Chicago Public Schools consider policy changes in device tracking following Inspector General’s report.

Chicago Public Schools is taking significant strides to address and rectify the challenges highlighted in an inspector general’s report that unveiled the loss of over 77,000 electronic devices within the district. The proposed changes, some of which were presented during a school board committee meeting, are part of a comprehensive effort to enhance the tracking and management of school assets, particularly electronic devices.

Middle school students finalize their assignments using tablet computers.
Middle school students finalize their assignments using tablet computers.

One key aspect of the proposed changes involves introducing disciplinary measures for staff who fail to adhere to the district’s policies for managing school assets, with a specific emphasis on electronic devices. The aim is to instill accountability and adherence to established protocols among the school staff responsible for overseeing and tracking devices. Additionally, the proposed changes include a language update in the policy to categorize training as “mandatory” for staffers in charge of device tracking.

In response to the alarming findings revealed in the annual report by CPS Inspector General Will Fletcher, the district is taking a proactive approach to address the root causes behind the substantial device losses. The report indicated that more than 77,000 devices were marked as lost or stolen during the 2021-22 school year, prompting concerns about the reliability of the tracking system and the lack of accountability among staff and students for the devices.

Rolando Hernandez, assistant deputy controller for CPS’ finance office, highlighted during the school board committee meeting that the policy amendments aim to provide a more accurate description of the current processes, eliminate obsolete sections, and overall improve CPS’ asset and inventory management practices.

The proposed changes extend beyond electronic devices and encompass a broader asset management policy. This policy covers any item that is not real estate, is purchased or donated to CPS, has a value ranging from over $500 to less than $25,000, and has a lifespan of more than a year. The existing policy applies to various entities within the CPS structure, including schools, central offices, and network offices, each of which is responsible for managing their respective devices.

One notable feature in the proposed adjustments is the requirement that all devices must be entered into CPS’ electronic inventory system within 30 days of delivery, not just after purchase. This aims to streamline the tracking process and ensure real-time visibility into the status of devices. Furthermore, individuals designated to track devices within their school or office will be held responsible for complying with annually required inventories and maintaining accuracy.

In the event of potential loss, damage, or theft, schools and offices will be required to report such incidents to the district’s asset management team. The proposed changes also introduce a mandatory annual report on loss or damage to be shared with the district’s Risk Management team, the Department of Facilities, and the Safety & Security team.

Additional measures include the requirement that broken computers be disposed of through a specialized process created by the Information and Technology department. While the proposed changes provide a comprehensive framework, certain specifics, such as the disposal process for broken computers, are expected to be further detailed.

The board is anticipated to vote on the proposed changes in March after a month-long public comment period, slated to commence on January 26. The proposed amendments signify a concerted effort by CPS to address the systemic issues highlighted by the Inspector General’s report and establish robust policies for effective asset and inventory management.

Separately, the district is actively working on additional changes aimed at more accurately representing the devices present in schools. This includes exploring automation processes for recovering computers, potentially involving freezing and sending notifications to devices requesting their return. Moreover, CPS is considering the replacement of its current asset management system due to identified functionality and data issues that need improvement.

During discussions on the missing devices’ estimated value, CPS CEO Pedro Martinez contested Inspector General Fletcher’s figure of $23 million, stating that many of the devices were old, significantly reducing the total cost. While Martinez emphasized the importance of prioritizing proper disposal practices for old devices, he acknowledged that the district needs to improve tracking, especially considering the substantial increase in the number of devices added to its inventory.

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In essence, the proposed changes underscore Chicago Public Schools’ commitment to addressing the challenges identified in the inspector general’s report comprehensively. By introducing robust policies, emphasizing accountability, and actively working on improving tracking systems and asset management practices, CPS aims to enhance the overall integrity of its inventory management and ensure the responsible use and tracking of electronic devices within the district.



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