Second grader Aiden C. listens to his teacher at the end of iPad instruction time at Comienza Community Prep in Huntington Park.
L.A. Unified has declined for months to share details on how it chose the iPad for its one-to-one tablet initiative. But as scrutiny has grown inside and outside the nation’s second largest school district, officials are beginning to release some documents.
Earlier this year, the school district received eight bids from companies competing to sell it touch-screen devices and companion educational software. The first contract would be worth tens of millions – with an all but guaranteed jump to hundreds of millions as the program rolled out to every student and teacher in the district.
To evaluate those bids, L.A. Unified tapped 41 people - all in administrative or central office positions. No teachers. No parents.
L.A. Unified declined to comment on the insider make-up of its tablet selection committee.
Among them were some obvious choices:
Susan Tandberg, Director of Curriculum and Instruction
Jamie Campbell, IT Supervisor
Joe Oliver, Director of Instructional Technology
Sajeev Malaveetil, a consultant with Berkley Research Group, which helps others win government contracts, said it's not uncommon for in-house administrators to sit on selection committees. In the case of very specific medicine, defense and technology contracts, those panels are often just technocrats.
But Malaveetil said it’s sometimes in the agency’s best interest to pile in stakeholders.
"When they look to bid their contracts, specifically as it relates to matters that are more close to heart to the citizens, like matters such as education, they will often seek community input," Malaveetil said.
Ultimately, the school board voted unanimously to approve the contract in June - agreeing to spend $50 million for "phase 1" of the project, of which $30 million would go to the devices and Pearson educational software.
Stakeholders are certainly weighing in on the project now.
The school board has put together a special group to oversee the project and this committee does include teachers - and even a student. The group has asked district officials for a detailed budget on the iPad project and will review those numbers starting next week.