Turmoil Surrounds Los Angeles' New AI Student Chatbot; Tech Firm Furloughs Staff – The 74

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The future of Los Angeles Unified School District’s heavily hyped $6 million artificial intelligence chatbot was uncertain after the tech firm the district hired to build the tool shed most of its employees and its founder left her job. 
Boston-based AllHere Education, founded in 2016 by Harvard grad and former teacher Joanna Smith-Griffin, figured heavily in LAUSD’s March 20 launch of Ed, an AI-powered online tool for students and parents designed to supplement classroom instruction and help families navigate. 
But on June 14, AllHere furloughed the majority of its employees due to its “current financial position,” according to a statement posted on its website. A statement from LAUSD sent to The 74 said AllHere now is up for sale.  
But even before the surprise announcement, AllHere was already having trouble fulfilling its contract with LAUSD, according to one former high-ranking company executive. 
The company was unable to push back against the district’s timeline, he said, and couldn’t produce a “proper product.”
An LAUSD spokesperson said the district is aware of Smith-Griffin’s departure and that “several educational technology companies are interested in acquiring AllHere.” 
“The educational technology field is a dynamic space where acquisitions are not uncommon,” the spokesperson said via email. “We will ensure that whichever entity acquires AllHere will continue to provide this first-of-its-kind resource to our students and families.”
Smith-Griffin and AllHere did not respond to requests for comment. The former CEO has taken down her LinkedIn profile. Portions of the AllHere website have also disappeared, including the company’s “About Us” page
James Wiley, a vice president at the education market research firm ListEdTech, said turmoil at AllHere could be a red flag for LAUSD’s AI program if the district hasn’t taken steps to protect itself from changes at the company.   
“It could be a problem,” said Wiley. “It depends on how much of the program the district has been able to bring in-house, as opposed to leaving with the vendor.”
Wiley also expressed surprise that LAUSD contracted with a relatively small and untested firm such as AllHere for its Ed rollout, as opposed to enlisting a major AI company for the job, or a larger ed tech firm.   
“You have bigger players out there who could have done this thing,” said Wiley.
Outside of Los Angeles, the company has offered districts a text messaging system that allows schools to inform families about weather events and other announcements. 
According to GovSpend, which tracks government contracts with companies, AllHere has already been paid more than $2 million by LAUSD. The company has had much smaller contracts with other districts, according to GovSpend, including a $49,390 payment from Brownsville Independent School District in Texas and a similar-sized payment from Broward County Public Schools in Florida. 
But AllHere’s star had been ascendant. 
With backing from the Harvard Innovation Lab, Smith-Griffin raised more than $12 million to start the new company. AllHere in April was named one of the world’s top ed tech companies by TIME. 
The LAUSD school board last June approved a competitively bid $6.2 million contract for AllHere to plan, design and develop the district’s new AI tool, Ed. The deal began with a two-year agreement ending in July 2025, with options for three subsequent one-year renewals.  
Smith-Griffin appeared with LAUSD superintendent Alberto Carvalho in April to discuss the project, which was described by the district’s leader as a game-changer for LAUSD that represented the first time a school district systematically leveraged AI. 
The former AllHere executive, who was recently laid off, said in an interview that the company’s work with LAUSD was far more involved than that of its other customer school districts. 
The small company was being asked to create a far more sophisticated tool than its prior text messaging system and bit off more than it could chew in its contract with the nation’s second-largest district. 
At the same time, he said, AllHere employees operated more as consultants than as a company building its own product and were unable to “to say no or to slow things down” with the district.
“So I think because of that, they were unable or unwilling to build a proper product,” he said. 
LA parents and students, we want to hear from you. Tell us about your experience using AllHere’s Ed:
With reporting and contributions from Mark Keierleber and Greg Toppo
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Ben Chapman is a writer based in Los Angeles. He previously wrote for The Wall Street Journal, the New York Daily News and The Washington Post.
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The future of Los Angeles Unified School District’s heavily hyped $6 million artificial intelligence chatbot was uncertain after the tech firm the district hired to build the tool shed most of its employees and its founder left her job. 
Boston-based AllHere Education, founded in 2016 by Harvard grad and former teacher Joanna Smith-Griffin, figured heavily in LAUSD’s March 20 launch of Ed, an AI-powered online tool for students and parents designed to supplement classroom instruction and help families navigate. 
But on June 14, AllHere furloughed the majority of its employees due to its “current financial position,” according to a statement posted on its website. A statement from LAUSD sent to The 74 said AllHere now is up for sale.  
But even before the surprise announcement, AllHere was already having trouble fulfilling its contract with LAUSD, according to one former high-ranking company executive. 
The company was unable to push back against the district’s timeline, he said, and couldn’t produce a “proper product.”
An LAUSD spokesperson said the district is aware of Smith-Griffin’s departure and that “several educational technology companies are interested in acquiring AllHere.” 
“The educational technology field is a dynamic space where acquisitions are not uncommon,” the spokesperson said via email. “We will ensure that whichever entity acquires AllHere will continue to provide this first-of-its-kind resource to our students and families.”
Smith-Griffin and AllHere did not respond to requests for comment. The former CEO has taken down her LinkedIn profile. Portions of the AllHere website have also disappeared, including the company’s “About Us” page
James Wiley, a vice president at the education market research firm ListEdTech, said turmoil at AllHere could be a red flag for LAUSD’s AI program if the district hasn’t taken steps to protect itself from changes at the company.   
“It could be a problem,” said Wiley. “It depends on how much of the program the district has been able to bring in-house, as opposed to leaving with the vendor.”
Wiley also expressed surprise that LAUSD contracted with a relatively small and untested firm such as AllHere for its Ed rollout, as opposed to enlisting a major AI company for the job, or a larger ed tech firm.   
“You have bigger players out there who could have done this thing,” said Wiley.
Outside of Los Angeles, the company has offered districts a text messaging system that allows schools to inform families about weather events and other announcements. 
According to GovSpend, which tracks government contracts with companies, AllHere has already been paid more than $2 million by LAUSD. The company has had much smaller contracts with other districts, according to GovSpend, including a $49,390 payment from Brownsville Independent School District in Texas and a similar-sized payment from Broward County Public Schools in Florida. 
But AllHere’s star had been ascendant. 
With backing from the Harvard Innovation Lab, Smith-Griffin raised more than $12 million to start the new company. AllHere in April was named one of the world’s top ed tech companies by TIME. 
The LAUSD school board last June approved a competitively bid $6.2 million contract for AllHere to plan, design and develop the district’s new AI tool, Ed. The deal began with a two-year agreement ending in July 2025, with options for three subsequent one-year renewals.  
Smith-Griffin appeared with LAUSD superintendent Alberto Carvalho in April to discuss the project, which was described by the district’s leader as a game-changer for LAUSD that represented the first time a school district systematically leveraged AI. 
The former AllHere executive, who was recently laid off, said in an interview that the company’s work with LAUSD was far more involved than that of its other customer school districts. 
The small company was being asked to create a far more sophisticated tool than its prior text messaging system and bit off more than it could chew in its contract with the nation’s second-largest district. 
At the same time, he said, AllHere employees operated more as consultants than as a company building its own product and were unable to “to say no or to slow things down” with the district.
“So I think because of that, they were unable or unwilling to build a proper product,” he said. 
LA parents and students, we want to hear from you. Tell us about your experience using AllHere’s Ed:
With reporting and contributions from Mark Keierleber and Greg Toppo
Copyright 2024 The 74 Media, Inc

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