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Delay on iPads shows deep division on LA Unified board

Michael Janofsky | December 18, 2013

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TamarDec_17It’s the other delay yesterday that portends long-term consequences for LA Unified students.

In the latest sign of the deep divide on the district school board, the members voted to hold off the next phase of the iPad program, rather than approve a carefully crafted compromise that the board had hammered out, and passed, at the last meeting.

An agenda item yesterday to approve distribution of iPads to 38 schools and laptops to seven high schools was pushed off to the board’s next scheduled meeting, Jan. 14.

Then, later in the meeting, a resolution from Tamar Galatzan and Monica Garcia to act upon the November action – in other words, to bypass the item postponed – was defeated.

Why the wait is not entirely made clear. It might have been, in part, to delay any major action until a proper mourning period for Marguerite LaMotte had passed. It might have been to give the School Construction Bond Citizens’ Oversight Committee, which met today, a final review. It might have been, as Steve Zimmer noted, that a request to waive Rule 72, which allows discussion on time-sensitive issues, was not appropriate for the iPad resolution.

But one thing is certain, as Superintendent John Deasy said, delaying further distribution jeopardizes preparation for using digital devices for testing.

“Some things will definitely be imperfect,” he told the members. “I want you to understand that.”

The debates around the iPad issues yesterday provided some of the clearest evidence yet of entrenched policy divisions between the resolution sponsors, Galatzan and Garcia, and the chair of the board’s technology committee, Monica Ratliff.

“We can’t keep delaying and delaying unless the real reason is to kill this program,” Galatzan said during the discussion of the resolution. “Students are waiting; lesson plans are ready to go.”

As she denied the accusation, Ratliff began crying. “I don’t think that’s accurate,” she said. Then, softly: “I didn’t realize how much impact on me this loss is having.”

Garcia was incredulous at the delay, inasmuch as the board worked though a difficult debate a month ago to reach a compromise that passed, 6-1, with LaMotte, incidentally, in the majority and Ratliff satisfied with the result. Only Galatzan dissented because over what she felt was ambiguous language in the measure.

Ratliff told the LA Daily News the next day: “I was very excited that the board was willing to work toward a compromise and, especially, that the board was willing to acknowledge the need for an evaluation before moving forward into future phases.”

Garcia, this time, was clearly disturbed: “The board spoke already on this,” she said. “Why is it so hard for the board to confirm what the board said it was going to do?”

Galatzan was not done, either, suggesting her opponents were being dishonest about their motives to delay.

Pointing to students and teachers waiting for phase 2 and those waiting for devices in subsequent phases, she said, “We owe it to them to follow through on our promise, to keep our word to them, and not hide behind the tragic passing of one of our colleagues.”

In any case,  iPads and laptops will come — just not in time for Christmas.

Previous Posts: A full plate for the LA Unified board — LaMotte seat, fixes, iPadsA Double Dose of iPads Today, at a Meeting and a ProtestLA Unified Board Votes to Reshape iPad Program.


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