidentiality agreement before allowing board members and district staffers to view the draft report. The report was leaked to KPCC and the Los Angeles Times before she had reviewed it.

The meeting started more than two hours late because closed session discussions over negotiations with the teacher's union went long, according to board president Richard Vladovic, and the board severely limited the number of public speakers who could comment on problems with the iPad program.


Los Angeles Unified school board members met Tuesday afternoon in the first public meeting since Friday, when Superintendent John Deasy began facing a rush of questions about his relationships with executives at Pearson.

Emails obtained by KPCC led some school board members and other district watchers to question whether Deasy's relationship with Pearson paved a path for the software company to land a contract, without giving other competitors a fair shot during the open bid process. A committee led by school board member Monica Ratliff has been asking that same question for months.

Monday evening, after news of the emails broke, Deasy announced he was abandoning the contract with Apple and Pearson and would open its one-to-one technology project to new bids.

Deasy has declined multiple interview requests from KPCC. In an interview with KCRW Tuesday, Deasy said he accepted criticism that he should have acted sooner but denied any wrongdoing. He said he was not involved in designing the specifications for bid proposals or choosing the winners.

"The contracting process was reviewed," he said, adding later in regard to the emails:  "It wasn't inappropriate. I meet with vendors all the time."

To follow updates from today's school board meeting, view tweets from KPCC's Mary Plummer below.


  1. 12h

    Mary Plummer @maryplummer

    Day turns to night - public comment underway, ppl still waiting outside to speak, say they've been here since 1:30 pm

    View image on Twitter


  2. Mary Plummer @maryplummer

    Ratliff says she's heard that once #misis works, it's going to be great. Lengthy MiSiS convo ends on positive note. public comment to start


  3. Mary Plummer @maryplummer

    Chandler says parents haven't been approved to help w/ #Misis. Anyone following these tweets know of schools where that's happening? true?


  4. Mary Plummer @maryplummer

    Kayser raising questions - says some parents have been volunteering to help enter data. Asking about privacy issues #misis


  5. Mary Plummer @maryplummer

    Matt Hill says final recommendation to go live with #misis came from him #lausd


  6. Mary Plummer @maryplummer

    You can read Ratliff's full #iPad report here: Check out @PFedu's coverage on @kpcc's website

  7. 12h

    Mary Plummer @maryplummer

    Ratliff: "I personally think an undo button is really important" "teachers are having problems with grade book" #lausd


  8. Mary Plummer @maryplummer

    Ratliff bringing up concern that grades will be entered incorrectly, no way to undo some grade mistakes, she says #lausd


  9. Mary Plummer @maryplummer

    Ratliff bringing up long list of #misis problems - Chandler doesn't have answers on hand to several of them, says he'll get answers #lausd


  10. Mary Plummer @maryplummer

    Chandler says times are down to 14 minutes today - no mention of what high end of range is #lausd #misis

  11. 12h

    Mary Plummer @maryplummer

    Monica Ratliff says current hold times for #misis help are up to 2 hours #lausd


  12. Mary Plummer @maryplummer

    "We could have had a more elegant plan b" says Ron Chandler, of switching to paper #LAUSD #misis


  13. Mary Plummer @maryplummer

    Some of the things we tested in focus groups didn't pop up as problems until #misis went live, says Ron Chandler of #lausd


  14. Mary Plummer @maryplummer

    "we're at stable condition now" says Matt Hill, one of two #lausd staffers giving #misis report


  15. Mary Plummer @maryplummer

    "we knew there would be some issues, but not to this magnitude" #lausd

  16. 13h

    Mary Plummer @maryplummer

    #misis update - starting now #lausd


  17. Thomas Himes @LADailyThomas

    #LAUSD just released committee report that's critical of aborted $1 billion iPad plans, read it:

  18. 13h

    Mary Plummer @maryplummer

    New district 1 board member George McKenna has banner up in LaMotte's memory #lausd

    View image on Twitter


  19. Mary Plummer @maryplummer

    Deasy talking about AP score gains and drop out plans #lausd


  20. Mary Plummer @maryplummer

    Superintendent John Deasy speaking for the first time now, giving his report #lausd


  21. Mary Plummer @maryplummer

    Ratliff says she'll take full responsibility for everything in the report - it's her report #lausd


  22. Mary Plummer @maryplummer

    Big dispute underway between Ratliff and Galatzan - Galatzan not happy abt the confidentiality agreement that delayed her access to report


  23. 13h

    Mary Plummer @maryplummer

    "I may not personally like it, but it's not illegal" says Vladovic, talking abt confidentiality agreement that Ratliff asked people to sign

  24. 13h

    Mary Plummer @maryplummer

    Vladovic is asking Ratliff to respond, he says Ratliff's move wasn't illegal #lausd


  25. Mary Plummer @maryplummer

    Galatzan says she refused to sign. Asking Vladovic is that's allowed #lausd


  26. Mary Plummer @maryplummer

    Ratliff has passed around technology report - Galatzan says Ratliff withheld docs from her unless she agreed to strict legal secrecy

  27. 13h

    Mary Plummer @maryplummer

    "we shouldn't have cozy relationships with multi billion $ entities" says UTLA president


  28. Mary Plummer @maryplummer

    UTLA president is speaking, says autocratic decision making is big problem. Calling for #Misis investigation and #ipad investigation


  29. Mary Plummer @maryplummer

    Meeting is officially underway #lausd


  30. Mary Plummer @maryplummer

    Last 3 hours have been spent discussing union negotiations - public speakers will speak at the beginning of the meeting #lausd


  31. Mary Plummer @maryplummer


  32. Mary Plummer @maryplummer

    Board members are making their way to their seats #lausd

    Mary Plummer @maryplummer

  33. Crowd is yawning, chatting, scrolling smart phones. #lausd


  34. Mary Plummer @maryplummer

    Meeting still has not started, Board Secretariat says he can't provide any further details on the delay #lausd


  35. Mary Plummer @maryplummer

    Mostly full house awaiting #LAUSD meeting - 1.5 hours delayed, several camera crews have stepped out for live shots

    View image on Twitter

  36. 14h

    Mary Plummer @maryplummer

    You can follow our tweets from today's #lausd meeting here: … Once it starts ... wondering if I should have brought PJs