Classroom Technology

L.A. iPad Investigation Report to Remain Confidential; Superintendent Resigns

By Benjamin Herold — October 16, 2014 2 min read
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By Michele Molnar. Cross-posted from the Marketplace K-12 blog.

An inspector general’s report meant to detail the process followed by Los Angeles Unified school system officials in hiring Apple and Pearson for a massive technology project will not be released to the public, the district revealed this week.

The decision came two days before Superintendent John Deasy, who championed the troubled purchase, announced his resignation from the nation’s second-largest district. Deasy’s strong advocacy for the purchase was broadly criticized and led to calls for him to step down. The announcement of his departure on Thursday brings Deasy’s more than three-year leadership to an end.

The inspector general’s report was expected to shed light on the decisions leading to the purchase of iPads, and Pearson curriculum. But on Oct. 14, the LAUSD board voted 4-3 against releasing the document, deeming it confidential, according to a statement from Mónica Ratliff, a board member who favored releasing it. Joining her in wanting the report’s release were board members Bennett Kayser and Steve Zimmer.

The four board members opposing its release were Tamar Galatzan, Mónica Garcia, George McKenna, and Richard Vladovic.

The L.A. district’s long-term goal was to equip all students and staff with iPads, as part of an effort to be phased in over time. Apple, the maker of iPads, eventually won the contract, along with Pearson, its chosen subcontractor for developing curriculum to come preloaded on those devices. In August, Deasy abruptly suspended the district’s $1 billion contract to provide devices to students, in the wake of a controversy swirling around several aspects of the project, including the fact that a single vendor had been chosen for the 650,000-student district.

Among those arguing for the report’s release was the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times, which said the document should be made public after the L.A. District Attorney said that no criminal charges would be filed as a result of it.

Ratliff, meanwhile, had recommended releasing the report “in order to lay to rest certain questions and avoid any suspicion generated by lack of transparency,” the board member said in a statement.

Earlier this year, Ratliff chaired an ad hoc committee focused on the iPad effort, officially known as the Common Core Technology Project. After hearing more than 27 hours of presentations from district staff who had been associated with the tech project, her committee released a report sharply critical of the procedures followed during the decision to buy the devices and curriculum.

For one, the board’s ad hoc committee report raised questions about some of the restrictions and requirements placed on vendors in district’s request for proposals, which could have ended up favoring certain vendors.

Among the questions the board committee’s report tackled was the true cost of the project’s first phase. It showed that, of the $768 the LAUSD paid for each of the 30,000 iPads that were purchased as part of the project’s first phase, between $150 and $300 went to Pearson for the incomplete curriculum.

Another Office of Inspector General report about the project has been made publicly available on the IG’s website. An inventory audit, called the “Inventory Control of Mobile Devices to Support the Common Core Technology Project - Phase I,” is available here.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.