The FSD Laptop Program: Breaking it Down


“To be effective in the 21st century, the Fullerton School District believes that students must be able to develop innovative products and processes using technology, construct knowledge and demonstrate creative thinking.”

Mitch Hovey, Ed.D.

Our previous posts on FSDs Laptop Program have generated a wide array of commentary, some of which has been a bit off the mark relative to the specific posts. So we thought a general recap of problematic issues might be timely at this juncture.

  • Parents were being coerced into participating in the program
  • The laptops are way too expensive
  • Laptops are being lost and or stolen
  • FSD claimed the laptops were secure
  • The value of laptops in education is overrated

If anybody wishes to add items or to dispute them – fire away!

OC Register Digs Into FFFF’s School Laptop Post, Misses the Point

OC Register Front Page - Saturday September 19, 2009

The OC Register ran a story today on our previous laptop post in which a mother came forward to warn parents about the dangers of FSD’s school laptop program.

Overall the reporter gave a fair assessment to both sides of the controversy, although the article made the mother out to be naive about her duties as a parent to watch her children closely. Those who actually read the mother’s statement on this blog know this to be completely false.

The mother accepted responsibility for wrongly believing the school administrators when they told her that the laptops were safe. In her own words:

I felt stupid for being so naïve in thinking that a child should have a laptop with access to whatever she could dream of. I felt safe in believing that a school district would have the best firewalls to protect my child like they promised that firewalls do. I do believe that parents have a responsibility to watch over their children, and this generation requires a new kind of vigilance, but I also believe that a school has the responsibility to be honest in their abilities to protect our children as well.

Had the district been truthful about the risks associated with the laptops, perhaps this incident could have been avoided. This tragedy acts as yet another example of government employees and electeds distorting or concealing the truth to further their own personal agendas, to the detriment of the public whom they are supposed to serve.

Bottom line: These laptops are not safe for kids to use without direct supervision at all times. That includes all the kids accessing neighborhood wireless on the playground, in front of school, at the bus stop,  at Starbucks or in their own bedrooms. So now the question is, how does a parent monitor a kid with a laptop 24/7?

For most parents, it’s nearly impossible.

School Laptops Help Children Find Pornography and Meet Sexual Predators

At the urging of Fullerton police, a mother sent us this chilling story of her 11 year old girl who was nearly lured into a meeting with a suspected sexual predator after spending months chatting with him on a school laptop. School district employees deceptively promised parents that the laptops were safe when they required parents to purchase them, ignoring evidence that abuse of the laptops is prevalent throughout all grade levels. Many other children have been harmed by the 1:1 Laptop Program, but this is the first time that a parent has had the courage to come forward with the truth.

What I am about to share is very personal, and something that I’ve feared sharing for months now. You see, my children are transfer students, and I’ve feared that our transfer for next year would be denied if I spoke up, or that my children would be humiliated from the publicizing of this. I’ve been afraid that somehow the message that I want to convey would be torn apart and somehow I would be accused of poor parenting. Regardless of my fears of discrimination or criticism I am coming forward because I feel that it’s my duty, as a parent, to warn other parents of the very real danger that exists for our children.

My daughter was a sixth grade student at Golden Hill Elementary School last year for the 2008-2009 school year. The parents of incoming 6th graders attended a meeting, prior to the school year starting, about the laptop program. We basically voted whether or not we wanted to participate in the program. It was my understanding that if I did not want my daughter to participate I could send her to one of the surrounding schools that was not participating in the program. Due to the fact that she was a transfer student, my husband and I did not want to transfer her out, as we felt that the other schools in our area were not, let’s just say, as nice of schools as Golden Hill. We agreed to the program because we felt that we had very little choice, and signed the appropriate paperwork to begin leasing our daughter’s very expensive laptop that we really couldn’t afford.

Parents were encouraged to ask questions after the presentation. Topics about internet safety were brought up, and the parents were told that many state of the art firewalls were in place. If a child were to search an inappropriate topic they would immediately find out about it and the child would be questioned. They said that a tech person from the district would come in regularly, if not every week, and randomly check the computers for such material, or to do repairs on the laptops as needed. I can honestly say that when the school principle and district technology and media rep stood up there and told me this, I believed them.

In the beginning of January, 3 ½ months into the school year, I checked my daughter’s email and found incoming emails that warranted suspicion. After further investigation of the emails I found out that my daughter was able to access pornography and that she was chatting with adult men online. She used her school laptop to access a pornographic website, from her bedroom at night, using the neighbor’s unsecured wireless. What I did not find out until later was that she was making plans to meet one of the men that she had met online. In the 3 ½ months that this was happening neither the school nor the district was alerted by her inappropriate web usage from her school laptop.

Looking back I can remember when I picked my kids up after school I often saw 6th graders, with their laptops open outside of the houses that surrounded Golden Hill. They were accessing unsecured wireless too. I wonder what they were accessing outside before and after school that they weren’t allowed to access at home. My daughter told me that many of the students had found pornography on their school laptops with ease.

I took the laptop to the Fullerton School District to be searched by the Technology and Media Assistant Director Sam Ricchio. I was so angry. I asked him how it was possible for her to get onto such websites if there were so many firewalls in place. I wanted to know why they weren’t notified right away like they promised us that they would be if such searches were occurring. Unfortunately, he didn’t have any answers for me. He searched her computer for days before calling me and recommending that I take it to the police for a more detailed search.

I took the laptop to the Fullerton Police Department. They were successful at doing a forensic search on the computer. They told me that she was in fact chatting online using Yahoo Chat. They tried to send a warrant to Yahoo to get the records of the chat sessions, but because Yahoo purges the chats so quickly, it’s not possible to get the records. Since there were no records, no crime was committed and the case was closed. A month after everything with my daughter was revealed; the Fullerton Police Department came to Golden Hill and taught on internet safety.

The school had a meeting at the end of the year for the parents of graduating 6th grade students. Parents were given the option to keep the laptop or to turn it in. We were encouraged to keep the computer because “It’s still a great computer with incredible firewall protection for your child. If your child looks up the word, say, ‘breast cancer’, it’ll be flagged.” My husband was so appalled by this that he approached the principal, Robert Johnson, and the district Technology and Media Director, Ted Lai, afterwards to confront them on the lack of truth in what was being promised. Ted Lai said, “Your daughter is a brilliant hacker, and her situation is a one in one million case.” It’s unbelievable that he would rather make sensational claims and accusations instead of recognizing the huge gaping flaw in the laptop program, which is lack of safety for our children. I called the detective who handled our case, and I told him what Ted Lai said. He sounded shocked at what he heard, and assured me that he never said anything like that to the principal or Fullerton School District. He said that it was far from a one in a million case, and that a similar thing happened to a child who attended a neighboring junior high, only she actually got in the vehicle with the predator.

Sam Ricchio recommended that I take all laptops and computer cords into my bedroom at night for safekeeping. He does the same thing in his own home. Our daughter no longer has private computer access, and my neighbor has secured her wireless. I felt stupid for being so naïve in thinking that a child should have a laptop with access to whatever she could dream of. I felt safe in believing that a school district would have the best firewalls to protect my child like they promised that firewalls do. I do believe that parents have a responsibility to watch over their children, and this generation requires a new kind of vigilance, but I also believe that a school has the responsibility to be honest in their abilities to protect our children as well. Let’s face it. Kids are kids. If you give them the key to unlock Pandora’s Box, they’re going to unlock it. It is unnecessary and unsafe for a child of any age to be given a laptop of their own.

My goal in coming forward with this story is to make parents aware that personal school laptops for children are not safe even though firewalls are in place, regardless of how much a child is supervised. Most children are not kept under constant surveillance by parents, caregivers, after-school programs, or even on school campuses. Seemingly innocent chat rooms are the hunting grounds for child predators, and the internet itself is filled with material that a child of any age should not have access to. This is not an isolated incident. This is not an outstanding circumstance or child. This can happen to your child or a child that you know. The police told me to consider myself lucky that I have my daughter with me, and that I did not have to identify her body from somewhere. They were right. I am lucky. Countless other families aren’t as lucky though. You can protect your children from what Fullerton School District believes is a safe and beneficial program. You can choose to NOT purchase a school laptop for your child, and to NOT support the laptop program.

Beauty and The Beasts

Fullerton School District Trustee Minard Duncan (or someone doing a marvelous impersonation) visited our site a while back and left this observation about City Councilman Shawn Nelson’s wife, Sharon:

Nelson’s wife is a very pretty women as well as pleasant and cordial! It is hard not to drool around her.

Apart from the sharp needle-jump into the red on our FFFF creep-o-meter, it set us to thinking about mature male politicos and attractive, significantly younger females.

Minard lookin' good!
Pretty and cordial, too!

Some politicos avoid having their pictures taken with beauty contest winners for fear that the young woman will get all the attention, and the politician will look rather like an ugly duckling alongside. Others either haven’t learned that lesson, or are so starved for attention that they do it anyway.

Say cheese!
No personal space in this biz. Smile 'til it hurts

And of course some just can’t seem to resist laying hands on the pretty young things.

Yeehaw! A coupla young fillies in the corral...

What Color Is Pam Keller’s Parachute?

Won't take money from developers...
You will never see me taking money from developers...


We’ve been sharing information (when we find it) with our Friends about the unusual – well, unique, really – relationship between the Fullerton Collaborative and the Fullerton School District. Fullerton City Council woman Pam Keller is the Executive Director of the former, but remains an employee of the latter. We’ve coined a term for the process – “contracting-in.” It’s such a rare strategy that we’ve never actually seen it in use before.

Many of our Loyal Readers’ eyebrows have been caused to arch by the possibility that Pam Keller might have been soliciting donations for The Collaborative that actually went to pay FSD for her own services. And those eyebrows got even closer to hairlines when speculation began that Pam may have been soliciting donations from interests that had business before the City of Fullerton.

Today we share the 2009-2010 agreement between the Collaborative and the FSD – agreed upon by the Board of Trustees unanimously and without discussion as a “consent calendar” item.


Notice the asterisk in item #1 of the Collaborative’s responsibilities. It leaves open the possibility that the District may give the Executive Director a raise – and stick the Collaborative with the bill! Now we ask you – what kind of an organization would agree to an open-ended codicil like that in a contract? We’ll help out: one in which the Executive Director (who is also a board member), is the direct beneficiary, that’s who!

We also note in the 2009-10 FSD budget documents a throw away line stating that the Collaborative kicked in extra money to the FSD. It’s noted in that little box at the bottom of the document (below). Now why would the Collaborative do that? What kind of “charity” gives additional money back to a contractor? Possibly a charity whose fund-raiser’s efforts are so successful that a surplus exists which could be kicked back to the District to pay for that raise described in item #1 of the agreement. Of course we’re just speculating here.

Resolution for Expenditure

But, none of these speculations would be so thought provoking if the Collaborative’s mission weren’t so fuzzy, and if it had major expenses other than the cost of hiring a government employee to be its Executive Director/fund-raiser. But the mission is so loose as to be practically meaningless, and the cost of the Executive Director consumed most of its budget in 2007.

All of this really ties back to the fundraising issue and who actually gives money to the Collborative. But it’s perfectly clear now that the funds – donations, fees, whatever –  that go into the Collaborative, go to pay Keller – via the FSD; the question of additional “revenue” given to the FSD by the Collaborative opens up a new issue for people who contribute to this endeavor and who might start wondering why the Collaborative can’t be run by its own employee, or better yet, by volunteer labor.

Fullerton Parents Reject School Laptop Program

Click Here to View the Letter Mentioned in the OC Register


We were constantly told how wonderful the 1:1 Laptop program has been for the education of Fullerton school children, but something just didn’t smell right to us. Sure enough, we find out that many parents are finally saying “NO”. Resistance to the autocratic technology program has grown drastically in the last 6 months. After having a taste of the laptop program, parents at Golden Hill Elementary strongly rejected the continuance of the program at their school.

A report from the school district shows that Golden Hill parents failed to meet the 90% “willingness” threshold that is required for the laptop program to be continued. Despite ominous threats of moving children to an inferior school if the parents did not respond the survey “correctly”, only 51% of parents volunteered to participate in the program. The threshold was put in place after the ACLU sued the school district for violating children’s Constitutional right to a free education several years ago. Many parents at both Hermosa Drive and Nicholas Jr. High rejected the program as well, but the school district found enough money to subsidize parts of the program anyway.

After years of congratulating themselves for this high-tech boondoggle, the stupefied school board could only muster up support to continue the program at a single school. That’s not good, and it’s only going to get worse now that the parents are catching on.

How much longer can the district afford to keep shoveling money into the laptop pit as teachers are laid off and struggling parents stop paying their bills?

What will parents do when they find out how unsafe these Internet-ready laptops really are?

Stay tuned…

Keller’s Fullerton Collaborative: A Call for Transparency

Where do you want it? In the back?Yesterday the Shadow exposed some dubious inner workings at the Fullerton Collaborative. We thought something was up since Pam Keller’s penchant for passing bad development projects while proclaiming that she does not take developer money seems madly disjointed. A little digging revealed that a large piece of her non-profit’s donations go right back to Pam’s pocket as payment for her extensive “collaborating” skills, but only after being carefully funneled through the Fullerton School District.

Next came the anonymous whispers  – Pam doesn’t take developer donations, but does the Fullerton Collaborative? If so, things aren’t looking so good for Pam’s claims of honesty and transparency.

In light of these findings and on behalf of the public, we request that Fullerton Councilmember Pam Keller release all donation records for the Fullerton Collaborative dating back to the start of her 2006 campaign.

Many non-profits choose to disclose funding sources as a gesture of accountability. Any foundation being run by an elected official should be even more inclined to disclose financial data. Furthermore, if the elected official is being paid by the non-profit, full disclosure is a necessity. Pam claims to believe in the transparency of government, so let’s see if she has a problem showing the public who signs her paycheck.

Some will jump to Pam’s defense because she is generally well-liked. Being friendly and personable is not a reason to give any politician a complete pass. Put your personal feelings aside for a moment. That’s a difficult thing for many people to do and that’s probably why Pam has made it so far without scrutiny. We are merely investigating the motivations behind a politician’s choices. It’s hard to argue that the public is not better served by more transparency.

Fullerton School District Fires Teachers, Buys 350 Laptops

Fullerton School District just approved the purchase of 350 new laptops for the floundering 1:1 Laptop program. Meanwhile, the school district has laid off 122 teachers and staff this year.

A few months back we discussed how parents are coerced into buying these overpriced Apple computers for $1,500 each, or else their child will be forced to attend another school. We have also confirmed that many of the laptop loans made to parents by the district have gone bad, sending families into bankruptcy and requiring an additional $120,000 in funding from generous but naive donors. The loans that these parents are forced into will continue to sour in this economy, which means even more indebtedness for the school district.

Furthermore, parents taking the so-called laptop survey are increasingly turning against the program, despite the threatening manner in which the survey is administered. The survey ominously indicates that answering incorrectly will result in one’s child being deported to another school against the child’s will.

Lest you think we’re making this up, here is a clip from an actual Fullerton School District presentation:

This entire catastrohpe was nothing more than a resume-padding excercize for former District Superintendent Cameron McCune. The 1:1 Laptop program needs to be scrapped immediately. Unfortunately for parents and children, Bevery Berryman is the only school board member wise enough to see past the chirade.

Hilda Sugarman Apparently Not Sweet on Friends for Fullerton’s Future

Anybody home?
Anybody home?

A while back (6/3) FSD Trustee Hilda Sugarman inadvertently sent us an e-mail meant for someone else in which she directed this person(s) to read our post on the FSD laptop flop, asking whether it was “worth it” to “correct our errors.” We replied via e-mail and invited her to share these supposed errors with us. See? We’re nothing if not open to correction.

On 6/4 our intrepid Travis followed up with another e-mail, this time to the entire board, asking for additional specifics about the laptop program to help clarify points of confusion he encountered when talking to parents. Well over a week has gone by and so far nothing but a deafening silence from  the biggest cheerleader of this coercive governmental shakedown scheme. We realize that the well-lubricated FSD bureaucratic machine is hard at work extruding “knowledge creators” for the 21st Century.

Make sure to cut them off the right length
Make sure to cut them all off the same length...

But not even a quick post correcting our so-called “errors”? That doesn’t sound so hard, does it? Maybe they can assign the task to an 6-year old for extra credit.

Okay kids someone come up with something creative. Mr. Hovis can't write for beans.
Okay kids. Someone come up with something creative. Dr. Hovis can't write for beans.

C’mon Hilda, we’re waiting! And how about the rest of the FSD crew?

Hilda Sugarman Puts Her Lafite Where Her Mouth Is…

can we get that in a box...
can we get that with a screw cap?

We have to say this for FSD Trustee Hilda Sugarman. She puts her Premier Cru on the line for what she believes in. And what she believes is that her elementary school kids need laptops to be properly educated.

Mrs. Sugarman is one of the masterminds of the FSD laptop program that has given us (and the ACLU) such heartburn. Perhaps not coincidentally, she is also the President of the Fullerton Excellence in Education Foundation (or at least was as late as 2008); the pupose of the foundation, per its website is to support the technology/laptop education in the FSD, etc.

We have heard on the grapevine that the Foundation has pledged $120,000 to the district program over the next two years, which is fortunate since the program seems to be in the hole for at least that much in unanticipated costs in this year’s budget. Seems some folks don’t want to pick up the tab for pricey laptops.

But on to the the bibulations!

well, it's for a good cause, i guess...
well, it's for a good cause, I guess...but remember kids, just say no!

This evening, the Foundation holds an “exclusive” wine auction over at the Arboretum. Lots of locals are involved and it looks like many of Sugarman’s in-laws are event sponsors; and, again we give kudos to Hilda for doing a little intrafamily arm twisting.

We’re sure a good time will be had by all, and that everybody goes home feeling downright philanthropic. But let’s hope that at least some of the attendees come to reflect upon FSD Superintendant Mitch Hovey’s blithering baloney on the FEEF website:

“To be effective in the 21st century, the Fullerton School District believes that students must be able to develop innovative products and processes using technology, construct knowledge and demonstrate creative thinking.”

what did that funny man say?
what did that funny man just say?

We really have no idea what this statement means, but in any case it seems to imply a pretty tall order for an eight-year old. We here at FFFF are somewhat old fashioned, and think that its the job of our elementary schools to teach kids how to read, write, and do some ‘rithmatic; and maybe along the way learn to think a little bit for themselves. Mitch, please consider scaling back your goals for success to something comprehendable, reasonable and measurable.