Archives for category: Los Angeles

The Pentagon has been giving military equipment not only to police departments, but to school districts.

In Los Angeles, Mike Klonsky reports, “Supt. John Deasy has stocked up 61 M16 assault rifles, three grenade launchers, and a mine-resistant vehicle from the Pentagon.” These things might prove useful, Mike speculates, if something bad happens. “like an ISIS attack or a sharp decline in test scores.”

Howard Blume of The Los Angeles Times has done a remarkable job of reporting about Superintendent John Deasy’s huge problems in managing the school system, the most monumental of them being his decision to borrow from a construction bond issue to buy Apple iPads loaded with Pearson content for every student and staff member at a purported cost of $1.3 billion. Bad enough that he was raiding the bond issue funds for this project, but emails surfaced revealing that Deasy and his assistant Jaime Aquino (a former employee of Pearson) had discussions with both Apple and Pearson about the project before the bidding began. Along the way, we learned that Apple was charging above the market price for the iPads; the price dropped when this came out. The problems associated with this fiasco were unending.

Yet the Los Angeles Times editorial board apparently missed Blume’s excellent reporting. Today they published an editorial admonishing the school board for micromanaging Deasy. Really. The school board is elected by the public. Deasy works for the school board. The school board does not work for Deasy.

One has the uncomfortable feeling that billionaire Eli Broad is pulling the strings. After all, as the public reacted with outrage to the iPad fiasco, Broad hurried to Deasy’s defense. In Eli’s eyes, Deasy can do no wrong.

But he did do wrong, and the LAUSD elected school board should hold him accountable. Accountability begins at the top, not the bottom.

In an effort to take the heat off his own troubles, Los Angeles Superintendent John Deasy has hired a lawyer and now seeks access to any of his bosses’ emails that show relationships with tech companies.

Deasy had to cancel a contract with Apple and Pearson when two-year-old emails showed that he had been in discussion with them about the plan. Deasy claimed it was about a pilot. Nonetheless, he suspended the contract that our eventually amount to more than $1 billion.

Talk about bad timing!

 

The Los Angeles Unified School Board voted 6-0 to adopt a policy to shred most internal emails after one year. The iPad scandal came to light only after reporters gained access to two-year-old internal emails.

 

As Annie Gilbertson of public radio station KPCC wrote:

 

The decision comes less than three weeks after KPCC published two-year-old internal emails that raised questions about whether Superintendent John Deasy’s meetings and discussions with Apple and textbook publisher Pearson influenced the school district’s historic $500 million technology contract.

Under the new system, L.A. Unified will be able to deny California Public Records Act requests for emails more than one year old, according to school district general counsel David Holmquist. KPCC had obtained the emails through the public records act.

The measure passed 6-0, with new school board member George McKenna abstaining from the vote.

 

There was something like a public uproar over the decision, and a day later, the LAUSD board voted to reconsider its decision. No emails will be deleted pending a final decision by the Board.

 

School board member Monica Ratliff called for changes to the school district’s policy for retaining those records.

“I believe the District should preserve any emails of Board members, the Superintendent, senior officers and their respective staffs,” Ratliff said in a written statement Wednesday.

“Often, older emails may have historical importance that cannot always be assessed until later,” she said. “The Board and District must come up with a timeline for email retention that makes sense and clearly serves the public’s interest.”

 

 

 

Ellen Lubic, director of Joining Forces for Education and a professor of public policy in Los Angeles, here describes the numerous failings of Superintendent John Deasy and calls for an independent audit and grand jury investigation. The article has gone viral, receiving nearly 700,000 hits since it was published by CityWatch.

She writes:

“Finally the lack of transparency of the mismanaged leadership of LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy is seeing the light of day. The excellent investigative journalism by the LA Times education reporter, Howard Blume, and KPCC’s detailed and informed reporter, Annie Gilbertson, has opened up the stench of the secret deals and waste of taxpayer funds that Deasy manipulated throughout his tenure, and is now exposed for all to see.

“Many in the public were shocked that his contract was renewed last October after the $1 Billion iPad scandal was published not only in LA, but all over the US. And now we have the proof of the secret deals he cut with Apple and Pearson.

“We see as evidence the actual emails and signed contracts that he put taxpayers on the hook for in so many ways, from using 30 year payback with interest of the Construction Bond money he negotiated to pay for this fiasco, to claiming it was a civil rights issue for inner city students to have these top of the line but soon to be obsolete devices, when actually it was a Broad Academy-taught business model for huge “free market” profits.

“Deasy has been a disaster at LAUSD from the beginning when Eli Broad and Tony Villaraigosa imposed his hiring without further search by the Board of Education. This power play led to ongoing conniving and mendacity that is now beginning to open up for public inspection.”

Lubic cites a number of actions by Deasy that should be reviewed by credible investigators, beginning with the $1 billion iPad plan that went bad when reporters learned of Deasy’s contacts with Apple and Pearson before the bidding process. She adds:

“Deasy’s first big decision to rush all Mira Monte teachers into “teacher jail” so as to punish them for guilt by association with the one teacher who was an abuser, caused many fine teachers to lose their good reputations while they and the young students they served were permanently traumatized.

“We the taxpayers are paying ongoing for the many lawsuits that were initiated due to this LAUSD mismanagement. The plethora of hidden lawsuits filed by parents, wounded teachers, and so many others, will strain the over burdened taxpayers of LA County for years to come, due to Deasy’s lack of judgment and leadership ability…..

“Thereafter, a continuing series of terrible management by Deasy is clear to one and all, from embedding charter schools to comply with his mentor Eli Broad and the Wall Street privatizers of public education, to firing teachers for no apparent reason and/or sending them to teacher jail as he did with the award winning and widely respected and beloved choir director at Crenshaw HS, his testifying for the Vergara plaintiffs against his own teachers so he could “fire teachers rapidly,” to making Jaime Aquino take the fall for the iPads fiasco, and now Deasy is still spinning it that it was exclusively all Aquino’s fault when Deasy actually hired Aquino only weeks after becoming Superintendent and knowing Jaime has just worked for Pearson.”

Lubic concludes:

“Now, with all this evidence that shows his poor leadership skills and mendacious approach in covering up his faults with spin doctoring, we still ask why he has not been fired? We should all be calling for an external independent audit of these possibly fraudulent, but definitely mismanaged, spending of our public funds to the detriment of our public schools and the students and parents. And we should further all be demanding a Grand Jury investigation of this putrid affair.

“The LAUSD Board of Education is Deasy’s boss, and We the People are their boss, so please make your voices loud and clear to them, and to the media, and to each other, that those complicit in this mess that is LAUSD must all be investigated right now with both an external independent audit and a Grand Jury investigation.”

Annie Gilbertson of public radio KPCC in Los Angeles has another scoop. Officials who were on the committee to choose the winning bid for LAUSD’s huge technology purchase received free iPads and the cost of their trip to a meeting at a resort was underwritten by the Pearson Foundation.

She writes:

“Los Angeles Unified officials who evaluated bids for its massive technology project received iPads from Pearson, met with a Pearson software executive and attended a weekend sales pitch for that software — all ahead of the public bid process, documents show.

“The revelation is important because Superintendent John Deasy has repeatedly said the bid process was not affected by early conversations on the software — which he asserts were limited to a small pilot project.

“According to travel reports received through a public records act request, Susan Tandberg and Gerardo Loera, top administrators in the district’s office of curriculum and instruction, attended a Pearson conference at a Palm Desert resort in July 2012 where all attendees were given iPads loaded with Pearson’s learning software.

“A third office of curriculum and instruction staffer, Carol Askin, also attended the conference and would have received an iPad, records show.”

At the end of the story comes this stunning revelation:

“As for the meetings, Pearson officials on Monday said they agreed with Deasy’s statements to other media that the early communications between the company and L.A. Unified officials related only to planning an eight-classroom pilot program.

“However, emails show L.A. Unified officials discussing training 2,000 teachers on the Pearson software and Pearson offered to hire four, full-time staff members to help train teachers – an extraordinary expense an eight-classroom pilot.”

Howard Blume reports in the LA Times that at least $2 million in computers cannot be accounted for.

“More than $2 million worth of Los Angeles Unified computers, mostly iPads, could not be accounted for during a recent audit by the school system’s inspector general.

“The review also found that the school district lacked an effective tracking system — and that losses could be higher as a result.

“The District did not have a complete, adequate and centralized inventory record of all of its computers,” the report said. “There was an increased potential for fraud, misuse and abuse of District resources.”

“L.A. Unified spent about $67 million from July 2011 through June 2013 to purchase 70,000 computers and mobile devices from Apple and Arey Jones, a vendor.

“The totals in the audit are estimates because, the report said, “we were unable to determine the exact number of computers and mobile devices purchased through the master contracts for the period under review because the information needed was incomplete, inaccurate, or unavailable.”

“The audit found campuses that had a surplus of devices and schools with no effective system to track who had a computer or who was responsible for it.

“In one case, the charter school division said it transferred 30 laptops and three desktops from one closed campus to another school. But the second one said it never received anything.

“And 106 computers from a closed occupational center could not be located, the report said.

“At Dymally Senior High, “current and former administrators refused to take responsibility for missing computer devices,” the report said.

“Eighty-two computers disappeared from a regional district office.

“Where records did exist, they were often incorrect, showing computers assigned to employees who had resigned, retired or transferred, the audit found.

“For the most part, the missing devices covered by the audit did not include iPads that were part of last fall’s rollout of a $1-billion effort to provide a computer to every student, teacher and campus administrator.

“However, 96 devices included in that effort also were lost or stolen, with 36 eventually recovered.”

Annie Gilbertson of public radio station KPCC in Los Angeles somehow managed to get the emails that broke open the Los Angeles iPad fiasco. Once her story broke, Superintendent John Deasy canceled the contract with Apple and Pearson.

Gilbertson reported:

“The emails show the officials detailed aspects of a one-to-one student technology program, down to the specifics of tech support and teacher training. A year later, the requirements for proposals resembled the package Pearson was selling.

“KPCC aired and published stories on those emails Friday. On Monday, Superintendent John Deasy announced he was canceling the contract with Apple and Pearson and issuing a new request for proposals for the one-to-one technology project.

“L.A. Unified’s technology expansion, including upgrading wifi at schools, is poised to be the largest in the country with a price tag of nearly $1.3 billion.”

Now Ken Bramlett, the Inspector General of the schools, has decided to reopen an investigation that had been closed, based on those emails.

Hopefully, any future purchases will not take money from the bond issue that voters approved for school repair and construction. Having a clean, safe, up-to-date, beautiful school to attend should be the civil right of every student in Los Angeles.

Steve Lopez, columnist for the Los Angeles Times, asks all the right questions about John Deasy and the blow-up of his plan to spend $1 billion for iPads loaded with Pearson curriculum.

Can he survive the release of the emails that give the appearance of impropriety?

Can he survive when the new board may have a majority of members not in his corner?

Can he survive in light of the fact that Stuart Magruder, one of the few public critics of Deasy’s decision to use school construction bonds to pay for the iPads, was reinstated to the Bond Oversight Committee?

Can he survive when the LAUSD technology committee criticized the deal with Apple and Pearson before the emails were made public?

How much worse can Deasy’s situation get? Will he tough it out or has he lost the public’s confidence?

Following the release of internal emails that suggested inappropriate contact between Superintendent John Deasy, other LA officials, and top officials at Apple and Oearson, Deasy canceled the contract and announced he would start the bidding again.

The LA Times wrote:

“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.”

In a memo
to the board, Deasy presented the cancellation of an ethically-challenged contract as an opportunity:

“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 [Common Core Technology Project] and receive new information from the California Department of Education regarding assessments,” Deasy wrote.

The remaining question is whether the LAAUSD board will hold Deasy accountable for the inappropriate meetings with the winning bidders, the use of repair funds from a bond issue, or any other aspect of the fiasco.

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