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Mobile Computing | News

Los Angeles Unified Cancels iPad Contract

The largest school iPad deployment in the nation has been put on hold. In a letter to the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education, Superintendent John Deasy announced his decision to implement a new request for proposals (RFP) solicitation for personal computing devices for the district. "Moving forward," he wrote, "we will no longer utilize our current contract with Apple Inc." The tablet devices had already been deployed to 52 schools.

A little over a year ago the district — second largest in the country — had "unanimously approved" a $50 million phase 1 for its Common Core Technology Project Plan (CCTPP), most of which (about three-fifths) was allocated for iPads. That phase began in fall 2013. The district was expected to evaluate the program through a pilot with an initial round of schools before requesting funding to roll the program out to another 200 schools for the second semester of that school year. Phase 3 would deploy the devices in remaining schools by this fall. The total investment for phases 2 and 3 was about $500 million.

The district had gone through a six-month selection process before choosing the iPads. At the time LAUSD had received 13 proposals, three of which were shortlisted. The iPad proposal, led by Apple with Pearson acting as a subcontractor to provide curriculum, won the work.

At the time, Jaime Aquino, then-deputy superintendent of instruction for LAUSD, stated, "The board voted unanimously for Apple because iPad rated the best in quality, was the least expensive option and received the highest scoring by the review panel that included students and teachers."

Now, reported coverage by the Los Angeles Times, Aquino is gone and he and Deasy are being accused of having "especially close ties" to the two companies. Aquino had formerly worked at a Pearson acquisition, as well as Denver Public Schools and the New York City Department of Education. He left his $250,000 a year deputy position at LAUSD at the end of last year after butting heads over the direction of school reforms with the new president of the school board, Richard Vladovic.

The LA Times had obtained a draft report of a district technology committee that examined the integrity of the bid process. According to reporting, the committee had found that the winning contract "appeared to be tailored to the products of the eventual winners ... rather than to demonstrated district need."

The Times reporting suggested that the two district administrators had discussed their iPad plans with the companies at least two years prior to contract approval. It cites one e-mail from 2012 from Aquino to Pearson executives, in which he stated, "I believe we would have to make sure that your bid is the lowest one." Deasy had weighed in within the same e-mail discussion.

However, this week Deasy denied that the e-mail was about anything other than a small pilot program being held within several schools during that period.

Deasy for his part said the decision to cancel the Apple contract was related "to an ever-changing marketplace and technology advances." The pause for developing the new RFP, he stated in his letter to the board, would also give district leadership "time to take into account concerns raised surrounding the CCTP...."

However, this doesn't mean Apple and Pearson are out of the running at LAUSD. Deasy noted that he expected "our current contractor and their subcontractor to participate in the upcoming RFP."

Nor has his dream dissipated of giving every kid access to a computing device. Deasy concluded his letter with, "We look forward to refining our processes and ultimately achieve our vision to equip every one of our students with a personal computing device to help them succeed in the 21st century."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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