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LA Unified School District halts further use of iPads

updated 10:47 am EDT, Tue August 26, 2014

Superintendent, deputy had close links to Apple, Pearson

The superintendent of Los Angeles' Unified School District, John Deasy, has formally suspended future implementation of an iPad contract with Apple. "Moving forward, we will no longer utilize our current contract with Apple," he writes in a memo issued to the Board of Education. "Not only will this decision enable us to take advantage of an ever-changing marketplace and technology advances, it will also give us time to take into account concerns raised surrounding the [project]."

The original contract would've called for every student in the LAUSD to receive an iPad, with curriculum content provided by educational publisher Pearson. Things quickly went awry, though, in the form of budget overruns, students finding ways around security measures, and complaints that it was difficult to take tests on an iPad because of its small screen and lack of hardware keyboard integration. Even before this week's decision, the USD had decided to experiment with other devices and curricula.

More seriously, in the past several days disclosures have revealed that Deasy and his top deputy, Jaime Aquino, have close ties with Apple executives and Pearson. A draft report of a district technology committee notes that officials appear to have tailored contract requirements to ensure that Apple and Pearson got involved.

A May 2012 email from Aquino -- who was formerly an executive at a Pearson affiliate -- appears to center around making sure Pearson gets a contract. "I believe we would have to make sure that your bid is the lowest one," he wrote. Deasy chimed in on the conversation. "Understand your points and we need to work together on this quickly," he said. "I want to not loose [sic] an amazing opportunity and fully recognize our current limits."

This week Deasy defended himself, arguing that the exchanges with Pearson were only about a "pilot program we did at several schools months before we decided to do a large-scale implementation," acknowledging that his office did work "closely" on the pilot. Aquino is also said to have offered another vendor, Amplify Education, a similar chance. "Nothing was done in any inappropriate way whatsoever. Of course I talk to people. I would be expected to," Deasy comments.

Aquino left the organization last year, and has ignored interview requests from the LA Times. The teachers' union has called for an investigation into the contracting process, and a source tells the Times that the LAUSD's inspector general is planning to conduct more interviews. A previous inquiry was reviewed by the LA County district attorney's office, and at the time it was decided that no criminal charges were worth pursuing.

Despite the collusion concerns, Deasy's memo indicates that he expects Apple and Pearson to be among the bidders for 18,000 laptop orders the USD is pursuing. "We will incorporate the lessons learned from the original procurement process," he said.

by MacNN Staff



  1. bonaccij

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 06-19-03

    I have said it 1,000 times and I'll say it once more. This is just the most ridiculous thing EVER. If they actually had qualified people down there doing what they were supposed to be doing, this just wouldn't be an issue. The entire IT staff of the LA public school system should be fired over this. This is just so incredibly easy to do it's ridiculous, and they just can't get it together.

  1. David Esrati

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 06-10-99

    When I saw that they were getting 64gb iPads I was scratching my head. With cloud integration- etc- and Apple's ridiculous RAM charges- this looked cooked from the start.
    However, after my experience with configurator- I'm pretty sure Apple hasn't mastered mass deployments. Software registration, updating, securing- was all a major PITA. Also- "Find my ipad" works for you and me- doesn't work for 16,000 accounts for some odd reason.
    Why can't apple make an inexpensive real osx experience - the mini is an overpriced joke.
    I'd probably go Chrome book at this point... despite inferior virus protection and interface. The keyboard is the difference.

  1. carloblackmore

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 12-28-05

    Yes, heaven forbid that people in charge of educating our children, closely communicate with companies responsible for the best and brightest technology advancements in the last decade. We much rather have them wasting time with companies that repeatedly deliver technology flops – because our children only deserve the best.

  1. cashxx

    Junior Member

    Joined: 04-13-09

    I smell a failed Chromebook implementation coming!!

  1. panjandrum

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 12-01-04

    Unfortunately I have to agree with David on this one. Apple has done an absolutely horrible job getting iPads properly integrated into schools. In addition to the problems David mentions (lack of "find my iPad" support, very clunky Configurator (Apple STILL has a bug which makes you download the codes twice unless you want to pay for one additional copy of each app), and an absolute host of other issues. Our school's experience with iPads has been very poor, and most of the other schools in my area, even if they did iPad trials, are going with alternative solutions. Combine this with Apple's recent move to make older Mac incompatible with the latest iWork, and NOT making the older iWork available for iPads, means that the nice WebDav support built into OS X Server is mostly useless, since our Macs can't run a version of iWork capable of opening iWork documents created on the iPads. That move on Apple's part has driven our school to Google Docs, after many years of using iWork almost exclusively. Bad for Apple, bad for our staff and students, but good for Google and other companies. I foresee no new iPads in our future, the compatibility and ease of management just isn't there, and the fault lies squarely with Apple.

  1. driven

    Addicted to MacNN

    Joined: 05-08-01

    If they attempted this deployment without MDM/EMM software then it was doomed. You can't manage that many devices with Apple Configurator. That said: Having the right software in place makes this fairly easy.

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