Monday, January 17, 2011

New High School option coming to MDUSD this fall

This came from a reader, and I thought it would be great to get some discussion going. My dream? Wouldn't it be fabulous if there was an online option for supplementary coursework? What about classes your kids couldn't get into , or aren't offered at your home school? How about summer school? Need a class? Take it online over the summer! Could it be in the future? Well if education ever wants to meet the new age in technology it will! Our educational system needs an upgrade and needs to reach into the 21st century. Our kids deserve it. Let's utilize all options available to educate our kids.

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FLYER AVAILABLE here - Flex Academy EVENTS next week, Jan 24 and 26 (PDF)



Flex was approved by the County Board of Education in October. It will be an innovative and state-of-the-art school in the Mt. Diablo School District attendance area and is tuition free.

Students will be in school during regular school hours.

Flex offers the following:

  • A school facility designed with learning in mind
  • California-credentialed teachers and computer-assisted instruction. This provides teachers the opportunity to facilitate discussions, mentor students, and tutor those who need help.
  • The program provides a consistent curriculum and frees up teachers to hold small group discussions and implement small group projects.
  • A complete college prep curriculum that meets University of California “a-g” requirements and the core classes all have Honors/AP options.
  • A wide selection of electives like Computer Programming, Introduction to Entrepreneurship, and Anthropology, just to name a few.
  • Unlike most traditional schools, there just needs to be one student interested to offer an elective class - no minimum class sizes needed.

  • College and career planning and placement tools
  • Science and Art labs
  • The ability to participate in school clubs, activities and sports teams
  • Offline materials and textbooks to supplement the learning experience as well as a laptop for each student's use.
  • A self-pacing curriculum where a student can slow down when needed or move ahead if ready. Students will have small break-out sessions with a teacher to go over certain concepts they may be struggling with or to delve deeper into curriculum where they excel.
  • The online instruction provides teachers daily assessments of a students progress and the faculty will meet weekly to review the data and develop individual plans for students based on their progress.

The people behind the organization are well-respected and experienced with charter schools.

Here is Mark Kushner's information, feel free to call him with questions:

Mark Kushner
Executive Director
555 Post Street
San Francisco, CA 94102-1228

cell: 415.710.6759
fax 415.520.5677

mkushner@flexsf.org

www.k12.com/SFflex

41 comments:

  1. This is awesome. Hopefully it is so succesful it puts the MDUSD out of business.

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  2. This was actually approved? Where is the punch line?

    Finally, an option that many of us here in the district thought would never happen in our children's school life-time, has arrived!!!

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  3. Can anyone in the district do this? Is there a maximum amount of students they can take? What happens if there are more students interested than spots available? Will they hold a lottery? Because that would not be fair to everyone else. (sarcasm) Sounds to me like a choice option. And apparently our district is considering doing away with choice options.... Hmmm, this is very curious indeed!!

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  4. I bet Gary Eberhart is pooping his pants right about now. I don't think he likes competition or competing ideas in his fiefdom.

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  5. Anon 7:43
    Yes it has been approved. The district turned down the charter but the County Board of Education approved it in October. Make sure to attend one of the informational meetings next week.
    No punchline.

    Anon 7:52
    The school is open to any student in the county or surrounding counties. They are planning to accommodate 250 students but can do more if needed. Yes there will be a waiting list and lottery if they are full. Come to one of the informational meetings next week to get more information. It will be helpful for the school to judge how much interest there may be. This school is not governed by MDUSD so there is no connection between the new school and the closing of choice schools.

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  6. The MDUSD Board voted against this, and the Flex Academy appealed that decision to the Contra Costa Board of Education. They over-road the district's decision, so here it is. As a parent ofa high school student in this district I would consider any parents who have students coning into high school to seriously consider this. I can't tell you how many awful teachers my child has had these last two years. We are supporting her with tutors and helping to teach at home. (I am a teacher) She has siblings who graduated from the same school in '97 and '01. I can't tell you how badly the teaching caliber has gone down. I'm crossing my fingers hoping to get her out and into college and be done with this district. Very disappointing experience this time around. Again, check this out.

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  7. The big question everyone should ask themselves is: Why o' why would the MDUSD board have denied this? They will stop at nothing to maintain their power and budget. Thankfully the county BOE has much more sense.

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  8. The CCCOE recommended to not approve it but the board approve it. Those board members up for reelection on the county were not re elected.

    This is a for profit charter.

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  9. Anon 9:25,

    You sound like you belong in communist Russia. There is NOTHING and I mean NOTHING wrong with making money from education.

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  10. ANON 9:25

    Just curious, how has this non-profit district been working for you?

    MDUSD did not show up for a single CCCOE appeal hearing (much to the shock of the CCCOE). Was MDUSD so certain that staff had been convinced to persuade the Board to vote no that they did not need to show up?

    Several members of the CCCOE Board actually went to tour the new SF school and those members voted yes. In fact the vote was 4-1. The one lone "no" vote was not re-elected either. Let's be honest.

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  11. Love the idea! Any hope it would help to elevate the caliber of the MDUSD high schools? Until we get rid of the BAD teachers, we're stuck. High school in MDUSD has some of the worst teachers I've ever experienced , and my kids have had to endure countless hours of literally, wasted time and effort. Learning nothing. Math especially.

    Bust the union, hire and keep the best, do away w/ seniority rules. MDEA sucks. A big part of the quality of our schools is the union. So much to say about that, but another post, another time.

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  12. MDUSD is actually working quite well for my family. That is because I work to be part of the solution. I attend the parent club meetings, site council meetings, and sometimes the PAC.

    When I have issues with a teacher I work with the system.

    Also for those of you whining about MDEA...it's California Education Code Policy. When charters came about they were exempt from ed code. I have written letters about that.

    I just hope that the demographics match our districts and that the charter accepts ELL, socioeconomic disadvantaged, and special education. Unfortunately charters don't have to.

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  13. Anon 11:10. I would almost guess you have no kids in high school. I thought like you too once. Or maybe your kids are the model perfect students.

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  14. As I understand it this is largely an online charter school. I can't imagine my kids taking online high school. No dances, no sports, no arts, few extracurricular opportunities that colleges look so intently at. I'm sure that there will be a few students that it works for, but I wouldn't worry about waiting lists and lotteries. I'm glad that the County Board decided to take the responsibility and spare the MDUSD Board another distraction.

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  15. Anon 11:29
    You should attend one of the meetings next week. You will learn a lot more about the program. It is called a hybrid and while much of the instruction is delivered online the students are in school with teachers and other students for the entire school day.
    There will be clubs and sports.
    There will be science labs and an art lab. There is no reason to believe that there will not be dances.
    The difference is that while instruction is delivered online teachers are available to meet with small groups of students. There will be consistency to the curriculum and no more days wasted on inane movies when a teacher is absent.
    It is new and innovative and addresses many of the issues that frustrate students, parents, and teachers about the current education model... a model that is incredibly outdated.

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  16. not bashing, jusr asking questions
    1) if this is a for profit organization who pays? the district or the student? how much?
    2) the implication is that the students are in some type of facility to access the online courses and be helped by the teachers - where is this facility? will the students have to travel to SF (hopefully not) or do they already have a local facility? they could take over one of the proposed sites to be closed but I have trouble seeing that working for HS students.
    3) if students don't have to be "in class" every day what guarantee is there that they are the ones doing the work?
    4) what is their track record? especially with "problem" students
    i can see this work quite well for self motivated students but i do have concerns about the "others". big question - why can't MDUSD do the same thing?

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  17. I will try to answer your questions the best I can.

    This is a public school and is tution free. It is funded by the State and receives ADA dollars like all public schools. They do not however recieve some of the other funding received by traditional public school districts. There is an article on k12reboot.com, a local blog, that addresses charter school funding and how it relates to district funding.

    Yes there will be a school facility. The charter stipulates that it must be located in the MDUSD attendance area. Flex has identified several potential locations and are working very hard to secure a location soon.

    Student do go to school everyday just like they do in a traditional school.

    You should come to one of the meetings next week to ask about the program's success and to get a better understanding what the learning environment will be like.

    It is hard, but you can not look at how this fits into the traditional environment but instead how is it different and how will that engage my child.

    I hope that helps.

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  18. Linda - thank you

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  19. I visited the SF Flex Academy in San Francisco, which is built around the same model as the Flex Academy will have here in CC County. You can see the report about my visit on my blog:
    http://k12reboot.com/2010/12/16/new-flex-school-for-21st-century-learning/
    I have visited innovative programs at many schools around the country, and this one is really impressive. I saw a diverse group of students from throughout the Bay Area. Many had struggled academically in other settings, and the population was very diverse. (Like other public schools, charter schools are not allowed to discriminate, and in fact, they tend to draw more students from lower-performing schools, because those parents are often the most desperate for other options.) The curriculum is already State of CA approved. What struck me most was actually the one-on-one time that individual students were getting from their teachers and academic coaches. You could see it happening all around, and of the 5 students I spoke with, they all said that they got more individual attention there than they had ever gotten in their previous school. The whole system is actually designed around making the best use of the teacher's time AND the student's time. Everybody seemed busy and engaged. It seemed more like the offices of a high-tech start-up than a typical high school. I would strongly urge every parent to at least consider it.

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  20. Glad to see that the Contra Costa Board of Education apparently feels having a choice is good.

    Some positive news in our educational community.

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  21. 11:07, good news indeed. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that our MDUSD Board also feels having a choice is good!!! The more choices the better.

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  22. Anon 1:41,

    Have you read any of Sherry Whitmarsh's posts on any of the blogs? She at least does not feel having choice is good. It appears she is dead set against it. Hopefully, at least three of the board members are smart enough to realize we need the choice schools.

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  23. 3:10, I am the poster at 1:41. Yes, I have read all of Sherry's posts. She has not come right out and said she opposes choice, but she hasn't done a good job of hiding her feelings either. (she needs to do a better job of holding back her cards - Eberhart is a pro at this!) I am confident that at least 3 of them will want to avoid the national headlines "school district board closes #3 and #4 performing schools to avoid fiscal crisis". Nothing they could say on a TV interview would make that sound ok. They'd be laughing stocks from California to Florida and up to Maine!

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  24. Jim sounds like the CEO of Flex Academy.

    There is hardly any online information about this school, but I believe the "school" in SF was held in a hotel ballroom. Everything else I saw was all pr put out by Flex.

    Charter schools draw money away from the district, as the ADA comes out of the district's money that they would get if the student would otherwise go to a regular school. It's really no wonder why our board would be against it.

    It might be a good choice for some students who can make it in a traditional high school, but it certainly isn't an end all. I don't think it will have much of an impact on the rest of the MDUSD schools, at least for a while.

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  25. Anon 7:48
    I know Jim. Jim is a concerned MDUSD parent who actually goes and and takes the time to investigate something his child might be interested in. He then took the time to share that information with you, so that you might be less ignorant.

    I have been to the Flex website and the K12 website and I would say there is more information there that what you would find on the MDUSD website. In addition, they are offering to meet the community and answer questions. As an interested parent I like that.

    Let me ask you this question? If a parent is unhappy with MDUSD and chooses to go to a private school what happens? MDUSD loses their ADA. If a parent is unhappy and moves to San Ramon what happens? MDUSD loses their ADA. The only difference is that this charter school opens up opportunities for all kids not just those who can afford a private school or those who can afford to move.
    The moral of the story is that if MDUSD did not have 6 of the lowest performing schools in the State and truly worked to do what needs to be done to raise the quality of education in this district, it would not be an issue, would it?

    Don't blame the school that comes here to bring you a choice.

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  26. Dear "Anonymous" -- Regarding ADA, as noted above, any student who leaves the district reduces the ADA revenue. In addition to poorly educated students and falling housing prices, it's just another price of failing schools -- people don't want to move to the district or stay there. Look at the falling enrollment in MDUSD. Their ADA revenue is declining no matter what happens with charters. Charters actually SAVE money, leaving more for the students who are still in traditional public schools. In California, charters only get approximately 67% of the ADA as reimbursement for each student, compared to what that student's traditional public school would get. No state in the country, in fact, reimburses charters at the rate that the traditional public schools get paid. Yet from that reduced amount, charters have to pay rent (they often don't get taxpayer-paid facilities), and they face higher rates for insurance, communication services, and other things that (should) cost less when purchased in district-wide volume. And yet, despite that dramatically lower funding rate and those higher expenses, time and again, charters have shown that they can produce gains in student achievement that are similar to, or superior to, what similar students achieve in traditional public schools. How do we know that? Well, one of the sad byproducts of the "Waiting for Superman" lotteries is that researchers can compare the gains made by children who "won" one of the randomly assigned places in a desireable charter with those of students who "lost" and did not get a place in the charter. In those comparisons, the students left behind in traditional public schools clearly did worse than the students whose families were able to exercise a choice. Imagine that! People do better when they can make their own choices! Let's face it: besides traditional school districts like MDUSD, about the only monopolies left these days are for electricity, water, sewage, and trash collection. In everything else, people in a free society get to choose. Doesn't that suggest that it might be time to try another approach toward educating our children?

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  27. I am very excited about all the course offerings including a full 4 years' worth of honors-level work. Bright kids shouldn't have to wait until they are upperclassmen to experience rigorous coursework.

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  28. Regarding the Charter school:

    Who pays for the facilities?

    Who pays to maintain the facilities?

    Who pays for water, garbage, power?

    Who pays for the teachers, staff and administrators?

    Are the teachers highly qualified?

    Who pays for books, supplies, computers?

    As long as none of this money comes from the MDUSD, I am ok with a Charter School. We can't afford to take anymore away from our students.

    I do believe that many talk themselves into how bad MDUSD is. I attend meetings, look at the budgets, and am involved in my students high school. I see how the last 3 years of budget cuts have hurt. This community also did not pass the parcel tax of only $99 a year. But that $7.5 million would have made a huge difference. If we want change, we ALL have to work at it.

    Do I see a change in our area? Yes, when you see homeless in downtown Lafayette you know times are tough. If we want better education, more Police, then we have to pay for it. All surrounding communities have parcel taxes, that is HUGE! We have to set the standard high for all and open a school for ELL students. Putting ELL in the general student body does not work!

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  29. Anon 7:42

    All of those expenses are paid by the charter school. The charter school is not a part of MDUSD and they are not a part of the MDUSD budget.

    As far as the charter school's influence over the MDUSD budget, it is the same as if a new private school opened in the area. If a familiy chooses to send their child to the private school, that is a lost opportunity for ADA money for MDUSD.

    This charter does not have the ability to place a burden onto MDUSD for expenses.

    As for the $99 parcel tax, I could not agree more and could not be a bigger advocate. However, our district has been unwilling to do what it would take to energize and engage our community to back a parcel tax. I believe it will take a commitment to planning, reform, and putting our kids first. I am glad you are happy with MDUSD. I have seen much better and hope that the children in this community will have that one day, it will be too late for my kids. If this charter school can provide some competition for MDUSD and MDUSD steps up, I believe that will be a good thing. If MDUSD plays the blame game and acts like a victim, it won't be good and that would indicate we have a huge leadership void.

    This isn't about the charter school hurting MDUSD it is about MDUSD failing to provide a quality education, good customer service, transparency, communication, fiscal responsibility, and because of all that a commitment to our children.

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  30. So how many of you in favor of this charter school are at the same time opposed to vouchers?

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  31. To Anon 7:42 - you wrote "I do believe that many talk themselves into how bad MDUSD is"

    It's not just "talk." I too attend meetings and have studied the budget. We have actively volunteered in MDUSD schools for many, many years. Participate in PTA/PFC meetings, booster clubs, volunteer in the classroom, volunteer outside of the classroom, jumped through all the "union" hoops to make improvements at the school (without having them filing grievances against the volunteer parents), attend/speak at board meetings, PAC, site council, phone banked for Measure D, walked the precincts, etc.

    We've had enough -- no amount of work and energy on our part is helping the district from its downward spiral. We are sadly enrolling in a non-MDUSD school this coming fall. It's good that we have the charter school, private school "choices" since the MDUSD choice schools may not be around this coming fall.

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  32. I am curious, if you have studied the budget of MDUSD, then what do you suggest? What should be changed? What should be cut, where should the money be spent?

    What I don't understand is what is so bad. My student attends a school that has a higher number of ELL and free/reduced lunch kids. But this school has many successful graduates going on to Stanford, UCLA, Berkeley, Davis, etc.. Then there are the kids who drop out, who don't try and just don't care.

    So I wonder what can be different? Maybe schools just for the ELL and students behind grade level? Maybe more of a focus on academy type schools? We are not going to change the ever growing demographics in our community. As long as everyone (even illegals) are entitled to a public education and State funding continues its decline and districts have to rely on parcel taxes, education as a hole is declining. I understand that soon the NCLB act will cause most districts to be failing.

    We checked out private, many of my sons friends attend private. It is like a good ol boys club but when he compares his classes, work, SAT and ACT scores, they are equal. Matter of fact I was shocked when his friend told us, my teachers don't teach. Some have let us play video games during class. At $14,000 plus a year, what do they do? Of course this came from a 16 year old, so who knows. All I know is my student will be attending College with Private school students. Has he had a perfect education? No, but he has had every opportunity too and it was his choice to slack off at times.

    We need to keep the honors and AP classes and ask our Principals to teach to the highest level.

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  33. Anon Jan. 18 @ 3:54PM:

    "They'd be laughing stocks from California to Florida and up to Maine!"

    Um, California already IS a laughing stock, so no announcement they make would be more than a blip on the "Stupid Is As California Does" radar screen.

    ----

    And gotta love the inevitable "takes money away from public schools" whenever some form of "choice" is mentioned. You people have been so brainwashed to believe that $ = success. Yeah, like govt throwing money at something ever works.

    The whole "industry" of govt/union-controlled education is a broken model. There are some exceptions, but on the whole, it just doesn't work. As soon as someone even whispers "vouchers," "charter school," or "school choice," you automatons go haywire and, by rote, start repeating ad nauseum the same cliches of "takes money away" and "it won't work." But the fact is, YOU DON'T KNOW. Your brains have been removed, scrubbed, and re-inserted and you just don't get it...your way has failed us the past 40 years.

    So let's just be crazy and actually TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT...why DO we have a federal Dept of Education? Oh my, how on earth did we ever educate kids before the DOE came along? I mean, let's not even stop to consider that back in the days when US schools were THE cream of the crop, there was no stinking Dept of Education. The NEA / CTA weren't powerful lobbies more interested in politics and "jobs" than in actually EDUCATING kids. I know, such quaint notions, because we just all know a kid can't be taught without the all-knowing, all-powerful unions having their nose in it.

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  34. Based on the comments, I think its bye-bye choice schools.

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  35. Anon 7:28
    Not after the meeting tonight. I think SES, SMS, and MG are going to be safe.

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  36. SES, SMS and MG are most definitely safe!! Anonymous 7:28, were you at the right meeting??

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  37. 9:05am- Can you show where you get your information from?

    I had heard that charter schools are actually a drain on a school districts budget.

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  38. Anon 5:21
    What part of the information don't you believe? That will help me give you what you need.

    I will repeat the fact that this charter is not part of MDUSD. I know that because I attended the hearing. It is not part of their budget. The new charter will impact MDUSD in exactly the same way any alternative choice like private schools, homeschooling, and moving to a different district impacts MDUSD. It simply means that MDUSD will not get the ADA for the children attending the charter.

    Rather than looking at this in such a negative light you might want to research why charters are popular and why they are part of the President's plan for reforming education.

    This is good news. This means that the families that live in this area will actually have a public school, tuition-free, choice of where they send their student to high school.

    You should be celebrating.

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  39. Do you have links to financials for Flex Academy? Can't attend either meeting, conflicts with commitments and meetings at my children's schools.

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  40. I would contact Flex directly. The contact information is listed above.

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  41. I received this email today
    (2/15/11) Please consider filling out an interest form if you want to bring Flex Academy to our District.

    <<Mt. Diablo Flex Academy, an innovative public charter school for grades 6-12, is now finalizing plans for opening in either the 2011-2012 or 2012-2013 school year for students in grades 9-12. Many factors will impact our ability to open this Fall or next, but none are more important than family interest and facility availability. We’re very pleased with the interest and support we’ve received to date, however, we are now in need of at least 50 families who are meaningfully interested in attending the school to complete our interest form. Ideally, we would like to gather the names of as many interested families as possible this week.

    If you are interested in possibly having your child attend this exciting new public charter high school, please complete our interest form. Please note that completing the form does not mean you are committed to enrolling in the school; rather, it helps us demonstrate student interest and enables us to contact you with additional information in the future.

    Also, if you have friends or family who you think might be meaningfully interested in attending Mt. Diablo Flex Academy, please ask them to express their support by completing the interest form, even if after this week.

    Thank you in advance for your support!

    Sincerely,

    Tony Verrocchio

    .S. If the above links do not work, please copy and paste the following link in your web browser: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/6G56QT3

    The next interest meeting is March 1st at the downtown Walnut Creek library.

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