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BREAKING NEWS: Board Votes 4-0 to Hear Appeal for Volleyball Coach

volleyballThe Board voted to grant an appeal to the employee regarding the parent complaint.

Sheila Allen, Gina Daleiden, Susan Lovenburg, and Tim Taylor voted in favor of hearing the appeal, according to a statement from Board President Gina Daleiden stating, “Nancy Peterson was absent because she recused herself from public comment, closed session and voting on this matter.”

“The Board will continue, at public Board meetings, to address the overarching issues under the Athletic Policies and Regulations,” the statement continued.  “The District and Davis High School will continue their efforts to identify and secure an interim coach for Boys Volleyball as soon as possible.”

The board added, “In the meantime, the Board encourages the parties to come together to find a reasonable resolution that is in the best interest of the students and the School District.”

Previous story: Another Controversial Firing of the High School Coach

Once again volleyball coach Julie Crawford is in the spotlight, having been fired right before her season started.  This only a matter of months after the school board voted 3-1 (with Nancy Peterson dissenting) to overturn the decision of DHS athletic director Dennis Foster and renew her contract.

According to accounts, she was informed by High School Principal Will Brown that her service agreement had been pulled at the district level at the January 23 board meeting.

Parents reacted angrily to a letter from the school district less than 24 hours before scheduled tryouts.

The letter addressed to “boys volleyball families” said, “While we are looking forward to another great season of DSHS Boys Volleyball we have yet to identify a coaching staff for the 2014 season. As a result, we have posted these coaching positions and will be reviewing applications as they arrive.”

It continued, “In the meantime, practices will be canceled until a coaching staff is identified. If you know anyone with Volleyball coaching or playing experience that may be interested in coaching the DHS Boys Volleyball team this season please have them contact me directly. Our goal is to identify qualified coaches and get the season started as soon as possible.”

This is the latest in a string of at-will employees, ranging from coaches to the high school principal that have either been fired or had their contract not renewed.  Unfortunately, sudden changes in employment status lead to community questions and the district, in part due to personnel laws, cannot give full answers.

Questions to board members were directed to Superintendent Winfred Roberson.

Mr. Roberson referred questions from the Vanguard to Matt Best, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources & Secondary Programs at Davis Joint Unified School District.

“I know that that you both have received many inquiries regarding DSHS Men’s Volleyball. Please feel free to reference the District’s statement below regarding this matter,” the statement read.  “We understand the angst that the players and parents in the Boys’ Volleyball program may feel this week. We value our Boys’ Volleyball team, and expect to have a coach in place to work with the team as it prepares to start the season.”

The statement continued, “We have been asked several times this week ‘what is going on with the coach?’”

“It is DJUSD’s legal and ethical practice to strictly maintain employee privacy and confidentiality in personnel matters,” the statement continued.  “As a result we are unable to comment on those matters.  As a public entity, we also have various personnel and administrative procedures to follow, even with ‘at-will’ coaching positions.  Those procedures are in place to protect all parties and to give people an opportunity to respond.”

They concluded, ”Sometimes adherence to these procedures causes delay and unintended interruptions with respect to the District’s day-to-day workings and hiring timelines.  We will continue to do everything in our power to ameliorate those effects.”

The Vanguard contacted Julie Crawford on Wednesday afternoon and she agreed at that time to answer questions via email.  However, at press time, the Vanguard has not received answers to the questions.

However, this morning answers may have emerged.  The Davis Enterprise reports, “Davis High School volleyball coach Julie Crawford retaliated against her leading critic, school board member Nancy Peterson, by cutting Peterson’s daughter — a varsity player since she was a sophomore — from the girls roster last summer, a school district investigation concluded.”

The paper goes on, “That retaliation was in violation of board policy, the investigator said, and it may be at the root of the district’s decision not to rehire Crawford as boys volleyball coach for the spring season.”

The paper obtained a letter from Mr. Best which summarized attorney Alex Sperry’s investigation and “describes the violation of board policy that may have cost Crawford her coaching job. She remains employed as a physical education teacher.”

The Vanguard will have more as additional information comes available.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About David Greenwald

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

93 comments

  1. Very interesting. So was the student cut because there were better players or was it vindictive? Who’s to know for sure, after all the coach has to evaluate their players and sometimes make tough choices and that’s all subjective. Will this create an environment where a board member’s child can never be cut from a team because they might lose their job?

    • It appears they investigated. So it would have been easy enough to determine if the cut was warranted. But it would seem awfully dumb to get your job back and then vindictively cut your adversaries child from the team. So that pushes me back to the realm of curiosity.

      However, and if I end up writing a commentary, perhaps this illustrates exactly why Nancy Peterson should have stayed out of the involvement with the coach at the beginning of all of this. It puts her in a quasi-conflicted position and makes it harder for the coach to do her job without the appearance of retaliation.

      • Exactly David. I forgot why she was fired the first time, was it for anything Crawford had done? Did the reason ever come out or was it confidential?

      • “…if I end up writing a commentary, perhaps this illustrates exactly why Nancy Peterson should have stayed out of the involvement with the coach at the beginning of all of this. It puts her in a quasi-conflicted position and makes it harder for the coach to do her job without the appearance of retaliation.”

        No need to write a commentary when you already made up your mind and wrote one right here. Clear, concise–no need to take up more space with a lengthy version later.

    • Will this create an environment where a board member’s child can never be cut from a team because they might lose their job?

      To play devil’s advocate, because I have no idea, beyond what has been reported in the papers, what happened in this situation. Will this create an environment where a board member has no recourse if their child has been cut from a team because the coach is mad at a school board member?

  2. Growth Issue wrote:

    > Will this create an environment where a board member’s child can
    > never be cut from a team because they might lose their job?

    This has been the case for years in not just sports but the business world.

    For a sports example I had a friend that sent his kid to a private high school because of their great baseball program. When the son of a wealthy donor took his sons starting position my friend’s son transferred schools where he got to start at the new school (and got drafted by a minor league team where he had a good year and many say he has a decent shot at playing in the majors).

    For a business example I was excited to hear that the godson of a board member was going to be working for me between his first and second year to Stanford GSB. It turns out that the kid was a total slacker (came in late, left early and did very little work). Unlike Coach Crawford I know how the world works and I didn’t try to get rid of him (and even lied to his godfather telling him that he helped me out). I know that keeping a board member (who has given millions of dollars to Stanford) happy is more important that trying to get the maximum amount of work out of each employee.

  3. So here’s an interesting question for everyone to ponder – who is leaking reports to the newspaper? It’s not in the best interest for Crawford to do it. So that means someone with access did it improperly?

    • The answer is that it was sent by the parent who made the complaint.

      • You asked a question at 10:22 a.m. (speculating that it was not in Crawford’s interest to leak). You answered it yourself at 10:37 a.m.

        How did you confirm that Nancy Peterson did the dirty deed of leaking the letter in that 15 minutes?

        As I remember, you based your coverage last time around on information that was leaked to you by Coach Crawford through her friend. Would you please post a link to get us back to The Vanguard accounts of that earlier drama.

        • “You asked a question at 10:22 a.m. (speculating that it was not in Crawford’s interest to leak). You answered it yourself at 10:37 a.m. ”

          Pretty cool, huh?

          “How did you confirm that Nancy Peterson did the dirty deed of leaking the letter in that 15 minutes?”

          I asked the right person, it was actually her husband who leaked it.

          • Cool, indeed, good work. Was it Nancy who confessed that her husband leaked or did her husband confess? Were you able to get any more information from either if them? Or, did The Enterprise’s Chris Saur reveal his source to you?

            Anyway, are you able to locate The Vanguard coverage last year of this ongoing battle?

            P.S.–I like the way you’ve adapted this story with a well-identified update. Would it be good also to indicate the times that all Vanguard stories are posted?

    • David wrote:

      > So that means someone with access did it improperly?

      If my kid is cut from a team because the coach is mad at me do you think it is “improper” to tell anyone?

    • Perhaps it’s time for the recall of a school board member.

      • What if what she and her husband are saying is true? And their daughter was cut from the team as revenge? If this is indeed the case, why should Nancy’s daughter pay the price of her being a school board member? In this situation I would probably fight for my kid as well.

        I will once again make the disclaimer that I have no clue about what happened. I don’t know any of the people involved or anyone who knows anything more then what was has been reported.

        • But the distinction is, when you are an elected, you need to be more circumspect as you would be as an individual parent. Thou shall NOT use elective office for your personal interests, however strongly you feel about them, in my opinion (and good ethical behavior).

          • I agree, she should have the same rights as any other parents, but once the grievance is filed, she should also have the same amount of decision making power, and access to confidential information, as any other parent.

        • Like you Michelle, I know none of the parties involved in this issue and am not privy to any insider information. Having said that, both as a player and a coach I have seen the negative impact that a parent can have on the success of a team, and completely understand when a coach refuses to work with a child, no matter how talented, due to the negative behavior of that child’s parents. Is that what happened here? I don’t know, but it would be understandable.

          The issue in my mind with this incident is that I don’t think a coach should be relieved of their duties based solely on the complaint of one parent, no matter who that parent is. If the evidence shows that a coach is qualified and appreciated by the overwhelming majority of the players and their families (not to mention the Athletic Director and Principal) then the coach would need to do something illegal for a single complaint to be sufficient for removal.

          In the end, this just looks like a case of sour grapes from a couple who appear to have a sense of entitlement due to their positions with the schools. I feel bad for all of the kids.

          • I would have a hard time supporting a coach that cut a kid from a team because she didn’t like the kids parents. I would also have some serious concerns with parents, much less an Athletic Director and Principal who supported a coach that would do something like this.

            On the flip side, I’d be appalled with a school board member who used her influence to get a coach she didn’t like fired, and with a district who supported her in her efforts to do so, by not choosing to rehire her.

            • “cut a kid from a team because she didn’t like the kids parents”

              I was not referring to a coach disliking a parent, but how the inappropriate actions of a parent can ruin the success of a team for all involved. It is unfortunate when the parent’s actions impact their child, but do you think all the other children on the team should suffer because of the poor behavior of one parent?

              • I think the obvious answer to your question is no, other children should not suffer because of the poor behavior of one parent.

                But if a coach does behave inappropriately, (which I’m not saying Crawford did or didn’t) parents should have recourse.

                Every parent should have the same recourse though, no one parents complaint, regardless of their position with in the district, should have more weight then any others.

                • “Every parent should have the same recourse though, no one parents complaint, regardless of their position with in the district, should have more weight then any others.”

                  Agreed!

      • After reading both Enterprise articles, am thinking that Board Member Peterson should have recused herself from the vote, and for failing to do so, should be censured by her fellow board members, or perhaps it’s time for a recall effort. Perhaps the action against the coach is valid, but I see no excuse for the particular board member’s action. Something smells.

        • Board Member Peterson recused herself from today’s meeting and actions, but she did not do so last year.

          • Yeah.. re-read and figured that out. But still showed (in my opinion) an incredible lack of judgement in the earlier vote. Still think at least a censure of the board for that act is appropriate. Given better judgement being exercised now, not feeling inclined to the need for recall.

            • Every parent, even a school board member, should be allowed to file a grievance against a teacher or a coach if they feel it’s justified.

              But IMO they should not be involved in what follows, or have access to any more information, then any non-school member would.

            • If a school board member participated in spite of a conflict of interest, then she’s wrong.

              If a coach cut a player in retaliation for the player’s parent’s actions (even “partially”), then she’s wrong.

              Student athletes suffer in both cases. What a mess that both have imposed on the teams, the school and the district.

              The board member should face reelection with this serious blemish on her permanent record.

              The coach shouldn’t be rehired because she seriously violated policy and ethics standards.

              • A school board member did participate, although not in this round, in spite of a conflict of interest.

                I do question her judgement in doing so, if only that it weakened any legitimate argument she might have had.

                We don’t know why the player was cut, if it was out of spite, I agree the coach should not be rehired, regardless of the the amount of support she gets from players and parents.

                • M.M.: We don’t know why the player was cut, if it was out of spite, I agree the coach should not be rehired, regardless of the the amount of support she gets from players and parents.

                  It is hard for me to see how this can be resolved in a way that would appear just and fair.

                  The only evidence I can imagine that would lead to concluding that Crawford cut the player in retaliation is if she said so herself. But it’s hard to imagine a rational coach even thinking or admitting that.

                  Even if the player showed outstanding skill in tryouts, if the player demonstrated a negative attitude toward the coach or in interactions with other players, that alone would offer justification for a coach not to keep a player on the team.

                  • Agree with wdf1. The coach makes the cuts and what she’s looking for in a player is very subjective on her part. Unless she said something then I have to believe proving vindictiveness would bevery hard to prove.

                  • The only evidence I can imagine that would lead to concluding that Crawford cut the player in retaliation is if she said so herself.

                    I agree with you. It makes me wonder what evidence the district had that led them to decide not to offer her the position.

                    • There’s also the other oddity, she retaliated against a player on the girls team but was dismissed from the boy’s team

                    • Not so curious. If she’s guilty of a serious violation of the code of conduct for coaches, she’d be considered unfit to coach any sport or any sex.

                  • Considering the age of the student, I could imagine a ‘drama queen’ situation where the student did a “if you don’t put me fist string, I’ll tell mommy and she’ll get you fired”. If this did happen, then if I was the coach I’d cut the player with a thought of “make my day”.

                    • Considering you are speculating about a child, I would suggest you not say such things without knowing her or what she really is like.

                • Apparently, an investigation was conducted confirming that retaliation was involved it the coach’s cutting of the player.

                  Since motivation is such a difficult thing to prove without an admission from the person investigated, can we assume that the coach herself confirmed her thinking?

                  • I think you are overstating what the investigation ‘found.’

                    • Quoting you quoting them: “more likely than not, Coach Crawford’s decision to cut Emma Peterson from the varsity volleyball team was influenced, at least in part, by Coach Crawford’s feelings about Nancy Peterson.”

                    • Ipad Guy:

                      Is that a standard of proof that you would find acceptable for determining if you keep your job? That your actions may have been influenced, at least in part, by your feelings for your employee’s mother?

                    • I get your point. Hard to say. Depends on how serious the infraction.

                      Protecting children leads to some zero-tolerance rules and standards that would seem a little excessive in adult employment settings.

                      What astounds me here is how the coach could have allowed herself to take this action without getting concurrence from above. Risk-taking behavior, for sure.

                    • “how the coach could have allowed herself to take this action without getting concurrence from above.”

                      The AD and School Principal support the coach. She has concurrence from above.

                    • Somebody from above did not renew her contract because an investigation provided reason.

                      I didn’t read anywhere that the DHS principal and AD had approved cutting the student from the team.

                      If they took it upon themselves in such a sensitive case, they have to accept a share of the shortage of due diligence exercised here.

  4. School Board voted 4-0 to hear the appeal.

  5. The Enterprise article referenced in the posting above.

    Chris Saur, Davis Enterprise, 2/13/14: Retaliation may be at root of coach’s dismissal

  6. “The paper obtained a letter from Mr. Best which summarized attorney Alex Sperry’s investigation and ‘describes the violation of board policy that may have cost Crawford her coaching job. She remains employed as a physical education teacher’.”

    This investigation is the basis for the decision. It seem that speculation is fruitless without seeing at least the Best letter summarizing the investigation report.

    Will The Vanguard be getting a copy?

  7. Looking at the Enterprise pictures and reading the comments on the articles it sure looks like Miss Crawford was very well liked by the kids and ‘most’ of the parents.

    • In general winning coaches are often liked by kids and their parents.

      • Nah, hasn’t been my experience. Often winning coaches can be detested by the parents and kids. Some of the championship teams I played on we all hated the coach. The coaches I liked best were the ones I felt treated everyone fairly with no favoritism and were personable and made the team fun. I’m sure that’s where these kids are coming from too because they sure seem to love Crawford.

  8. The original blue devil

    Out of curiosity, did it ever cross any of your minds that the player in question was not chosen for the team (something that is a privilege and not a right by the way) for other reasons like behavior, attitude, skill, team chemistry, coach ability, and effort? Why are we so quick to call retaliation toward ms Crawford? The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree in this situation and to not hold the player in question responsible or accountable for her own performance, tryout and behavior is entirely irresponsible and a huge assumption .

    • Based on the comments so far, I think a lot of people here think that’s a possibility, but we don’t have enough information to know for sure.

    • Of course. Almost everyone assumes that a whinny parent is overlooking her own, dear kid’s shortcomings when team selections and player time complaints pop up.

      No one is jumping to conclusions about retaliation–an investigation last year concluded that it was involved in Coach Crawford’s decision.

      I think that kids just want to play ball and hate anyone who gets in the way because of their “grownup” coach-parent disputes. The DHS sports atmosphere is now so poisoned that it’s difficult to see any productive way out of this winter of discontent.

      Whether the district can prove its charge of retaliation, one has to question how the coach could have been so insensitive about her own predicament that she would dump the player in the first place. Getting even might be a bad thing, but poor judgment could be a more risky failing.

      • iPad Guy wrote:

        > The DHS sports atmosphere is now so poisoned that it’s difficult to
        > see any productive way out of this winter of discontent.

        The world of kids sports is getting so ugly since more and more parents are learning that if your kid can make a college team the kids chances of getting in to a top school are about 100 times better.

        If you are a girl with a 4.2 GPA and apply to Stanford they put your application in a pile with the ~10,000 other girls that applied for Stanford with over a 4.0. If you are a girl with a 4.2 who is also a nationally ranked water polo player they put your application in a pile with the ~100 other girls that applied to Stanford with over a 4.0 who are also nationally ranked water polo players.

        If you don’t have a 4.2 GPA, sports (especially for girls since less of them want to play in college) will increase your odds of getting in to ANY school (UCD won’t cancel the girls swim team if they don’t get applications from super smart divers next year they will just fill the team with kind of smart swimmers who would be going to Sac State if they did not decide to swim in college).

  9. Out of curiosity, did it ever cross any of your minds that the player in question was not chosen for the team (something that is a privilege and not a right by the way) for other reasons like behavior, attitude, skill, team chemistry, coach ability, and effort?

    Absolutely, it is the basis of a lot of the discussion going on. A coach should be able to not a choose a player for the reasons you mention, with out fear for her job. On the flip side, she shouldn’t be able to cut a player because she doesn’t like the player’s mom.

  10. Investigators conclusion as reported in the Enterprise today [linked above]

    ”more likely than not, Coach Crawford’s decision to cut Emma Peterson from the varsity volleyball team was influenced, at least in part, by Coach Crawford’s feelings about Nancy Peterson.”

    More likely than not…was influenced, at least in part…

    I expect lawyers to be circumspect, but this wording sounds more like a conclusion based on assumptions rather than any sort of definitive proof.

    • Agree that “definitive proof” is an impossible standard to meet in a “state of mind” question.

      Without more information, we must assume that the investigation turned up enough evidence from the coach directly and/or from those around her to conclude that her decision to cut “more likely than not…was influenced at least in part” by her negative feelings about the player’s mother.

      We can make better evaluations once David enlightens with a copy of the investigation’s summary letter.

      Of course, we can’t expect to see details beyond the already leaked letter. The board will have access to all the original evidence and the coach’s appeal information. The allegation, if true, cannot be tolerated regardless of how much other parents and players support her and regardless of how obnoxious some folks seem to find the board member.

      Just get it over as quickly as possible.

    • That wording in support of a finding of retaliation and punishment of Crawford is simply horrible. If this matter ends up in court–as it well might–Crawford’s attorney is going to have a field day cross-examining the investigator.

      It’s quite surprising an investigator/attorney would choose these wiggle words to support an unconditional finding of guilt. For the School District’s sake alone, one sure hopes there’s much more incriminating evidence than just a perceived vengeful mind-set of the accused.

  11. i know there’s always a debate over tenure along philosophical lines, but watching the machinations here, what a nightmare it would be if they could play these games with teachers too.

  12. Finally got a statement from Julie Crawford: “I really apologize for the late notice, but due to the recent events of earlier this week, and today, I have been advised to not answer any additional questions at this point. “

  13. Although I don’t personally have any stake in this issue, I realize that this issue (and before it the firing of the girl’s basketball coach) is one which has aroused a great amount of passion in our community. A lot of that passion is anger at Nancy Peterson. That raises the question:

    Has there ever been so much hatred or resentment among so many residents for a particular member of the school board (while the member was in office) than Nancy Peterson now faces?

    I don’t recall that ever being the case. Not too long ago, there was a lot of vitriol directed at Marti West. However, that was mostly after she left office and some actions of hers were deemed wrong by people in Davis.

  14. The flip flop of the Board on the coach’s employment last time and this embarrassing lack of timely follow up by the administration (if she was fired, why didn’t she know, why didn’t the team know ) and the vote to hear the appeal can’t be good for Sheila Allen’s candidacy…..

    • I don’t think the Board has ever actually voted not to renew her contract. I believe Peterson tried to get it pulled off the consent calendar last year but didn’t have the votes to do so.

      Over the summer her VSA was pulled before it went to the board. Can’t remember the details put somehow after public outcry it went to the board and she was approved 4-1, with Peterson voting to not offer her the contract.

      Allen never voted against her.

      • My comment was about the board’s role in the whole matter. Flip flops, changing, and apparent lack of administrative organization which the board has some responsibility for. And this is not the first coach issue with this board. Agree?

        • It doesn’t seem like the board as a whole was involved that much in this.. Most official decisions seemed to have been made by administration. The board as a whole seems to have consistantly supported Crawford when the matter has come before them. Not sure where they have flip flopped on this.

        • Didn’t completely answer your question, sorry was viewing from my phone. It seems that any mismanagement of this situation falls on the administration not on the school board, whose job I do not believe it is to run the day to day operations of the district.

          • Agree; but the Supt is under the board’s purview and with the number of coach issues that the district has dealt with the last couple of yrs, I would hold the Board and the leadership of the board somewhat responsible; that is my comment.

  15. Something stinks here.

    If the Enterprise’s story is correct, it’s pretty clear that Nancy Peterson began meddling in the affairs of this coach in appropriate ways. The Davis Enterprise reports that “Nancy Peterson had raised several oral complaints to the district administration about Crawford’s coaching decisions during the 2012-2013 school year”

    In general, I submit that coaching decisions are not the purview of the district administration (unless of course, an apparently overbearing school board member is complaining). Coaching decisions play themselves out over the course of a year, and the athletic director and principal of a school should evaluate a program holistically at the end of the year. In this instance, the coaching decisions seem to have played out pretty well). If Ms. Peterson thought the coach should be making different or better decisions, she (or better yet, her husband) should be making sure that the AD, not the district administration, is aware of the issues. Without personally knowing specifics, Crawford’s record, her performance evaluations and perhaps most importantly, the reports from her team, indicate that she should continue coaching men and women’s volleyball at DHS.

    • If Ms. Peterson thought the coach should be making different or better decisions, she (or better yet, her husband) should be making sure that the AD, not the district administration, is aware of the issues

      At least in this last go around she, or her husband, seem to be following protocol. As a parent I think she has the right to file a grievance, but as I’ve said, she should have to follow the same procedure as any other parent. You would hope that no special consideration was given to her because of her position as a school board member.

      • Michelle wrote:

        > You would hope that no special consideration was given to her
        > because of her position as a school board member.

        I’m wondering if Michelle really “hopes” (thinks the Peterson’s will be treated like “regular” parents) this will happen or is just “dreaming” (dreams of a perfect world where everyone would be treated equally). Even though most of us would like EVERYONE to be treated equally it is sad that it will never happen (If two woman named Michelle complain about something in America and one has the last name Millet and the other has the last name Obama I know which one will be given “special consideration”)…

        P.S. Has anyone seen the sexy “pin up” style team photos of the Davis girls volleyball team up around town (I just saw one on the wall inside the donut shop in the Nugget Mall this morning)?

  16. I officially nominate Nancy Peterson in the lead role for Housewives of Sacramento Valley; her hubby Dr. obtaining, and then leaking Confidential personnel documents sealed the nomination.

    FYI, Yahoo has reported that 4 underclass members of last year’s volleyball team didn’t make the team this year. Does that mean Coach Julie Crawford and her evaluation committee retaliated against all 4 players? Did the “investigator” look at these 4, and the evaluation committee? And has the lawyer ever improved a youth volleyball team so that they went to the regional playoffs?

    • TBD, you’ve followed this rolling controversy through both board considerations. Do you really know whether the student athlete is a senior as hpierce suggested or an underclassman as you suggest? I wonder because it makes a big difference in what options are open to help the parties come to agreement on a resolution.

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