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The Sweetwater Union High School District has spent millions of dollars in recent years to buy iPads for students and staff. Now the district has started selling the tablets, but the timing of that action raises some questions.
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The school board voted on Monday night to ratify a contract to sell approximately 10,300 of its outdated iPads to Gazelle, a San Diego-based company that buys used electronics.
But even before the board vote, the district had sold 5,614 of the devices to Gazelle for $407,400. The company estimates it’ll pay another $400,000 for the remaining iPads, many of which are fourth generation.
Nick Marinovich, a member of the Sweetwater school district’s citizens bond oversight committee, had raised concerns with the iPad program as early as 2012.
“The iPads have had not the greatest history with the bond oversight committee in their initial rollout and funding,” Marinovich told the board on Monday.
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Many of the tablets sold come from the district’s 1 to 1 Initiative, a program to put iPads in the hands of all middle schoolers in the district. inewsource reported on the status of those iPads in June and found that not quite half were no longer being used.
The data used for that article was requested from the district in January, and it was provided to inewsource in March. It showed that from 2012 to 2014 Sweetwater purchased about 29,900 Apple tablets for the 1 to 1 Initiative. Of those, the district categorized 13,066 of them as “out of inventory — damaged.”
Manuel Rubio, a spokesman for the district, said last week some of those devices may have been miscategorized as damaged when they had actually been sold. Last Wednesday, in a post on its website, the district gave the first indication it had sold some of its iPads.
When inewsource interviewed Sweetwater officials in May about the iPads, they didn’t disclose plans to sell the tablets, even though a price quote was generated by Gazelle on April 6. In the quote, the company offered to pay a range of prices depending on the condition of the devices. For example, it offered $80 for a third generation iPad in good condition and $20 for one in poor condition.
Jennifer Carbuccia, the district’s attorney, said on Monday after the school board meeting that Gazelle is reviewing the remaining iPads to determine how much they are worth.
“They’re going through them and checking to see, this one is totally defunct, it doesn’t work at all … (or) it’s in fair (condition),” Carbuccia said. “Then they’ll tell us, we’re going to give you X. And we could say, no, nevermind. I don’t think we will, but we could and get them back.”
She said the district was allowed to sell the devices before it had board approval because the outdated iPads are considered electronic waste. The school board votes every year to approve giving district staff the power to dispose of e-waste, as well as outdated equipment and furniture. The action Monday was simply to ratify the staff’s decision, Carbuccia said.
Sweetwater has continued to provide iPads for middle schoolers, although it has switched to leasing new devices. It has also started providing Lenovo laptops for high schoolers.
Five years after the Sweetwater Union High School District board spent $4.5 million to put iPads in the hands of seventh graders, nearly all of the Apple tablets are classified as out of inventory, lost or stolen.