The L.A. Unified School District’s $1 billion dollar investment to acquire iPads for their school children is coming to a grinding halt. It was disclosed that Superintendent of Schools John Deasy has close ties to Apple executives and Pearson, the curriculum based software company providing the iPad text books.
There is an obvious conflict of interest in this and Deasy released a memo to the Board of Education that partially stated the following.
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 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 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 re-visiting 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.
Deasy has come under fire for the way he handled the contract with Apple and Perason being accused of giving preferential treatment to both companies in the matter.
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.
Deasy immediately defended the integrity of his staff and the original process, but also noted that he hadn’t read the draft report because a copy had not been provided to him.
This whole deal is a giant ostrich egg in the face for not only Deasy, but Apple and Pearson as well. Deasy is attempting damage control by pulling the District out of the contract and issuing the memo but the damage has been done, at least to him. Apple and Perason are likely large enough and carry enough legalese to word their way out of any wrong doing in the matter. Head over to the LA Times for a comprehensive write up.