Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy took on critics of his $1-billion iPad program this week in a live call-in segment of a show on the L.A. Unified School District-owned television station.
The effort was an attempt to counter critical media attention over the superintendent's efforts to provide a tablet computer to every student and teacher in the nation's second-largest school system. So far, most of the coverage has focused on early problems, such as more than 300 high school students bypassing a security filter so they could reach unauthorized websites.
In the hourlong KLCS-TV program Thursday, Deasy characterized the rollout as a spectacular success overall. He also took on right away a persisting question: Why do the devices cost so much, $678, when they are available in stores for less?
The cost of the district iPads, he said, includes a no-questions-asked replacement warranty, curriculum in English and math and eventually science and social studies as well as a software security system, a secure storage system in the classroom and training for teachers.
He characterized tablets as necessary for new state standardized tests and for effective, up-to-date learning that is already available to families that are more prosperous than those of most L.A. students.
"It’s no longer a maybe or a luxury," he said. "It’s a fundamental right of students.”
Deasy was joined by the head of the project, Bernadette Lucas, school police Lt. Jose Santome and senior technology administrator Shahryar Khazei.
The broadcast also included prerecorded segments, including one featuring comments by outgoing Deputy Supt. Jaime Aquino, who oversaw the instructional components. Aquino announced his pending resignation recently over what he described as a dysfunctional Board of Education.
A parent from North Hollywood asked how the district intended to sustain the program after the iPad warranty expires in three years.
Deasy answered that the district faces a similar burden of ongoing costs in all its operations, and "you build that into budgets."
The program will be replayed Sunday, at 12:06 p.m., immediately after a rebroadcast of the most recent school board meeting.
At that meeting, board members scheduled a special session for later this month to deal with their own concerns and questions about the iPad project.
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