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Not everyone is rejoicing over halt to LAUSD’s iPad program

Vanessa Romo | September 8, 2014

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LAUSD schools that won't be getting iPads 2014-2015

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Principal Steven Martinez of John Burroughs Middle School in Hancock Park figured the worst that could happen is that his school’s new iPads wouldn’t connect to the Apple TVs that staff bought to enhance lesson plans.

He figured wrong.

On Friday, he learned that his school is not getting iPads at all.

“I don’t understand what’s going on,” Martinez told LA School Report. “We want the iPads, and we were waiting for them to come any day now.”

John Burroughs is one of 27 LA Unified schools next in line to get iPads that were part of the district’s grand plan to put a digital device in the hands of every student. Superintendent John Deasy halted the plan in late August after questions over whether he and a former deputy, Jaime Aquino, manipulated the bidding process that gave the $1 billion deal to Apple and its software supplier, Pearson.

He announced that a new bid process would begin soon, but the largest number of schools that won’t get iPads soon, 11, are in George McKenna‘s District 1 — the poorest of LA Unified’s seven districts.

“Whatever is going on just get them to us because we’re ready to run over here,” Martinez said, a reaction that suggests, despite the controversy, not everybody in LA Unified opposes the iPad program.

In fact, Martinez’s school went to great lengths in generating excitement for them.

About 1,800 mostly low-income students attend Burroughs, and the campus is offering several specialized programs tied to the iPads, including a magnet program for Korean and Spanish dual language and a large special education program. For more than a year, Martinez has organized multiple training workshops for teachers, instructional coaches and parents “to show them the capabilities of an iPad.”

The iPads were due to arrive later this month.

Martinez is hardly alone in his exasperation and disappointment. Shannon Haber, a district spokeswoman, told LA School Report the office that oversees the distribution of iPads was inundated with complaints after news reports announcing the abrupt halt.

“The phones were just ringing off the hook,” she said.

The schools closest to the iPad finish line were were informed only that the delivery has been “delayed,” according to an email from district officials. But it is unclear when the district expects to buy any new devices, iPads or otherwise

Haber suggested it could take more than six months — the time it took the school board to approve the purchase of iPads and laptops for high school students in the second phase of the rollout.

The district has distributed approximately 62,000 devices under the current contract, which includes Pearson’s curriculum. Another 47,000 were purchased without the software for use in the state’s new Common Core standardized tests. The cost to the district is approximately $61 million.

A principal at a school in the west Valley who asked not to be identified because most staff and parents don’t know about the recent change of plans said she’s trying to figure out how to break it to them.

“I want to be able to tell our parents and school community in a way that doesn’t depress us for the rest of the year,” she said. “But to be honest, I’m holding out hope for a Plan B for the schools that were promised this a year ago.”

It’s a devastating blow, she said, in light of the massive expenses the school has taken on. Over the last nine months the school has been upgrading its wireless infrastructure and making big ticket purchases to maximize the potential of the tablets to align with the principals of Common Core.

“We spent about $100,000 implementing smart technology that was directly tied to our students having one-to-one devices,” she said wearily.  The installation was completed a week before the school year began.

Teachers have been building lesson plans on their district issued tablets since March as they were encouraged to do by the district. Now, she says, “they’re dragging their old text books back out.”

At “Back to School” night last month, the principal said teachers were showing off the new technology to oohs and ahhs of parents. “Now I have to tell them it’s not happening and they’re going to be so disappointed.”

It is not a task she’s looking forward to, but with the program done, by the end of the week, she said, “I have to put the final fork in it.”

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