CPS Revising Asset Management Policy After 77,000 Electronic Devices Reported Missing | Chicago News

(WTTW News)(WTTW News)

Chicago Public Schools is set to take additional steps to revamp its inventory management system, after a district watchdog found that more than 77,000 CPS-owned devices were marked as lost or stolen in recent years.

The Chicago Board of Education this month will approve a month-long public comment period on proposed changes to the district’s existing asset and inventory management policy. That move came weeks after CPS Inspector General Will Fletcher published investigative results showing that $23 million worth of electronic devices were unaccounted for.

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced CPS to switch to remote learning in early 2020, the district spent $165 million on iPads, MacBooks and Windows devices to lend to students so that they could learn from home.

But after in-person learning resumed, the Office of Inspector General discovered that an “unacceptably” high percentage of electronic devices — 77,505 devices in total — had been reported as lost or stolen.

Many cases involved equipment that had been assigned to students or staff, but was never returned, often without any consequences. But not all devices that were marked as missing were gone forever, and many were legitimately lost and then later found.

CPS says it has recovered more than 12,000 of the missing devices, nearly all of which had been left in schools and missed during the previous inventory cycle.

The district’s policy will be updated to include mandatory training in order to improve data accuracy and ease the burden on schools, while additional measures are aimed at holding school officials accountable.

District officials said they’re also implementing an IT management system and automating the recovery process. Devices that remained missing have been disabled and sent a notification asking for them to be returned to the school.

The district said it’s also working to streamline a disposal process for outdated devices, because in some cases, equipment was thrown out and then reported as lost or missing.

CPS CEO Pedro Martinez on Wednesday said he’s “very respectful of the OIG process,” calling it a “great internal control for us.”

But he also took issue with Fletcher’s assertion that the equipment was worth $23 million. Martinez said many of the missing devices were “well beyond their useful life” and estimated the value lost at around one-tenth of that amount.

“It’s not an excuse,” Martinez said, “because again, we still have to be able to track these devices and it is a reminder to me … that because as a district we built up the number of devices we have, well over half a million now, … it’s easy for us to not prioritize how we get rid of old devices, and it’s not always clear even to staff.”