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Ongoing issues face new LAUSD technology chief

Jefferson High School students stage a walk-out in protest of a broken scheduling system that doesn't allow them to take the proper classes they need to graduate.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC
File photo: Jefferson High School students staged a walkout in August 2014 to protest a broken scheduling system called MiSiS that didn't allow them to take the classes they needed to graduate.

Los Angeles Unified has hired a school district insider to lead its troubled information technology office.

Shahryar Khazei succeeds Ron Chandler, the district's last chief information officer, who resigned abruptly last year as problems with the LAUSD’s new student data system wreaked havoc at Los Angeles schools.

Superintendent Ramon Cortines' selection of Khazei, the district's deputy chief information officer, places a 30-year LAUSD employee and mechanical engineer by training in charge of the office that runs technology operations for the district.

The office has been at the center of management issues with two major technology programs that contributed to both Chandler's departure and the resignation of former Superintendent John Deasy.

A school district investigation of last year's meltdown of MiSiS, the district's student data system, found that faulty management of the project’s various moving parts was to blame.

Khazei, who was picked from an applicant pool of 200, worked on the data system’s technology, according to Diane Pappas, the superintendent's chief advisor on the MiSiS recovery program.

“He was on the network side of the project, not part of the project management team, not part of the application, but strictly on the network side,” Pappas said. “The problem was the MiSiS application and all of the other issues, and it was absolutely not ready to be rolled out.”

“[Khazei]'s got great depth of technical knowledge and expertise. He's been working in urban education. He knows schools, knows the school district,” she said.

The district could not immediately provide the salary for his new post.

In a written statement, Cortines said he’s confident Khazei can help fix the student data system. That job, Pappas said, will take another two years.

In his May 15 update on continuing fixes to the MiSiS system, Cortines said: “While the system has been improving steadily since a troubling start to the school year, there is still much to be addressed.”

Khazei will also help oversee the future of the $1.3 billion iPad program, which Cortines has all but abandoned. The initiative, championed by Cortines' predecessor, aimed to get a tablet in the hands of each district student, but it has been problem-plagued.

A federal investigation into the iPad bidding process led the FBI to cart out boxes of documents from district offices in December. The action followed publication by KPCC of emails that revealed the district had been in talks with computer giant Apple and software publisher Pearson long before the bidding process was formally opened.

Last month, district wrote to Apple to demand a multimillion-dollar refund for nonfunctioning curriculum software from Pearson that was installed on the iPads.