L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy suspended future use of a contract with Apple on Monday that was to provide iPads to all students in the nation's second-largest school system amid mounting scrutiny of the $1-billion-plus effort.
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.
"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 [project]," Deasy wrote.
Under the contract approved just over a year ago, Apple had been expected to provide iPads with Pearson as the subcontractor. School board members were made to understand that the initial $30-million contract was expected to expand to about $500 million as the project rolled out over the next year or so. An additional $500 million would be used to expand Internet access and other infrastructure issues at schools.
The purchases were being approved in phases, which gave Deasy the option of starting over.
But Deasy, who has been the main proponent of providing the iPads throughout the district and who has defended the project repeatedly, was coming under mounting criticism for his handling of the contract and for the implementation of the program.
Last week, a draft report of a district technology committee, obtained by The Times, was strongly critical of the bidding process.
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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.
"Moving forward, we will no longer utilize our current contract with Apple Inc.," Deasy wrote in a memo sent to the Board of Education on Monday.