L.A. Unified school district halts contract for iPads

The LA Times:

L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy suspended future use of a contract with Apple on Monday that was to provide iPads to all students in the nation’s second-largest school system amid mounting scrutiny of the $1-billion-plus effort.

The suspension comes days after disclosures that the superintendent and his top deputy had especially close ties to executives of Apple, maker of the iPad, and Pearson, the company that is providing the curriculum on the devices. And an internal report that examined the technology effort showed major problems with the process and the implementation.

Here’s how this unfolded.

Last week, a draft report of a district technology committee, obtained by The Times, was strongly critical of the bidding process.

Among the findings was that the initial rules for winning the contract appeared to be tailored to the products of the eventual winners — Apple and Pearson — rather than to demonstrated district needs. The report found that key changes to the bidding rules were made after most of the competition had been eliminated under the original specifications.

In addition, the report said that past comments or associations with vendors, including Deasy, created an appearance of conflict even if no ethics rules were violated.

Here’s a link to the memo from the LA Unified school district superintendent, Dr. John Deasy, to the various members of the Board of Education. From the memo:

This Informative is to advise the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education of our decision to implement a new Request for Proposals (RFP) solicitation for personal computing devices before bringing future phases of the Common Core Technology Project (CCTP) for consideration for approval. Moving forward, we will no longer utilize our current contract with Apple Inc.

Not only will this decision 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 CCTP and receive new information from the California Department of Education regarding assessments. We will incorporate the lessons learned from the original procurement process, including the first two phases and the laptop pilot. Specifically, we will be revisiting the criteria on which original specifications were based, as well as review vendor responses and student feedback to the laptop pilot. We expect our current contractor and their subcontractor to participate in the upcoming RFP.

That last sentence is key. This is a re-do of the procurement to avoid the appearance of impropriety, not a slap at Apple, or so it seems to me.