Guilford County Schools Tablet Program Future Remains Uncertain

10:38 PM, Oct 21, 2013   |    comments
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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Fifteen-thousand tablets are locked up inside Guilford County Schools after the district had safety concerns with the products. Now that the district has temporarily shut down the tablet program, more details about how the district chose the company Amplify are emerging.

WFMY News 2 received a stack of hundreds of pages of emails from Guilford County Schools on Monday. We are still digging through all the information, but we can report there is a debate about whether the district already had Amplify in mind when it applied for the federal grant to get the equipment.

Guilford County Schools Chief Information Officer Terrence Young said the selection process included a team of educators looking for the best content, not the best device. When WFMY News 2 asked Young if the committee had Amplify in mind from the beginning, he responded, "That is not true at all. Any semblance of that would discredit the process. We had a team that was invested in getting us to personalized learning. We had this team in place and we were traveling this path before this vendor showed up."

There are also questions about a personal relationship between Superintendent Mo Green and an executive with Amplify. When Green was in the Charlotte school system, he worked under Peter Gorman. Gorman is now an executive at Amplify. Green has not hid that relationship, but district officials say Green stayed out of the selection process.

"We know that perception is out there. We deal with it regularly. But, we would like to offer up that we are a district of character. We still are standing firm with...we were pursuing content," Young said. "No one drove this process other than our own internal talent. We were trying to determine and get to the best solution to what we were trying to do with personalized learning."

WFMY News 2 also asked why didn't the district just go with the iPad, which was already working well in school system. Young said Amplify was the only company that included the controls teachers needed in the classroom. Teachers can send information out to all the tablets at once and even turn off students tablets with the press of a button. Those kinds of features were not available with the iPads.

There could be an announcement as early as this week about what is going to happen next with the tablet program. District officials say they want all new tablets and a reassurance that the problems are corrected.

"It is disappointing. We were getting positive feedback. We're continuing to get questions about when we are going to restart the program. We're at a disappointing place right now. But, we have every effort and intention to restart this program," Young said. "With a large implementation like this, we didn't have any illusions about some of the learning curves we would encounter along the way."

The district has collected all but about 300 tablets. Staff members have disabled those 300 tablets. On Friday, the district put out another request for parents and students to return the tablets back to school.

Monday night Guilford County Schools (GCS) released this statement and updated information on the tablet problems:

Guilford County Schools (GCS) has completed its inspection of most tablets and equipment related to its one-to-one initiative at the middle school level. The program was suspended on Oct. 4 due to ongoing concerns regarding the quality and safety of the products provided to the district by Amplify.

Since the suspension, GCS has identified the following concerns, which are inclusive of those noted previously:

  • Approximately 2,100 of the roughly 15,000 tablets distributed have broken screens or other issues;
  • The USB connector that joins the external keyboard to the tablet was broken on more than 2,000 folio cases;
  • Approximately 500 chargers were identified with exposed wires or problems with the USB connectors; and,
  • Nine chargers were identified that may have damage related to overheating.

The district has about 300 tablets and 2,100 chargers that have not yet been returned. Parents have been notified by personal phone calls and other means.

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