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LAUSD board to vote on $6.4 million settlement proposal with Apple over iPad software

Cristina Zaldivar, 9, uses an iPad to learn to draw at the Bell Technology Center during a computer class.
Dorian Merina/KPCC
FILE: A proposed settlement with Apple and Lenovo would resolve issues with the Pearson software installed in tablets purchased by Los Angeles Unified.

Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines told board members this week he’s negotiated a $6.4 million settlement with Apple Inc. and tech company Lenovo to resolve a dispute over faulty software on the tablets they sold to the district.

Most of the settlement money will come from Apple.

Cortines issued a two-page memo (see below) outlining the settlement, which the school board must still approve, as well as his proposal to distribute the settlement funds through grants to individual campuses.

“The $6.4 million in proceeds represents an exciting opportunity to invest in such schools and to promote collaboration among campuses,” Cortines said in the memo.

For the last year, LAUSD has been in discussions with Apple over the school district’s failed $1.3 billion program to equip every student with an iPad.

The settlement covers problems with the software created by Apple subcontractor Pearson Education. The software wasn’t ready when the district began distributing the iPads to students two years ago and teachers complained of missing math problems and other issues.

Meanwhile, a Pearson spokeswoman confirmed to KPCC this week that the company is laying off the people who developed the software for LAUSD’s iPad program.

That team included Judy Codding, Sherry King, and Susan Sclafani, three people who had email exchanges with top LAUSD officials about Pearson’s software before Apple and Pearson submitted their proposal to L.A. Unified. Those exchanges raised questions about whether the bid process for the iPads were appropriately conducted.

A Pearson spokeswoman said the disbanding of the development team was not related to LAUSD's trouble with the company's software on the iPads.

"The core development team has completed the work that we hired them to do. Unfortunately, there are not comparable roles for them available within Pearson," said Laura Howe, Pearson vice president for media and communities, by email.

Pearson would not disclose which school districts are still using the software but said its computer support staff would continue to provide service.

The mounting problems with LAUSD'S iPad program contributed to the resignation of former Superintendent John Deasy in October 2014. Less then two months later, FBI agents confiscated school district documents related to the tablet purchases.

Cortines didn’t say in his memo whether the settlement involved any admission of fault on the part of the companies.

In the spring, David Holmquist, LAUSD general counsel, said in a letter to Apple that it had promised a  state-of-the-art solution for technology initiative, but Apple and Pearson "have yet to deliver it." 

Mark Warschauer, education technology expert at University of California, Irvine, believes the school district walks away with the biggest black eye in this settlement proposal because it didn’t think through the best use of the iPads and its software.

He said he likes the school district’s proposal to let individual campuses decide next how to integrate technology into daily learning.

"So let schools come together in small groups and develop their own plans and decide what device meets their own needs. Let a thousand flowers bloom in L.A. Unified,” he said.

The school board may take up the settlement proposal at its next meeting in October.

LAUSD superintendent memo on Apple settlement proposal

This story has been updated.