Questions about Wake County school deal to buy tablets

Posted on October 21, 2013 

Last Tuesday, the Wake County school board pulled off the agenda – without explanation –a vote on using $538,790 in federal Race to the Top funds to purchase tablets from Amplify Education Inc. for East Cary Middle School.

This blog post Thursday in the Greensboro News & Record shows that Wake was about to purchase the same type of tablets that the Guilford County school system pulled because of safety concerns. This article Thursday in the Rhino Times indicates that Amplify may have falsely told Guilford in April that it already had a similar contract with Wake.

Both districts have been using tablets from Amplify.

As this Oct. 4 story in the Greensboro News & Record shows, Guilford had purchased more than 15,000 tablets for use by middle school students. But the tablets were pulled following an issue with a malfunctioning charger.

The article reported other problems in Guilford, such as broken screens on about 1,500 tablets and additional complaints of about 175 broken or damaged chargers.

In Wake County, East Cary Middle School has been using – for free – the tablets from Amplify for the past several months. The pilot program allowed students to take the devices home with them. This April article in The Cary News indicated that there were high hopes for the program.

As this contract shows, Wake wanted to expand the use of the Amplify tablets at East Cary Middle before it was removed from the Oct. 15 meeting agenda.

Wake school officials declined comment when The News & Record asked why the purchase was put on hold.

In terms of the Rhino Times piece, the article cites emails to charge that Guilford school officials colluded with Amplify to help the company win that district’s contract for the tablets.

Also in that article, there are emails showing that Guilford school officials were questioning in April claims by Amplify that it had a contract with Wake. In one of the emails, David Neter, Wake’s chief business officer, said they were working to get a free trial of Amplify’s tablets but did not have a contract with the company.

“Would like to know if Amplify is representing this as it sounds like they are?” Neter wrote

But that didn’t stop Wake from at least negotiating to put the contract on the board agenda last week.

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