Federal Grand Jury Subpoenas Documents from LA Unified

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Over 20 boxes of documents from the Los Angeles Unified school district were turned over in response to a subpoena from a federal grand jury in relation to a billion-dollar iPad project.

The subpoena requested documents that contained information pertaining to the bidding process in addition to the winning bidders for the project, which was set to use $1.3 billion to supply every student, teacher and administrator in the district with a computer.

Approved last June, the contract specified the purchase of Apple iPads loaded with curriculum supplied by Pearson in a subcontractor role.

The investigation is seeking information about Apple and Pearson prior to the bidding process.

The documents sought include all “score sheets; complete notepads, notebooks and binders; reports; contracts; agreements; consent forms; files; notices; agenda; meetings notes and minutes; instructions; accounting records” and much more.

FBI agents arrived at district offices early in the week to collect the documents as part of the first law-enforcement investigation of technology effort.

Former L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy said he was unaware of the goings-on and had not been contacted by law enforcement.  Deasy’s role in the project drew attention after his prior relationship with Apple and Pearson were made public knowledge.  Easy has since resigned from his position, continuing to deny any wrong-doing.  Board members have also said they do not think he is guilty of anything.  The project had been Deasy’s signature initiative in an effort to provide low-income students with equal access to technology.

After the visit from the FBI, Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines said he would be shelving the contract, although he added that the decision was not influenced by the visit.

When Deasy’s relationships with Apple and Pearson executives were announced last August, he had announced a suspension of any purchases made through Apple, although he related the suspension to changes in the technology marketplace, not his relationships.

However, that suspension never went into effect, and until Cortines’ decision, the district was still planning on honoring the contract with Apple.

“We’re not going to use the original iPad contract anymore,” Cortines said Tuesday. “I think there have been too many innuendos, rumors, etc., and based on my reading of a great deal of material over Thanksgiving, I came to this conclusion.

Instead, the district will honor a new contract that allows schools to choose between Apple iPads loaded with Pearson curriculum or Google Chromebooks with curriculum provided by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  Those who choose the iPads will have to wait until the fall of 2015 to obtain them.  The Chromebooks would be available much sooner.

The district has spent $70 million on the project so far, having purchased 90,713 devices.