Sunday Commentary: DTA Leadership Needs to Step Up to Save Our Schools

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The school district continues to make no apparent progress toward salary concessions, as the board seeks to create a contingency should Proposition 30 be defeated this November.  The loss of Proposition 30 would result in roughly $3.7 million dollars in funding lost to the school district midyear.

On Thursday, the president of CSEA (California School Employees Association), which represents support staff, announced that their membership had ratified a tentative agreement with the district by a wide margin.

However, DTA’s President Frank Thomsen had a more sobering assessment, lamenting that the district was declaring impasse at the same time negotiations continued with teachers.

There is another scheduled negotiations session scheduled for October 23.

Mr. Thomsen told the school board: “When it comes to protecting the personal and corporate interest of our members, DTA remains committed to the negotiations process.  We view it not only as a venue for representing our members’ interests – their livelihoods, compensation, working conditions and the like – but also as a format to address the problems that afflict us in a way that upholds the value and the values of our teachers, counselors, therapists, nurses, psychologists and others specialists who work so closely with and for our children.”

On Friday, Superintendent Winfred Roberson wrote all district employees, indicating, “We have been unable to reach agreement on the number of furlough days that would be taken if Prop. 30 fails. As a result, we will be continuing through the impasse process and pursuing the aid of a third-party mediator to reach agreement.

“Hopefully, Prop. 30 will pass and contingency language and concessions will be unnecessary. However, if Prop. 30 fails and we have not reached an agreement, the situation could be dire for the Davis school district and DTA members.”

Currently, there is enough in the budget to pay these educators, but the cuts and contingencies are not being planned for now.  They are being planned in case Measure E fails and/or Proposition 30 were to fail.

The key is Proposition 30.  If Proposition 30 passes, there will be no need for cuts in January.  However, if it fails, even if Measure E passes, the district will need to cut several million from the budget for January.  The simplest way to do that, which is also unfortunate, is to reduce the teaching year by as much as ten days.

However, in order to do that, teachers must agree to take the furlough days.

What was made clear this week is a solid divide between groups within the DTA.

In a comment from Past President Ingrid Salim, along with Bill Storm, the Vanguard was informed, “Your article implies that the teachers are monolithic in their opinion re: concessions and contingency language.”

They continue pointedly: “Those of us with different opinions have tried to work with DTA leadership to encourage not only civil discourse with district leadership but also to demonstrate a connection to the community that respects the stark reality of the condition of the state budget. We continue to try, but have been frustrated by the combative and seemingly irrational rhetoric of those controlling the messaging in DTA.”

They add: “We would appreciate your attribution of the current position of DTA leadership to DTA leadership, and not paint the entire membership with the same brush. Teachers cannot vote on every statement made by leadership and every position taken in negotiation, and many of us are fearful that the current quality of discourse will further undermine our connection to this community we serve and the students we care about.”

Importantly: “Yes, we teachers need community support to do our work and support our families, but we also need to recognize the sacrifices our neighbors in the community have made to keep Davis public education healthy. If teachers wish to be party to maintaining quality education in Davis (including sustaining the professionals who provide it) we need to respond meaningfully when circumstances demand thoughtful discourse and appropriate accommodation to budgetary circumstances clearly beyond the district’s control.”

This is a critical message that we have been attempting to get out, and Ms. Salim and Mr. Storm hit on it perfectly.

Teachers in this community absolutely need support; schools are the lifeblood of our community.  At that the same time, the district is hurting.  Every time the community has been asked to step up, whether it has been informally through donations to the Davis Schools Foundation or formally through elections, they have done so.

We had heard off the record for some time that there is a divide within the teachers – the leadership have taken an inexplicably hardline stance.

Last spring,  the teachers refused to accept concessions, leading to the district laying off 50 employees along with another $700,000 in cuts away from the classroom in order to close a stubborn $3.5 million structural deficit.

In May, the Vanguard met with then-DTA President Gail Mitchell, who argued that the district is sitting on untapped fund balances.  At the time, they believed that if the governor’s tax initiative would pass, the district would be fine.

What we know now should give everyone pause.

First, recent polling puts support for Proposition 30 at 51% – the barest of majorities and before the rush of ads attacking the tax have really begun.

But even Ms. Mitchell was aware that if the governor’s tax initiative did not pass, “all bets are off” and there would be drastic mid-year cuts.

At the same time, Superintendent Roberson told the Vanguard that the teacher’s association is looking at the fiscal situation incorrectly.  He said they looked at the closing number of the 2010/11 year and saw a fund balance of $11.5 million.  However, he said that is akin to looking at your January bank statement and attempting to use that to plan for the year.

There is a difference between the fund balance which supplies programs over the course of a year and the cash balance.

The district is suffering now from a cash flow crisis.

The parcel tax is a partial buffer to this cash flow crisis.  If Proposition 30 passes and Measure E passes, the district will have the money in the winter and spring to get through without cuts.

If Measure E passes but Proposition 30 fails, the contingency in Measure E kicks in with $240 additional money per parcel, however that money will arrive in July, too late to buffer the district from the $3.7 million hit this January.

The bottom line is that the district needs everyone to take 10 furlough days if Proposition 30 fails.  That will be the least disruptive option.  It enables the district not to lay off personnel or close schools midyear.  Assuming Measure E passes, the district could then go to a normal school year for 2013-14.

CSEA has taken this contingency.  The District Administrators have taken this contingency.  But DTA has not.  As the communication from Ingrid Salim and Bill Storm makes clear – this is on the leadership of the DTA, not the rank and file.

We hope that the DTA leadership does the right thing and steps up.  No one wants this solution, it is a bad solution for the teachers, the students and this district – but unfortunately we may have no other choice if Proposition 30 does not pass.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

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.

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33 thoughts on “Sunday Commentary: DTA Leadership Needs to Step Up to Save Our Schools”

  1. Mr.Toad

    “As the communication from Ingrid Salim and Bill Storm makes clear – this is on the leadership of the DTA, not the rank and file.”

    Isn’t the leadership elected by a majority of the voting members? it seems you seek to undermine the union because you disagree with its position.

  2. Mr.Toad

    I do understand there is dissent in the union that you are giving voice to because you disagree with the leadership. There is always disagreement within the union membership. You can always find someone who will take a position in opposition to the majority elected leadership. Giving voice to that division is a standard tactic of union busters.

  3. medwoman

    “Giving voice to that division is a standard tactic of union busters.”

    Giving voice to that division could also be interpreted as a neutral position attempting to ensure that all viewpoints are heard regarding an issue of importance to the community as a whole.

  4. Mr.Toad

    Yes but coupled with David’s previous argument that the union needs to take a hit or else it undermines the chances for the parcel tax it seems he is now trying to use whatever support he can muster to further exert pressure on the teachers to secure his preferred outcome even if it requires union busting tactics.

    What he doesn’t say is that there is time between the election and when decisions need to be made. Not a lot of time but enough to hammer out a deal.

  5. medwoman

    “There is another scheduled negotiations session scheduled for October 23.”

    Perhaps I am misunderstanding your comment Mr. Toad but it would seem to me that David did point this out with the above line from his article.

  6. wdf1

    I appreciate Salim’s and Storm’s comments. The DTA attracted criticism because there have been times when their leadership hasn’t appeared to understand the fiscal situation of the district, and times when it appeared they hadn’t fully communicated the situation to their membership.

    Last school year was particularly bad. For instance when DTA leadership called for protests at school board meetings, a number of teachers got up and made the claim that the school district had plenty of reserve funds and shouldn’t be laying off teachers. It appeared that those teachers were looking at the deferred payments from the state as a source of unspent money, when in fact it had been spent in the then current school year.

    There were also some key public school board budget discussions in which no DTA rep was present at board meeting, and where DTA input would have been helpful to the discussion. That just didn’t look good from the perspective of a public observer.

    DTA leadership also publicly expressed a certain level of incredulity at being asked to take cuts. That was weird, because again, this is a scenario playing out in school districts all over the state and even in local and state government. I don’t know if DTA should take cuts or not. If DTA leadership had said, “I can see why you’re asking for this, but our membership says not now,” then that would have been fine. But instead protests appeared to be outraged at being asked. In my view, in these times, I think it’s okay to ask. It’s also okay to say, no thank you, if that is the will of the members.

    I felt bad for the teachers, because I thought the DTA leadership hadn’t really tried to understand or explain the situation, but appeared to engineer a narrative of unfairness and injustice from the administration. Thing is, again you could see this same relative budget situation playing out in school districts all over the state (a quick Google search of the news confirmed it), so it wasn’t as if DJUSD was being specifically malicious at this particular point in time.

    One ongoing narrative from a number of protesting teachers was that the school district was being irresponsible all-round with their budgeting. But when you look at the state organization, the CTA, they appear to be well aware of the fact that it’s the lack of state funding that’s driving budget cuts at the district level. Note CTA’s endorsement and support of Prop. 30. So DTA didn’t really appear to be in sync with CTA. Not that they had to be, but it looked that a lot of communication was not happening.

    I also thought the school board protests weren’t appropriately focused. At one point, some of the teachers stood up and turned their backs to the school board in protest, oblivious to the fact that they were standing in front of other audience members (mostly concerned parents) who were trying to follow the discussions out of genuine concern. And there really wasn’t any other alternative left to the school board on these issues, so it was hard to see what change the protests sought to bring about.

    There are times I perceive feigned ignorance from DTA leadership on some budget issues. Perhaps there was a sensible explanation to all of this, but it sure doesn’t look like it from the outside.

    More than anything, I would like to see DTA leaders show some indication that they understand the budgeting issues. It is discouraging for a teacher not to be able to get a straight and clear answer from their DTA rep. More than once I’ve found myself explaining more to a teacher than did her DTA rep.

  7. hpierce

    [quote]Giving voice to that division is a standard tactic of union busters. [/quote]“my union, right or wrong!” Mr Toad… am pretty sure you’re a UNION person… the teachers unions protect the ‘tenured’ and incompetent/marginally competent teachers and throw the new, energized, competent teachers under the bus when stuff happens.

    Leaning more to vote no on E.

  8. Sherman

    I believe the “divide” among the teachers may be due to whether the teacher is the sole source of income for his/her family or a supplementary source of income (two-income supported family). If the teacher is a sole source of income for the family, then the salary concessions, furlough days, increases in the cost of health benefits have taken a toll on his/her family. Some teachers may be working another job to make up for the loss in wages from their teaching position. Given the extra demands placed on teachers with larger classes and continual decreases in compensation and benefits, perhaps this is the “straw that broke the camel’s back.” Those teachers whose families have multiple sources of income may not be as financially constrained and may find it easier to negotiate. I believe the Davis community needs to firmly support the teachers that are educating our children. What this means is allowing teachers to work out (among themselves) a compromise without interference from the community. Regardless of the outcome of the teachers’ decision, the community must remain supportive – only then are we truly valuing education from those that deliver it, the teachers, to those that ultimately benefit, the students.

  9. hpierce

    Sherman… you raise some interesting, and in my view, valid points… how does that differ between teachers and public employees in general? I don’t think there is any difference, but in Davis, all teachers are represented by a state-wide union with national ties, but city employees are mostly represented by groups that have no state or national ties. I have spent my career as a professional. I have never been a member of a “union”, and intend to be able to say that when I retire from working. I don’t personally believe that you can call yourself a professional and say that you are a union member in the same breath.

  10. medwoman

    Sherman

    [quote]I believe the Davis community needs to firmly support the teachers that are educating our children. What this means is allowing teachers to work out (among themselves) a compromise without interference from the community. Regardless of the outcome of the teachers’ decision, the community must remain supportive – only then are we truly valuing education from those that deliver it, the teachers, to those that ultimately benefit, the students.[/quote]

    I truly love the idealism that is behind this statement and your dedication to the well being of our students both as expressed here and in your comments at the candidates most recent forum. However, I must take exception to your middle sentence “…this means allowing teachers to work out ( among themselves) a compromise without interference from the community.” What this statement neglects is that although indirectly, the community employes the teachers, and as those being served as well as those making the payments, I believe that community members have not only the right but also the responsibility to weigh in on what they are and are not likely to support. Anything less is also unfair to the individual teachers as it does not allow them to make a realistic assessment of what is likely to be supported and fosters an environment of doubt and distrust. I think that the major difference in our viewpoints seems to lie in the words chosen. What you describe as “interference”, I would describe as “input”.

  11. medwoman

    hpierce

    [quote] I have spent my career as a professional. I have never been a member of a “union”, and intend to be able to say that when I retire from working. I don’t personally believe that you can call yourself a professional and say that you are a union member in the same breath.[/quote]

    Perhaps I am reading too much in to your comment, however, I seem to perceive a preconceived animosity to all unions. I do not agree that one cannot call ones self a professional and say that you are a union member in the same breath. I will provide the example of which I have the most knowledge. I work with a number of highly dedicated Nurse Practitioners who in order to work within our system, have to belong to the union. Most are highly trained, highly skilled, and highly dedicated professionals and to consider them any less would be a completely undeserved insult. That you pride yourself on your lack of union membership should not be used as a means of demeaning those who have chosen other paths for their professional careers.

  12. hpierce

    [quote] I work with a number of highly dedicated Nurse Practitioners [b]who in order to work within our system, have to belong to the union[/b]. [/quote]You hit on the reason I have no respect for 90%+ of unions. My dad had to belong to a union to get a job with his employer. He could not join the union unless he had a job with the employer. Problem. In the 1950’s problem was solved by passing $50 to the shop steward (1952 dollars), and the chicken/egg problem was fixed. I’ll ask you medwoman… if you had your dues in your pocket, would your working conditions be much different if there was no union?

  13. hpierce

    misread medwoman… will rephrase… “if the nurse practitioners had their dues in their pocket, would their working conditions be much different if there was no union?”

  14. medwoman

    hpierce

    Fair question. I do not think that their working conditions would be much different ( with some exceptions around break times and other fairly minor considerations ) but I do think ( no, I know from experience) that their benefits would be significantly less. So if you are someone that does not believe in the provision of benefits, this will seem right to you. If you are someone who believes that our current social structure makes the provision of benefits attached to one’s job virtually essential, then you will see the right to bargain collectively as a positive.

    Personally, I would like to see our society reward time spent working fairly with a livable wage and benefits for all. If we agreed to do this across the entire society, we would have no need for the endless union vs non union and private vs public sector squablling that plaques us and continuously divides us and saps our strength as a nation.

  15. medwoman

    hpierce

    It is always interesting to me how our different personal experiences, especially during our childhoods color how we see virtually the same situation. My father, also in the early 50’s was faced with a similar, albeit not identical choice. For a given job in Sausalito, he would have made much more money, but would have had to join the union. My father was a strong “right to work ” Republican who walked his talk. We settled, over my mothers objections in rural Washington state. Fortunately for us, he was a good hunter and fisherman, because much of our food until he died came from wildlife. The amount of money he made in his “right to work” job would not have sustained the four of us. And he was a very hard working skilled man working as a ships fitter. The lesson that I took from this is that unions can be the difference between being just a hair’s breadth above the working poor, and slipping in to poverty, which we did by the way after my fathers death. Perspective can make a lot of difference.

    For me, unions are neither good nor evil in and of themselves. I have no idea where you derived the number
    that you do not respect as 90% +. What I see is that there are times when they over reach, and there are times when they are crucial to the well being of their members. Is this really any different from employers who sometimes try to pare down their expenses to the bone and in doing so overwork their employees and at other times feel they can be more generous with their compensation ?

  16. hpierce

    medwoman… the United Farm workers union was a god-send… Cesar Chavez and his movement helped to make great strides to prevent exploitation of workers… there is still much to be done in the areas of farm-worker health and welfare, because of the type of work, environmental conditions, etc. I see no reason for a professional state engineers’ union which fights most private contracts, because that might affect their jobs. I can say that as a professional engineer, who spent the bulk of my career in the PUBLIC sector.

    I support employee group representation… hell, I even formed one.. but the ‘dues’ went to pay for xeroxing, and other ancillary expenses… I have been ‘president’ of employee groups, but never got one dime…. I have been on many negotiation teams, and never got one dime. I believe in a good compensation package so employees (particularly public sector) can focus on their work, not their compensation. I am the beneficiary of good public employee compensation… but also realize that there need to be limits.

    Unions tend to defend the marginal/deficient employees, and reject any efforts to compensate the high achievers, unless the low achievers get the same “goodies”. 35 years of experience have formed these opinions.

  17. Greg Brucker

    [b]wdf1[/b] (and everyone)

    I am a DTA rep council member (for 1 year + of time) and I completely agree with your (wdf1’s) sentiments, as I have experienced exactly what you present. I have shared those opinions, concerns, and thoughts at dta rep. council meetings and to leadership directly, and as well, I have presented many of those thoughts to the whole union. I can tell you all that there are many teachers who are greatly disappointed with how last year was handled by leadership (as am I–and I made that clear to leadership and the whole union last year), and there are many teachers who feel unrepresented and frustrated by the leadership’s actions, statements, and tactics.

    I should add that I completely agree with Bill and Ingrid’s statement. They are my colleagues, great educators, and avid union supporters. Their interest, as is mine, is to do what we think is the right thing for students, teachers, and the DJUSD. This has nothing to do with union bashing or busting, but has everything to do with the existence and expression of divergent opinions and different perspectives on what the best move is for the students, teachers, the DJUSD, and Davis, in moving forward through a very tough situation for everyone.

    [b]WDF1[/b], if you are ok with it, I would love to chat with you some time. I have been reading your posts for a while and appreciate your voice and thoughts. I can be emailed at five_below@sbcglobal.net if you are interested.

    [i]
    I will lastly say, related to Measure E:[/i]

    NONE of this is a reason to deny the children and families of Davis the great opportunities and current status of the educational system. [u]We must pass Measure E[/u], so that we can keep Davis, Davis, and not allow ourselves to allow the system fall apart when we have the opportunity to make the choice to keep it going, holding on to what we still have. Anyone with a heart and mind cares about children and the future, and during these very tough times, we must not let those ideals slip. In fact we must hold on even tighter to the ability we have, here in Davis, to provide one of the best educational systems this state still has, and continue to give our children and the families in town the education they want and deserve. Davis is a very lucky place to be able to afford supporting the schools through times of need, and we are still in one of those times-the emergency has not ended. Regardless of inner-union politics, we must all stand together as community members, teachers, families, and educational supporters, and make our voice heard: that we want and demand a top notch educational system here in Davis, and are willing to do whatever we can do support it. That support means preventing the worst situation yet by voting YES on E and Yes on State Prop. 30. (And yes, I am a homeowner for a decade here in Davis, and gladly pay the extra parcel tax money to help support our great community and schools.)

    VOTE YES ON E, for the children and families in Davis. They are our focus and our priority, and must remain that way if we are to even come close to upholding the truest of American ideals: Leaving our country, our community, better off for the next generation, than we are experiencing now. VOTE YES ON E, for the children and families of Davis, for the future.

  18. David M. Greenwald

    Sherman: Medwoman probably made the same point I would make – I really disagree with your statement “What this means is allowing teachers to work out (among themselves) a compromise without interference from the community. Regardless of the outcome of the teachers’ decision, the community must remain supportive.”

    This is a community issue – my kids, our kids, their future, their present, their education.

  19. David M. Greenwald

    “he is now trying to use whatever support he can muster to further exert pressure on the teachers to secure his preferred outcome even if it requires union busting tactics. “

    You really are not grasping what is happening here. I suggest you read WDF and Greg Brucker and Bill Storm and Ingrid Salim again.

  20. Mr.Toad

    Why do you keep trying to make it seem I don’t understand? Disagreeing with a tactic is different from demanding an outcome. You go around deciding and publishing what you think the teachers should do. You give voice to Jose Granda and his shameful positions and then suggest that it is I who doesn’t understand what is going on. David Greenwald and Jose Granda agree the teachers should take a pay cut. Am I still missing something?

  21. David M. Greenwald

    “Why do you keep trying to make it seem I don’t understand? “

    Because I don’t think you do understand what’s going on here.

    “You give voice to Jose Granda and his shameful positions”

    The views expressed by guest editorials do not represent the views of the Vanguard. However, we have a clear policy to print submitted materials from members of the community. Tomorrow there will be another guest piece from those supporting Measure E.

    So is Mr. Toad in favor of not printing the views of those who he disagrees with?

  22. Mr.Toad

    I don’t print anything but my own remarks and no I wouldn’t publish Jose Granda’s views unless I was debunking his nonsense. You have no responsibility to print his stuff only that you choose to print his stuff.

    First you argue that the teachers should take a pay cut then publish Granda. So i see where you stand.

  23. hpierce

    [quote]if you had your dues in your pocket, would your working conditions be much different if there was no union? [/quote]Somebody needs a time out. I may disagree with many writers on this blog, for many reasons. Yet, David is providing a service where voices may be heard, especially if they run contrary to “group-think”.

    There are great teachers in the district, and there are and have been some that quite frankly do not belong in a taxpayer funded position (and even more, I would not want my children to have them as instructors… but that happened). I know of teachers that finally “disappeared” because of their egregious behaviors… but it took YEARS.

    Teachers should have respect, as a “class”… so should engineers, planners, tree trimmers, and others who are serving the public.

    Mr Toad, you think too highly of yourself, in my humble opinion.

  24. hpierce

    [quote]First you argue that the teachers should take a pay cut then publish Granda. So i see where you stand. [/quote]Somebody needs a time out. I may disagree with many writers on this blog, for many reasons. Yet, David is providing a service where voices may be heard, especially if they run contrary to “group-think”.

    There are great teachers in the district, and there are and have been some that quite frankly do not belong in a taxpayer funded position (and even more, I would not want my children to have them as instructors… but that happened). I know of teachers that finally “disappeared” because of their egregious behaviors… but it took YEARS.

    Teachers should have respect, as a “class”… so should engineers, planners, tree trimmers, and others who are serving the public.

    Mr Toad, you think too highly of yourself, in my humble opinion.

    My bad… captured wrong quote on previous post. Mea culpa.

  25. sjkelleher@hotmail.com

    I would point out that the “stubborn $3.5 million structural deficit” was here long before the state cut a dime. It has been in the district budget for the better part of a decade. THAT problem is due to over spending.
    I would further like to point out that the cuts to district funding should Prop 30 fail have already been factored into the district’s budget projections for this year. A budget that has been positively certified by the Yolo County Office of Education for the next three years.
    And yes, the DTA Executive Board and Representative Council is a democratically elected body representing the members as a whole. Just as in any such group, there is not always full agreement.
    The will of the group is not vested solely in Rep Council however. Our members were sent a survey to seek out each individual’s opinion. This information is being used to guide the Exec Board, Rep Council and the negotiations team in their efforts to reach an equitable agreement.

  26. David M. Greenwald

    “I would further like to point out that the cuts to district funding should Prop 30 fail have already been factored into the district’s budget projections for this year. A budget that has been positively certified by the Yolo County Office of Education for the next three years.”

    It appears that the current budget was passed before the May announcement of the added budget deficit and additional cuts. The Governor announced the latest hit on May 12, after the current budget was passed, so I don’t believe you are correct.

  27. wdf1

    Kelleher: [i]I would point out that the “stubborn $3.5 million structural deficit” was here long before the state cut a dime. It has been in the district budget for the better part of a decade. THAT problem is due to over spending. [/i]

    This is an example of the misleading narrative that the DTA engages in, and exactly one of the things that I have explained to teachers because their own DTA rep couldn’t give a straight answer.

    We don’t know from year to year what cuts the state will make and pass on to the district. But as cuts have happened, they have often been in the $3-$3.5 million range. The district balances one year, additional cuts come in at about the same range.

    The district could be more conservative and make deeper cuts to compensation, staffing & teachers within a given year and anticipate what cuts the state will make the following year, but then DTA will come back and argue that it isn’t necessary to make those cuts.

    Kelleher’s statement is dishonest, divisive, and ultimately doesn’t serve anyone.

  28. Greg Brucker

    Steve,

    Can you point me to where you got the below information?

    Thanks.

    [quote]I would point out that the “stubborn $3.5 million structural deficit” was here long before the state cut a dime. It has been in the district budget for the better part of a decade. THAT problem is due to over spending.

    I would further like to point out that the cuts to district funding should Prop 30 fail have already been factored into the district’s budget projections for this year. A budget that has been positively certified by the Yolo County Office of Education for the next three years.[/quote]

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