Milton School Board members had differing opinions Monday on whether it makes sense to replace the school district’s current fleet of about 4,500 Apple technology products two years into a four-year contract.
The board will make a final decision on the possible sale of current devices to Diamond Assets, a local company co-owned by a former board member, and a new lease agreement with Apple at its Dec. 14 meeting. The board voted 5-2 after a heated conversation to allow Superintendent Rich Dahman to continue to explore the idea.
The decision, if approved, would include buying an additional 200 iPads for 4K students, as well as buying an additional 170 devices from Apple for any new students or as replacement devices.
Dahman said the move makes sense financially.
“One of the advantages to moving forward at this time is the high value of our devices,” Dahman said.
“If we just compare what we have now with what this lease would provide us if we didn’t add devices, this would be a financial savings for the school district.”
High school students are given Apple laptops called MacBooks, while middle and elementary school students use iPads. A transition to the new devices would take place in mid-January.
A transition would cost about $2.5 million, but that number could change based on add-ons, such as cases and charging cords, said Carey Bradley, director of business services.
Apple offered 0% interest on the new sale, but the offer is only available through Dec. 14.
Board members Brian Kvapil and Michael Hoffman opposed replacing the devices.
The idea arose after Apple informed the district that its current devices are at “peak value in the buyback marketplace,” according to board documents.
Dahman said he would have more information at the Dec. 14 meeting about how the district would handle a transition in devices and the final financial implications. He said he likely wouldn’t support selling the devices to vendors other than Diamond Assets, based on bids.
Diamond Assets submitted the second-lowest buy-back bid, about $1.22 million, for the current devices. Both Dahman and board President Joe Martin said the company has previously provided quality products and competitive bids.
The Diamond Assets offer is on the table through the month of February, but it will drop 2% each month afterward.
Board documents show district officials believe Diamond Assets presented the best offer.
“They have a history of successful projects with the School District of Milton and come recommended to the district by Apple. They presented a solid financial offer that includes payment of 100% of the minimum guaranteed bid total to the district at the time of device collection. From past experience when working with Diamond Assets in this capacity, we anticipate receiving a fair return on our devices,” the document reads.
Kvapil opposed the technology changes, saying it doesn’t make sense to change plans halfway through a contract without glaring problems. He wanted more information to avoid a possible “controversy” in accepting a bid from Diamond Assets, which is co-owned by former board member Diamond McKenna.
“We’re increasing our costs because we have to replace cases that are only 2 years old, and why in the world 4K needs iPads is beyond me,” Kvapil said.
Martin took issue with Kvapil mentioning the word controversy, saying any controversy was “manufactured.” Martin said a local reporter “went on a witch hunt” searching for controversy between Diamond Assets and the school district and found none.
Hoffman, who also opposed the resale, said he had a problem with the timing.
“If this were a normal year, I wouldn’t even bring this up. But this isn’t a normal year,” he said, adding that it could be hard to troubleshoot new issues from home if virtual learning continues past January.
If the board approves the idea, the district would owe $1.2 million to Apple to close out its current contract and would not face additional fees for doing so, Bradley said.