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MDUSD textbook/workbook snafu frustrates some parents and teachers

By Theresa Harrington
Tuesday, September 27th, 2011 at 6:14 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

I’ve received several phone calls and e-mails from teachers and parents who are frustrated by a mix-up in book orders for schools.

Here’s the latest one, from Sequoia Elementary parent Stacey Roth, which I received less than an hour ago:

“I thought I’d let you know about the snafu with MDUSD elementary schools math books.

Classrooms in grades 1,3,4 and 5 still do not have math books. Teachers and administrative staff are not getting a straight answer from the district. Some of the excuses from them: the truck broke down, they were shipped to the wrong address. Simply, it seems they just weren’t ordered.

It’s nearly October and the math books are nowhere to be found. Not sure how teachers can teach without books. My kids are at Sequoia Elementary, but it appears to be district-wide.

Thanks for the consideration.
~ Stacey (Roth)”

I got a similar email Sunday from Sequoia Elementary teacher Elaine Murphy, who wrote:

“As a teacher for the past 23 years in MDUSD, I am frustrated that we are now 4 weeks into the school year and my students do not have the adopted materials for Math and Social Studies. At my site, Sequoia Elementary, the students at grades 1, 3, 4, and 5 do not have the workbooks for these 2 subject areas. This represents a new low for MDUSD. At the very least, we teachers have always had the textbooks available for our students in previous years!

We have been told many stories about why this problem exists. (My favorite is ‘The delivery truck broke down.’) But why do our colleagues at other sites have the workbooks? It appears that books were distributed to the lowest performing schools first. Yet the Williams settlement, which we must post every year in our classrooms, states that the district is legally mandated to provide textbooks to every student. We are now out of compliance again!

I am aware that our district has many major problems at this point in time. Yet the district is required by law to provide the textbooks for its students. The current Math adoption presents 28 chapters at Grade 4. We must cover one chapter per week, and even at that pace, we will have to double up on Math chapters in the spring in order to be ready for the STAR Test. We are scrambling to cover the lack of workbooks by making copies of Math worksheets to provide the practice our students need. This is a huge waste of time and resources!

Someone dropped the ball at Dent Center. As teachers, we depend on the support staff at Dent Center to do their job so we can do ours!

The responsibility for the ordering of textbooks is out of our hands. Yet now we are struggling to provide improvised instructional materials for our students.

When will the workbooks arrive? Parents and students alike are asking me that question every day. Please investigate this situation!

Elaine Murphy
Sequoia Elementary School”

Last night, Trustee Lynne Dennler told me the district had initially given workbooks to the “Williams” schools. These are low-income schools monitored by the County Office of Education.

“I understand they’re now in,” Dennler said. “I said, ‘I’ll help drive them around.'”

But, the district said she didn’t need to do that, Dennler said.

A few minutes ago, I spoke to Rose Lock, assistant superintendent for Student Achievement and School Support.

“We did have some mixup,” she said. “We lost our textbook coordinator through budget cuts two years ago. This past year, we had to take care of it through three departments. We kind of had to piece it together.”

Since the school year was cut short for district office clerical employees and school secretaries, the district didn’t know about the ordering mixup over the summer, Lock said.

“But we do have them on order,” she said. “Some of our schools have not gotten the workbooks, but principals have been making arrangements to have them copied, so we are providing those.”

She said some schools were given priority for the workbooks because of the Williams lawsuit.

“We need to make sure they have all their instructional materials and that the facilities are acceptable,” she said. “The county monitors that every year at the beginning of the year, so we did make sure the schools had their books. But for the rest of the schools, we had an alternative — to make copies.”

Lock said workbooks are for first- and second-grades and are “consumable,” where students tear off the sheets of paper.

“Some of them are coming in and the publisher said we should have them by the end of this week,” she said.

But, the district is also short warehouse staff, she said.

“We’re waiting for the warehouse,” she said.

When I mentioned Dennler’s offer to drive the workbooks to sites herself, Lock said: “At this point, we have people who are working at the warehouse who are working on it. I thought it was a great offer and we’ll let her know.”

I also spoke to Peggy Marshburn, spokeswoman for the County Office of Education. She confirmed that the county visits specific sites to check Williams Act compliance, but said that all schools are required to have adequate instructional materials and that any school in the state can make a complaint.

“So anyone who is concerned about anything that’s related to Williams can make a complaint about it,” she said. “Schools send a quarterly report about any complaint and the resolution of those complaints.”

However, she said consumable workbooks would not be covered by the act.

“The materials are core material and textbooks,” she said. “Consumable workbooks and supplementary materials are not part of what we are looking at.”

Based on the emails and phone calls I’ve received, I’m still a little unclear on whether the materials that haven’t been received are covered under the Williams Act.

Are you satisfied with the district’s solution to the workbook/textbook shortage?

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99 Responses to “MDUSD textbook/workbook snafu frustrates some parents and teachers”

  1. Jim Says:

    Well, it’s a good sign at least that teachers want to use the textbooks that the district (eventually) provides. I have been to more than one back-to-school night where parents asked about the curriculum materials for the year, and the teacher pointed to stacks of text books in the back of the classroom, saying something to the effect of “Those are the texts from the district, but we won’t be using them. They are just too elementary for our students.”

  2. g Says:

    What solution? Hedge?

    Hedge: verb
    Definition: avoid, dodge
    Synonyms: be noncommittal, beat around the bush, blow hot and cold, cop a plea, cop out, duck, equivocate, evade, flip-flop, fudge, give the run around, hem and haw, jive, pass the buck –(Lock’s Personal Fave), prevaricate, pussyfoot….

  3. MDUSD Truth Stretching Again Says:

    This makes my stomach churn. Just another example of the total and complete inadequacies of the district. Did they really make the excuse that books were not ordered because their text book ordering department was downsized? I would think that providing text and workbooks would be pretty high on any school district’s to-do list and part 1 of their “operations 101 manual”. It’s just more pathetic excuses.

    Rose Locke’s statement that “principals have been making arrangements to have them copied, so we are providing those” is a stretch. I love the fact that she has downplayed what is actually happening. Yes, at Sequoia Elem. the workbooks are being copied –by 1 parent who is working her tail off each and every day. The clincher though is that teachers are asking parents for donated reams of paper to accomplish this. Seriously. The district can’t even provide the paper to do the copying. The new principal, David Franklin, has been completely silent on the matter.

    Thank goodness for Stacey Roth and teacher Murphy for breaking silence on this matter.

  4. M Says:

    Shout out to the parents making copies at Sequoia!

    If it wasn’t for a few very dedicated parents spending hours a day in the copy room we wouldn’t have gotten any copies done as Rose Lock suggests. As she stated “But for the rest of the schools, we had an alternative — to make copies.” Who did they think was going to make these copies? The District certainly isn’t.

    Thank you K duo! The unsung copy queens.

  5. Just J Says:

    So much for the district being open and honest….Oh they just decided that so it won’t take place until next school year if at all.

  6. Doctor J Says:

    Its like any liars; they can’t get their stories straight.

  7. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Dennler said it was her understanding that the district was doing the copying for the schools, saving teachers from having to do it.

  8. Interested Observer Says:

    It amazes me that with all the budget cuts, people still expect district operations to run as smoothly as if it were fully staffed. Yes, MDUSD Truth Stretching Again, all the departments that once were involved in providing instructional materials (Curriculum, Warehouse, Print Shop) have been downsized. There are fewer people to do the work. You are seeing the impact of budget cuts and, yes, the need to call on volunteers to help out where they can.

    This comment will raise some eyebrows, but I have to wonder why a professional at a high-performing school who’s been teaching for 23 years is stymied by a temporary lack of workbooks. I would think she has experience in many ways to provide instruction besides using fill-in-the-blank worksheets.

    I’m also curious about teachers who refuse to use adopted instructional materials. Teachers are actively involved–both during the state’s process and then in each district’s–in using, reviewing, and recommending materials being considered for adoption. If teachers are unhappy with the materials, they should take it up with their peers who participated in the selection process.

    Note to frequent critics: chastising “The District” for every woe weakens the opinions you post on issues that truly are serious.

  9. @Interested Observer Says Says:

    No one said anything about expecting operations to run as if fully staffed. People are aware of the cuts made to the district, but the district has now failed to provide the children the very basic of necessities in education and then quickly swept it under the carpet and pushed it back to the school sites that are already burdened beyond belief. Rose Locke’s assertion that arrangements have been made to have the workbooks copied made it sound as though the rosey district had stepped in and did all the copying, which just isn’t so. Sequoia is lucky to have a caring parent who not only helps get these workbooks copied day in and day out, but they also have parents with the ability to open their wallets and provide paper with which to copy the workbook materials on. What about those schools that don’t have those resources?

    Furthermore, I am personally tired of the district employees who continue to moan and groan about all the “budget cuts” and use this excuse willy-nilly for absolutely everything. The bottom line is this district is a business and if these district employees can’t do their required jobs, get out. With the unemployment rate so high, the district can get highly qualified people who appreciate having a job and will do it with dignity and without complaints.

  10. g Says:

    @ #9; Best post of the day!

  11. Wait a minute Says:

    Not to mention that not providing materials makes this illegal as a Williams Act violation.

    In education circles, Williams Act violations are considered very serious violations that get mandated reporting to both the County and State levels.

  12. Flippin' Tired Says:

    The Textbook Coordinator position was not considered important enough to save – and look what’s happening. But the Board members can have full benefits, even though they are not employees and volunteered for their positions.

    Check the database: and note that four of the board members received between $14,000 and over $18,000 in benefits – benefits that no employee gets for free. If they’d give up those benefits, it would more than pay for the Textbook Coordinator to be re-hired.

    Let’s all now hold our collective breaths and see if they do the right thing.

  13. Doctor J Says:

    @#12 Turning blue holding my breath.

  14. Just J Says:

    Let me guess it is Hansen that did not take benefits?
    hmmmmmm Tells me who should be the only one to get re-elected.

  15. CVHS Mom Says:

    Isn’t copying textbooks illegal? I thought the textbook issue was brought up here a while back and the district said it was being handled. I guess not huh?

  16. Susan Townsend Says:

    This is what happens when a district imposes pay-cut days to teachers and clerical staff. Without these pay cuts, clerical staff would have been aware of the problems in late June. Without these pay-cut days, teachers would have reported back to work 2 days prior to school starting, when they could have made copies and/or accomodations for the missing materials.
    Now, with a clear Williams Act violation, the district will be fined and sued. That money could have paid teachers and clerical staff for the days they are NEEDED in order to run a successful school district.
    Shame on MDUSD again!
    Susan Townsend

  17. Susan Townsend Says:

    Re: #8 Interested Observer
    Your “Blame the Teacher” mentality is shortsighted. When a highly qualified, experienced teacher speaks out, it is not without the risk of retaliation, and you need to know that she speaks for humdreds of teachers, not just herself.

  18. The Observer Says:

    $17,854 for Eberhart’s medical,dental, and vision? Doesn’t Seward Construction have a health plan program for its employees? $804 for Miscellaneous? How many Solar Certificates does he need? I’m sure that all the Special Education Assistants who lost benefits are happy that Gary is secure.

  19. The Observer Says:

    Correction – It is Seward Schreder Construction that evidently doesn’t provide health care coverage to its Vice President of Solar Projects, Gary Eberhart. Despite Seward Schreder’s father, Jack Schreder, having received a number of lucrative contracts from MDUSD during Gary’s tenure on the board, it evidently isn’t enough to take the burden of his health care costs off the back of taxpayers and district employees and put on the company that presumably is benefiting from Gary’s expertise in solar projects for schools.

  20. Just J Says:

    Wonder if Gary’s company is in the mix for projects in Pitsburg? That would be a HUGE conflict. How much do you wanna bet that Gary will not run for the Board again and his current company will get the “bid”?

  21. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Gary Eberhart has abstained from voting on Jack Schreder contracts since he got his current job.

  22. Wendy Lack Says:

    Back in business school, we learned that, if you’re in the banking business, it doesn’t matter what range of services you provide or what else you do, your customers’ bank statements must be accurate. That’s just one of the minimum performance requirements for being in the banking biz.

    So it follows, if you’re a public school, it doesn’t matter what range of services you provide or whether you have solar panels in your parking lot . . . no matter what else you do, your classrooms must be equipped with the tools and resources necessary for learning. That’s just one of the minimum performance requirements for being in the public school biz.

    The difference between the two is:
    The bank will go out of business if it fails to meet customers’ needs and service demands; the public school will remain in business, even if its costs increase and its performance declines, because it is a government monopoly.

    Conclusion: Competition improves service quality/customer satisfaction, lowers operating costs and boosts efficiency wherever and whenever it’s tried.

    Why else would waiting lists at private schools keep growing longer, even as the numbers of homeschooling families also grow?

    Why else would concerned teachers and parents throughout the District be exploring the charter school option, as a means of breaking free from bureaucratic District red tape, so they can focus on academic results — rather than playing ridiculous textbook games?

  23. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The district is not requiring the CVHS charter committee to provide a plan for textbook purchase and distribution.

  24. MDUSDude Says:

    Textbooks? Who uses those anymore?

  25. Doctor J Says:

    @#12 FT — Let’s not forget the Gang of Five raises either, which included $27,000 to the district lawyer so he could supervise “transportation” and ensure high ranking families got preferential transportation for their children while “regular” families had their children delivered late to school, didn’t pick them up, or dropped them off at the wrong location — that’s another $57,000 that could have saved another position too ! The Board can still do the right thing and make those cuts. Now this weekend we see the Board going to spend approximately $175,000 to temporaily replace the SASS Secondard Director when her annual salary is only about $120,000. Who is it at MDUSD that doesn’t know how to do simple math ?

  26. Flippin' Tired Says:

    I remember the raises, and had those people fulfilled their supposed increased duties, I wouldn’t find fault. However, we can see that Mr. Rolen has not improved transportation; in fact, the opposite is quite evident. There’s no evidence the other four are doing any better. The SASS folks are trying to do the job of twenty people, but they are all administrators, not functionaries. We’re seeing the results of Dr. Lawrence’s poor attempt at restructuring. At this point, I’d welcome the State taking over, if only to stop the favoritism galloping rampant.

  27. Doctor J Says:

    @FT#26 Everyone was taking on additional responsibilities, and only 5 “privileged” got raises it was wrong then and wrong now, and still can be remedied. Remember this was the same time that teachers and staff were being layed off, and these five got raises. Rolen is a lawyer, not a business manager. I agree with you — he took care of his own, and everyone else was left to blow in the wind. I also agree with you that the SASS are good hearted people, but they are trained as school administrators, not as Organizational Behaviorists. Lawarence’s shallow background as a curriculum specialist in a small high school district in Roseville and then as a Supt in West Sac — way over his head. Ret. Supt. Michelle Lawrence out of Berkeley came in and gave the board the heads up on what they needed — they got 37 applicants, and the new Supt soon “reassigned” SB, which she promptly speed dialed Lawrence and got this new job. As she touts it, her main qualification is that she has a “direct line” to Lawrence.

  28. Shoshana Nurik Says:

    Please get your information straight – I work at a Title I, Program Improvement School. We had the Williams Settlement people at our school. They never came to my classroom. I, to date have not received my 1st grade math books either. I have been sent partial math materials that I need to tear apart on a daily basis. I have been told they are on their way – and have been told that every time I ask where they are.

  29. Theresa Harrington Says:

    My information came straight from Rose Lock. What school do work at?

  30. Doctor J Says:

    @Shoshana #28 I will bet you dollars to donuts that your principal signed them off — or said they were on “backorder” which is untrue — the consumable textbooks weren’t ordered from the correct vendor and so the district has to pay over $175,000 for the practice books, which were not ordered last spring. You as a teacher are entitled to make a complaint to the Williams inspectors, and they take them very seriously. Based on some independent information I have, it did not match what Rose Lock told Theresa. Don’t blame Theresa. Make a complaint if you feel there is a coverup. They will find out the truth.

  31. Theresa Harrington Says:

    When I told Peggy Marshburn at the Contra Costa County Office of Education about the complaints I had heard from teachers and parents regarding missing books, Marshburn said she had no knowledge of the allegations.
    She reiterated that any teacher in any school can file complaint. However, as I noted, she said consumable workbooks are not covered by the Williams Act.
    I’m not sure if the County Office staff visits every single classroom at Williams sites.

  32. Doctor J Says:

    The point we are missing is that the students don’t have the practice books because the board micromanaged the termination of the textbook coordinator and the Board and Supt did NOT insure that the duty was properly assigned and implemented. Anyone in business knows that when a position is eliminated, its duties have to be redistributed, and there needs to be supervision to insure that the task is completed. NASA doesn’t launch a space shuttle without a checklist. For the last two years, based on the number of fiascos, there has been no checklist to start school. That is a failure of leadership at the highest levels. If this kind of thing happened at Chevron, what would happen ? The door would hit them on the behind on the way to the unemployment office. There are two issues here: the children being deprived of learning opportunities and the failure of someone to either reassign the duty or properly supervise that the duty was done. In private business, this is a $175,000 mistake, but one also that delays the mission. Its about time the Supt names the names, and the Board sends them on their way. This is exactly the same problem that happened in Transportation, and Maintenaince, and many other places we have seen so many fiascos. Why do we hire Supt’s and Asst Supts and Directors without any Organizational Behavior or Management training ? Theresa, tell us, are there are any that do ?

  33. Theresa Harrington Says:

    This Ed Trust Report points out three ways some districts are achieving success on page 8:

    1. Strong, supportive leadership focused on excellence in instruction and high expectations for students. Deep professional development and teacher collaboration builds teacher and principal capacity to function more productively toward a common, student-focused goal.

    2. Districts embrace the use of data to assess students, programs and teachers.

    3. Districts direct extra supports, investments and the very best staff to schools serving the highest need students.

    At MDUSD’s strategic planning session, trustees agreed that high expectations are important. However, I believe they agreed to cut the goal of providing leadership opportunities for teachers, saying that was a lower-level item that didn’t need to be elevated to a goal.

  34. Doctor J Says:

    Lets stop the nonsense of protecting administrators pensions — lets put the students first. The “Strategic Plan” says: “We will always…Make decisions based on the best interests of the students,” The common thread among all of the fiascos in the last few years is that they did not put the students first. Recently, it is clear that the transportation fiasco of the last two years, and the current textbook fiasco and other district fiascos are because of a failure of leadership to either reassign the duties of the laid off person or or the failure of the leadership to supervise that the duties were performed. Either way, there is a failure of leadership that should be held accountable and there are enough failures to require real accountability.

  35. Doctor J Says:

    @Th#38, Lets not confuse organizational leadership with educational strategy. I generally agree with your cite of the Ed Trust report — and there are huge sinkholes in the educational structure of MDUSD. But other fiascos are happening with the non-educational functions such as transportation, ordering of textbooks, financial managment and the whole host of money management issues that become mind boggling such as the bond issuance issues. We now have a “strategic” plan, and I use that loosely, but we have to ask ourselves, will the Board now judge every decision they make against whether or not it sustains and supports the strategic plan ? If not, can we hold their feet to the fire ?

  36. g Says:

    Dr J, When watching and listening to the wordsmithing of their so-called Strategic Plan I don’t see them building a summary of the actions they will carry out and demand that others adhere to.

    I’m reminded of the idiom “A picture paints a thousand words” and I think of how a thousand words can also “paint a pretty picture”.

    While a true plan of achievement made with a strong will to follow it would be ideal, and may have been Hansen’s goal, I fear that it has devolved into a philosophical panacea; a pretty picture “Product” the common folks can look upon, and tell themselves “ahhhh, everything will be fine now”.

  37. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I believe the Strategic Plan is the framework for action items to be developed later.
    My impression was that the board expected staff to come up with action items, based on the goals (such as providing leadership opportunities for teachers).
    This process reminds me a lot of the General Plan update that I covered in the city of Walnut Creek. In the end, the city developed a 20-year timeline with short-range, mid-range and long-range action items to be completed during that time period.
    If the district’s strategic plan lacks action items with deadlines, it could be more difficult to achieve accountability.

  38. Doctor J Says:

    Theresa, what you describe is NOT a “Strategic Plan” — they are just platitudes. BTW, when are we going to get an evaluation of Lawrence’s “Goals & Objectives” for school year 10/11 ? I suspect he wants everyone to forget about them because of such poor performance.

  39. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Trustees talked about the need to communicate respectfully with the community to build trust during strategic planning.
    Yet, Clayton Mayor David Shuey said he didn’t find out the district decided not to put the CVHS charter on last Tuesday’s agenda until he saw the agenda. It appeared that no one responded directly to Shuey’s email requesting the item be put on the agenda.
    At Clayton Valley HS, on the other hand, Principal Sue Brothers is holding her teachers accountable for responding to phone calls and e-mails from parents within 24 hours. She asked parents at her advisory committee meeting to tell her if that’s not happening.

  40. Doctor J Says:

    Typical example of the MDUSD “double talk” — since the Supt and Gary E. discuss the contents of the agenda and review it before posting, it was a clear sleight of Mayor Shuey.

  41. Theresa Harrington Says:

    After the board adopts a strategic plan, the community can hold trustees and the district accountable for adhering to it.

  42. Wait a minute Says:

    How about holding Steven Lawrence accountable for NOT meeting his stated goals and objectives and being in overall command during the spc ed bussing fiasco, the lack of workbooks fiasco, etc?

  43. Theresa Harrington Says:

    It is up to the board to hold Lawrence accountable for district operations.

  44. Doctor J Says:

    “Schools will report progress on the following targets that will provide a big picture view of school performance to monitor system effectiveness.” Since it now has been more than one year since these goals & objectives were adopted by the Board, where are the reports from the schools ? As Lawrence said, this is the “first step” toward adoption of a “Strategic Plan”. Theresa, can you do a public records request for the school reports ? If the Supt and the Board are not going to require accountability from the schools as they said they would, it just makes the Strategic Plan a farce, as apparently were these “Goals & Objectives”.

  45. Just J Says:

    Ya know people keep putting the word “accountability” out there yet no one seems to know what it means and if it will do anything. There is no way to hold any school really accountable because their contracts won’t let us do anything to them. Don’t get me wrong I am on the side of the student but if the adults cant live by rules how can expect our students to live by them? Lawrence has no clue what he is doing and there is only 1 Board member that should be serving. Get the kids the work books they need, send the busses to the right place, Quit breaking federal law and for goodness sake start telling the TRUTH! We know this District is messed up and we know why so get out if if you can’t get the job done. Go on to Dictionary .com and look up accountability and it memtions schools in the definition.

  46. Doctor J Says:

    The Board, at the Supt’s request, adopts the G&O, with required individual school reports for year 10/11 — its just a wink and a nod to appease the public. It doesn’t happen. Is it any wonder that MDUSD is flabbergasted that the Feds & State won’t approve year 2 of the SIG grants because the district did not do what it said it would do in year one — the District thought no one would really hold them to it since the Board doesn’t hold them accountable. The school year ended 4 months ago — where are the reports ? I agree with Just J, let’s have the TRUTH.

  47. Linda L Says:

    Until Lawrence champions the idea of a Strategic Plan, and until it is viewed as the guiding force for excellence in this District… the document itself is simply a grouping of words on paper with no ability to change anything.

    #45 You are right but a strategic plan should not be about making someone do something, it should be about “buy in” of the vision. If the plan is created and implemented correctly everyone is committed through ownership of the plan. Everyone wants to see it succeed.
    That takes leadership wheich in turn requires trust and confidence.

  48. Doctor J Says:

    @Linda, yes, yes, yes. But Lawrence doesn’t even want to be evaluated by HIS own Goals & Objectives from 10/11 that he developed. What would happen if the Board just even required staff to quote the section of the Strategic Plan on every Board item ? At least staff would have to read it. Right now its just platitudes.

  49. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The strategic plan could guide new policies that implement the plan.
    If there are no new policies, then it may be difficult to implement change.

  50. Linda L Says:

    Every decision the Board makes should be guided by the Strategic Plan. I do believe every item on the agenda should be covered by a strategic plan section.

    Last week the Board did not have any questions for John Isom when he presented the advanced refunding option for some of the bonds. I suspect it was difficult to know what to ask. At least with a SP they could ask some very basic questions like: How does this meet our long term financial goals of implementing sound fiscal policies? Will this refunding help or hinder the cultivation of community partnerships and the building of public trust? Will it improve academic excellence for our students?

    And hopefully from those basic questions (straight from the strategic plan) our Board would learn more about the bond and could ask additional, and more direct questions. But at least the perspective would be guided by the SP.

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