Finally, the first day of bargaining … KEA Update 7/24/09

Just a month before the clock runs out for contract ratification or a strike vote, Kent administrators came to the table Thursday with proposals that allow KEA to start the negotiations process.

“The district took a small step forward Thursday on one of our three priorities, compensation, but has yet to address other huge areas of concern,” KEA Chief Bargainer Mike McNett said. “It looks like we may have finally begun the substantive negotiations that should have started last spring. Unfortunately, we still have a lot of ground to cover, and time for the district is running short.”

The good news:

  • The district is finally backing away from its punitive plan to cut pay by seven days, and instead is proposing two additional effective-ed days for a 1.1 percent increase in 2009-10. While the district could use both days to offset our already-increased workload, it is instead proposing one day of new, additional work. School employee salaries are already losing ground to inflation this coming year because of state cuts to the Initiative 732 COLA funding.
  • The district proposes boosting stipends by $2,000 for new teachers, and adding $1,000 toward commitment stipends. With the two effective-ed days, the combined increase next year averages 2.7 percent.
  • The district is now proposing a two-year contract, up from one year. The second year (2010-11) would add 1.6 percent in total pay above Year 1, and includes yet another 1.5 days of work at the direction of the district. (That means over the two years, the district would require an additional 2.5 days of as-yet undefined, district-directed work.)

The bad news:

  • While beginning to address compensation, the district’s package still fails to recognize that our top three issues — time, workload and compensation — are intertwined. The district’s plan actually increases workload, rather than easing it, and ignores our proposals to increase teachers’ time with students.
  • The district still fails to address our overload of meetings. Or class size. Or case load. Not only is the district unwilling to reduce overcrowded classes — nearby districts with similar budget constraints and higher salaries have lower class-size caps — Kent administrators are refusing to create meaningful caps even at our current class-size levels.
  • The district has yet to deal with critical issues around violent students, clear rules for maternity leave and other leaves, the district’s responsibility to bear the costs of on-the-job injuries, or technology integration.
  • The district is hinting it may back away from its demand to base teacher evaluations on WASL scores, but quickly hedged on any written commitment to drop its earlier WASL proposal. The district is now talking in terms of a focus on “student achievement’ — a subject already at the heart of our members’ work efforts — but is refusing to rule out that their focus on achievement means evaluating staff based on students’ standardized tests.
  • The district is also attempting to step backward on some issues, including watering down layoff protections so that the district can begin reducing staff regardless of whether it is required by economic factors.
  • Even though the district’s new two-year contract proposal fails to deal with key issues already identified by KEA members, the district also wants to bar contract “reopeners” as part of its package plan. Reopeners give both sides the chance to negotiate additional unresolved issues between full contracts. Eliminating reopeners means these problems will fester two more years before we can even begin to talk about them.
  • The district continues to seek unrestricted subcontracting of outside workers to do the jobs of KEA members. The district wants no limits beyond having to “meet and discuss” any proposed outsourcing with KEA leaders. The district could then hire as many people through outside agencies as it wishes, and at any rate of pay. (The district lost an arbitration ruling on this issue last summer when KEA showed the district already was hiring excessive numbers of staff this way. Rather than comply with the arbitrator’s binding decision, the district is now trying to change the contract and undermine your jobs and bargaining rights.)

The context:

Thursday’s negotiations can be viewed as a positive step given the district’s previous strategy to simply reject or ignore KEA’s proposals. But it is only a small step. Kent is at the bottom of Puget Sound districts for pay, and it is not clear that our ranking would improve much, if at all, under the district plan. KEA already has backed away from demanding an offset for inflation while we are continuing in our attempt to nudge Kent salaries toward at least being competitive with other districts in the region. If the district adopts KEA’s proposed 6 percent salary increase, we would climb out of our current 80th spot for teacher pay, but still rank a distant 27th based on salaries for this past school year.

So when will the district start listening to school employees?

Throughout the year, KEA’s financial analysis (from WEA Research) showed the district would end the year with more than $20 million in the bank. After laying off staff, then calling most employees back, the district now admits it is likely to end the year with about $20 million in the bank. For months, KEA also has pointed out that our salaries are the lowest in the region. The district now seems willing to recognize compensation is an issue when trying to attract and retain teachers. It hired yet another consultant (Bob Boesche, a semi-retired Northshore assistant superintendent) to perform a salary analysis. His conclusion on behalf of the district: our salaries are the lowest in the region!

Inexplicably, the district chose to narrow its “comparable” districts to nine, vs. 20 districts in the region cited by KEA. KSD’s analysis omitted higher-paying districts such as Mercer Island, Seattle, Everett and Snoqualmie Valley. Nonetheless, our pay still ranked at the bottom:

  • The Kent School District study revealed that TRI pay (not including stipends) in Kent ranges from 45.8 percent to 53.3 percent below the average of KSD’s nine hand-picked comparable locals.
  • The study found Kent to be lower in almost every measure in almost every category.
  • When we asked the district whether its latest proposal would improve Kent’s ranking among these districts, they didn’t have an answer for us.

“For most of our members, the district’s proposal will amount to a 2.7 percent increase next year,” McNett said. “But the district is not just requiring more work, it is district-directed and principal-directed. It’s not even a menu of professional options. You will work during the time and the day the district tells you, or you won’t get the money.”

Once again, district administrators presented their proposal as an all-or-nothing, take-it-or-leave-it package. KEA’s bargaining team questioned why the district failed to address other critical issues when it had suggested it would come prepared Thursday with a substantive bargaining proposal.

We addressed the ones we chose to make proposals on, the district’s negotiator replied.

———————————————

Upcoming dates:

Next bargaining session: Aug. 10

KEA general membership meeting for contract ratification or strike vote: 5 p.m. Aug. 26, Kentlake High School

Finally, the first day of bargaining … KEA Update 7/24/09// // // // //

Just a month before the clock runs out for contract ratification or a strike vote, Kent administrators came to the table Thursday with proposals that allow KEA to start the negotiations process.

“The district took a small step forward Thursday on one of our three priorities, compensation, but has yet to address other huge areas of concern,” KEA Chief Bargainer Mike McNett said. “It looks like we may have finally begun the substantive negotiations that should have started last spring. Unfortunately, we still have a lot of ground to cover, and time for the district is running short.”

The good news:

  • The district is finally backing away from its punitive plan to cut pay by seven days, and instead is proposing two additional effective-ed days for a 1.1 percent increase in 2009-10. While the district could use both days to offset our already-increased workload, it is instead proposing one day of new, additional work. School employee salaries are already losing ground to inflation this coming year because of state cuts to the Initiative 732 COLA funding.
  • The district proposes boosting stipends by $2,000 for new teachers, and adding $1,000 toward commitment stipends. With the two effective-ed days, the combined increase next year averages 2.7 percent.
  • The district is now proposing a two-year contract, up from one year. The second year (2010-11) would add 1.6 percent in total pay above Year 1, and includes yet another 1.5 days of work at the direction of the district. (That means over the two years, the district would require an additional 2.5 days of as-yet undefined, district-directed work.)

The bad news:

  • While beginning to address compensation, the district’s package still fails to recognize that our top three issues — time, workload and compensation — are intertwined. The district’s plan actually increases workload, rather than easing it, and ignores our proposals to increase teachers’ time with students.
  • The district still fails to address our overload of meetings. Or class size. Or case load. Not only is the district unwilling to reduce overcrowded classes — nearby districts with similar budget constraints and higher salaries have lower class-size caps — Kent administrators are refusing to create meaningful caps even at our current class-size levels.
  • The district has yet to deal with critical issues around violent students, clear rules for maternity leave and other leaves, the district’s responsibility to bear the costs of on-the-job injuries, or technology integration.
  • The district is hinting it may back away from its demand to base teacher evaluations on WASL scores, but quickly hedged on any written commitment to drop its earlier WASL proposal. The district is now talking in terms of a focus on “student achievement’ — a subject already at the heart of our members’ work efforts — but is refusing to rule out that their focus on achievement means evaluating staff based on students’ standardized tests.
  • The district is also attempting to step backward on some issues, including watering down layoff protections so that the district can begin reducing staff regardless of whether it is required by economic factors.
  • Even though the district’s new two-year contract proposal fails to deal with key issues already identified by KEA members, the district also wants to bar contract “reopeners” as part of its package plan. Reopeners give both sides the chance to negotiate additional unresolved issues between full contracts. Eliminating reopeners means these problems will fester two more years before we can even begin to talk about them.
  • The district continues to seek unrestricted subcontracting of outside workers to do the jobs of KEA members. The district wants no limits beyond having to “meet and discuss” any proposed outsourcing with KEA leaders. The district could then hire as many people through outside agencies as it wishes, and at any rate of pay. (The district lost an arbitration ruling on this issue last summer when KEA showed the district already was hiring excessive numbers of staff this way. Rather than comply with the arbitrator’s binding decision, the district is now trying to change the contract and undermine your jobs and bargaining rights.)

The context:

Thursday’s negotiations can be viewed as a positive step given the district’s previous strategy to simply reject or ignore KEA’s proposals. But it is only a small step. Kent is at the bottom of Puget Sound districts for pay, and it is not clear that our ranking would improve much, if at all, under the district plan. KEA already has backed away from demanding an offset for inflation while we are continuing in our attempt to nudge Kent salaries toward at least being competitive with other districts in the region. If the district adopts KEA’s proposed 6 percent salary increase, we would climb out of our current 80th spot for teacher pay, but still rank a distant 27th based on salaries for this past school year.

So when will the district start listening to school employees?

Throughout the year, KEA’s financial analysis (from WEA Research) showed the district would end the year with more than $20 million in the bank. After laying off staff, then calling most employees back, the district now admits it is likely to end the year with about $20 million in the bank. For months, KEA also has pointed out that our salaries are the lowest in the region. The district now seems willing to recognize compensation is an issue when trying to attract and retain teachers. It hired yet another consultant (Bob Boesche, a semi-retired Northshore assistant superintendent) to perform a salary analysis. His conclusion on behalf of the district: our salaries are the lowest in the region!

Inexplicably, the district chose to narrow its “comparable” districts to nine, vs. 20 districts in the region cited by KEA. KSD’s analysis omitted higher-paying districts such as Mercer Island, Seattle, Everett and Snoqualmie Valley. Nonetheless, our pay still ranked at the bottom:

  • The Kent School District study revealed that TRI pay (not including stipends) in Kent ranges from 45.8 percent to 53.3 percent below the average of KSD’s nine hand-picked comparable locals.
  • The study found Kent to be lower in almost every measure in almost every category.
  • When we asked the district whether its latest proposal would improve Kent’s ranking among these districts, they didn’t have an answer for us.

“For most of our members, the district’s proposal will amount to a 2.7 percent increase next year,” McNett said. “But the district is not just requiring more work, it is district-directed and principal-directed. It’s not even a menu of professional options. You will work during the time and the day the district tells you, or you won’t get the money.”

Once again, district administrators presented their proposal as an all-or-nothing, take-it-or-leave-it package. KEA’s bargaining team questioned why the district failed to address other critical issues when it had suggested it would come prepared Thursday with a substantive bargaining proposal.

We addressed the ones we chose to make proposals on, the district’s negotiator replied.

———————————————

Upcoming dates:

Next bargaining session: Aug. 10

KEA general membership meeting for contract ratification or strike vote: 5 p.m. Aug. 26, Kentlake High School


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22 Responses to “Finally, the first day of bargaining … KEA Update 7/24/09”

  1. Brandy Says:

    I just read an email from another teacher in our building. She just took a job in another district and won’t be back to Kent next year.

  2. J.R. Says:

    I am not surprised we are losing teachers in Kent to other districts–despite these bad economic times.

    I feel bad for our teachers–partly because they are so used to be taken advantage of and disrespected by KSD (and their minions); but more than that, I’m worried they may decide to just accept these bad proposals which are DISGUISED as fair and reasonable. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Now I have to work more hours in order to get more pay? Talk about disrespect. The district obviously doesn’t think that what I’m already doing, is enough. That’s what this boils down to.

    Working for Dr. Vargas should be a pleasure–why don’t I feel that way? What has he done to show his support, aside from lip service and bad proposals at the bargaining table???

  3. Julie Says:

    Wow! They paid someone to officially come to the same conclusion that we’ve been saying: Kent teachers are grossly underpaid. Working 2.5 additional days is not a raise, by any means.

  4. Brenda Says:

    Yes, Julie, they pay people left and right to cover for those in the head shed that are incompetent. Curious to know what our parents and community think of these unnecessary expenses?

  5. Teacher Says:

    Working more hours for additional pay…that is the KSD way. Always has been. As for working for Dr. Vargas. Why would it be more of a pleasure? He was hired by the same old, out of touch, and clueless school board. I’m thinking like minds…. I hope teachers in Kent are getting wiser and can see through KSD’s current proposals. It is not good news for us.

  6. B.I. Says:

    I know of about 5 other teachers including myself that have been looking at other district job postings. I really hate the thought of leaving all the friends I’ve made in the district and the families I’ve come to know, but seriously I can’t afford to work in this district anymore both mentally/emotionally and financially. It makes other districts very appealing. Especially when I hear from teachers, that came from other districts, about all extra work and time wasting we do compared to where they worked before.

    • Disillusioned Says:

      I’ve worked in other districts and decided on teaching in Kent – mainly for the closer commute and a desire to teach in the district where I went to school. I knew going in the pay was lower, but I envisioned higher pay would inevitably come. Alas, I really feel I’ve been “spinning my wheels” waiting for the substantive financial increases in pay to happen. Also, the WORKLOAD seems endless…. Moreover, I MISS the TIME I need to prepare and effectively teach my students. In the other districts I taught, we were allowed early release and did not have spring conferences. I’m trying to get the point across that we should not be GIVING the district our time unless they perceive we must be compensated for it.

  7. Interested in Leaving KSD Says:

    Yep, me too. Why stay with a sinking ship? I’m going to pass this link along to as many parents as I can and to my friends, family, etc.

  8. Disappointed Says:

    I’m very frustrated and disappointed by this post and the comments posted on it. I would recommend everyone be a little bit more sensitive to the situation. Regardless of your views, a number of people were laid off or had their hours reduced and numerous programs were eliminated in the last few months so that we could have this proposal. People in other organizations (schools, cities, and etc.) are giving up increases and taking salary cuts so that jobs could be saved. I’m embarrassed by our behavior and lack of sensitivity to the situation.

    • ksd sick of your lip service Says:

      time to be nice is over sorry we are professionals and I can’t worry about the entire community..i have to worry about my family and my students

      • OMG really Says:

        well said….if we don’t take a stand for ourselves and our profession who will…

  9. Anonymous Says:

    Dear Disappointed:

    We ARE sensitive to the situation–we are fighting for our rights and for those who WERE laid off. Did you not read the bargaining notes above? What do you think of a district that wishes to lay off people w/o any strict criteria?

    Also, as far as those who had their hours reduced, that’s exactly why KEA is fighting so hard–because those hours reduced and those layoffs were unnecessary! Tell me what you think $20 million in the bank means? If we did not have that much money, then yes, your argument might be a good one.

    “People in other organizations (schools, cities, and etc.) are giving up increases and taking salary cuts so that jobs could be saved.”
    –So tell us what you want to further give up? Paper supplies? Your breaks so they don’t have to increase classified hours? Health benefits?
    –Do you live on one income?
    –Are you a classroom teacher? (Sure changes your needs if you are)
    –Name at least 20 administrators who have taken pay cuts (do you even know how much they make??)

    I hope you do some further study on this before you blast the very people who are working hard for our kids and for their careers.

  10. In Disbelief Says:

    More pay for more work is NOT a salary increase and should not be presented as such. A salary increase is more pay for the same amount of work. We already have a larger workload than comparable districts, so in order to actually be in-line with them, we’d actually have to have BOTH a pay increase and a REDUCTION in workload.

    This proposal is only slightly less offensive than earlier proposals.

    And to Disappointed–I will gladly give up increases when ALL district employees do the same, but if our new superintendent is going to make over $240,000 a year, I think not. How about the other district administrators who make between $100,000 and $130,000/year? What about all the principals and assistant principals, the majority of whom make over 6 figures? When the sacrifice is being made by all, then I will happily contribute, but right now (just as in the state government), the rank-and-file is being made to feel guilty for asking for what is deserved while the managers don’t lead by example. Sorry, but the RIFS didn’t happen so that they could give us this increase. The RIFS were a political tool to weaken our position–and based on your comments, it has at least partially worked.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    The cost of living for the Seattle area is actually lower this year by almost half a percent (based on the CPI index from the Bureau of Labor). Mike McNett comments that wages are losing ground against inflation…..that is not true this year. I wonder if we would have received I-732 raises at all anyways because of this?

    Also, we know Bellevue, Mercer Island, Seattle and Tacoma receive more funding from the state due to “grandfathering” funding formulas from the 1970’s. They also have a higher cost of living than Kent (housing) and the commute is a nightmare for those of us who live in Kent. I think when we compare total compensation (not just salary) it is reasonable to use the surrounding districts. I would hope at a minimum that Kent is somewhere in the middle of our neighbors but I don’t expect pay to be the same as the more affluent areas where teachers can’t afford and certainly don’t want to commute to.

    Finally, the Renton SD (via Renton Reporter) is increasing class elementary sizes 2-3 students this next year so let’s be careful what we wish for, we just might get it!

    • Anonymous Says:

      “Finally, the Renton SD (via Renton Reporter) is increasing class elementary sizes 2-3 students this next year so let’s be careful what we wish for, we just might get it!”

      Dear Anonymous,
      How much does RSD have in reserve?
      What is it that we are wishing for that we should be careful of? I think you’d best ask KSD what they are wishing for, because it seems they are hoping teachers will, no let me rephrase that, it seems they are DARING teachers and other certificated staff to go on strike.

    • Mike McNett Says:

      Had the legislature not canceled the I-732 raise, you would have received an increase of 4.2% of your base salary in the 2009-10 school year. This increase would have been based on inflation in the preceding year, rather than the immediately past period. Kent teachers have already lost this delayed adjustment and, as a result, are now already experiencing diminished purchasing power.

      “Anonymous” is correct that inflation is currently below zero. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, inflation in the Seattle area has been -0.4% from June 2008. This would not have resulted in a cut from the legislature, but may have produced a freeze in the state base in 2010-11. Keep in mind that there have been several years when neither the state nor the district provided a cost-of-living increase, even as inflation continued to rise.

      None of this, of course, adequately addresses the issue that educators throughout our region do the same job and make significantly more money than do teachers in Kent.

      • Anonymous Says:

        Righto Mike. Kent teachers do work hard and do the same amount of work (although my friends who teach in Renton DO NOT attend the numerous amount of meetings that Kent teachers do; and their high schools, middle schools, and elem schools have late start Fridays–yeah, EVERY Friday) that teachers in other districts do.

  12. CounterpointSue Says:

    I read the proposal from the district all the way through, and I did not see anything that made me change my mind about voting to strike. The district has proposed a salary increase–but requires additional work in order to receive it. Other districts in our area make a lot more money than we do and do not have the same heavy workload. I almost snagged a job in Sumner, and was staggered to find that I would make several thousand dollars a year more than I make in Kent, and would not have to deal with the endless meetings and laptop/technology stuff that I have to deal with as a middle school teacher in this district. Believe me, I got teary when I didn’t get that job.

    Also, we should be leery of ANY proposal offered that requires we accept the whole thing or the deal’s off. This is a negotiation process, and negotiation means compromise-and not the kind in which we do all the compromising. Sometimes I feel like we’re dealing with a recalcitrant child who insists that we play their way or we won’t be friends any more. They don’t want any reopeners? That’s a deal breaker for me, all by itself. That stipulation gives them way too much protection to violate the intent of the contract, and gives us no recourse but to spin our wheels for two years waiting to clarify or correct the problem. They want to tie my evaluation to student achievement? Well, let me hand pick my own students so that I can choose the ones that have actually had consistent music instruction every year and remove those extreme behavioral issue kids in my classes and they can bring it on. Looking for increased student achievement in my classes? Well, then, quit making me attend meetings 3-4 days a week, get out of my way, and let me teach. Oh, and don’t make me use an entire class period of instruction to conduct a mandatory laptop check to see if the kids are using the laptops in compliance with the rules. It is my job to teach students, not police their use of computer technology.

    One final thought: I’ve often wondered if the people who are willing to accept whatever the district offers have ever worked in another district in order to know and understand how different it is to work in Kent. I have never before had the heavy workload that I have in this district, and I took a pay cut coming from Oregon to get it. I have meetings scheduled for me 3-4 times a week, and when you combine that with the fact that I travel to another building 2-3 times per week in the afternoons, it means that my students have access to me 2-3 times a week at best. This is NOT acceptable. How can I help kids individually and build a strong program when they perceive that I am not available to them?

    At what point do the teachers in this district put their collective foot down to demand that both we and our students receive better treatment than this? If we don’t respect ourselves enough to hold the line on this, then perhaps we shouldn’t be teaching, because this is a terrible role model to set for our kids. It’s kind of like watching a woman in an abusive relationship. We all would sit back and wonder why she would stick around and put up with that crap, why she doesn’t respect herself enough to stand up for her rights and demand that she be treated appropriately. IS THIS ANY DIFFERENT?

  13. KSD Student Says:

    This is such garbage.
    How do these people even get to be in charge anyway? Why do these out-of-touch misers get to make decisions that affect my classmates and teachers so much?

    I hate that they treat you all like this. You deserve better, and so do we! I mean, it’s not hard to see that the issues of time, workload, and compensation affect teachers and students. I know which teachers are tired from working two jobs, or stressed from the overload of work to do. It’s not fair for anyone.

    I really hope KSD sees the light soon, and that you all don’t settle for less than you deserve. I’d hate to see a strike, but I’ll want to be right out there with you all if it happens.

    I know the district doesn’t exactly care about what we think, but if there’s ever anything some students could do, let us know…

  14. teachersarenottheenemy Says:

    I do not understand why the district thinks teachers are the enemy. WE ARE NOT THE ENEMY!

    We work hard and LONG hours and deserve to be compensated with $ instead of more work. Perhaps the three digit earners at the district should have their work day extended…

    The district seems to think giving us teacher directed time does not look good to the community. We may have more than a few minutes to wolf down our lunch and go out to a restaurant to eat. God forbid we actually have time to chew our food thoroughly. And what do we usually talk about while eating out??? School!

    Principal and district directed optional/workshop days are not useful to me. These days always end in more informational packets and no time. No time to consult with colleagues and digest the ways I could best use the new information with my kids.

    We have gotten THREE new programs to learn and teach in the last two to three years. These include: writing (Units of Study), reading (Making Meaning), and spelling (Rebecca Sitton).
    K and 6th grade will tack on yet another this next year with math and the rest of us the year after.

    As to the cut positions, I smell some doo on my shoe!
    Ed. Assitants and TOSAs did not earn administrator pay, yet those positions were cut and categorized as such. “District Makes Administrative and Central Office Reductions” is proudly displayed on the KSD web site. Hmm… is this to make the district look as if it had listened to community members during those community listening meetings??? HUH!

    Time and compensation is what we need more of. Workload is what we need less of.

    Come on KSD, teachers are NOT the enemy!

    • B.I. Says:

      Units of study is enough of a workload. Grades 3-5 (6) have lessons that take at least an hour to read at home and then the time it takes to digest it and figure out how to make it work in the classroom. Principal EFF ED just makes me have to push the other work I have to do until later after the meeting. So instead of spending 2 hours after school planning or grading assessments, I spend an hour in a meeting that I leave with pile of handouts that have no impact on my students and then go home and spend time to catch up on what I would have been already doing. The only reason to go to those meetings is so my extra work can be “documented”? Now THAT is an insult. Don’t my graded trimester assessments and report cards that take far longer than the 15 hrs of principal EFF ED count as documentation? (Side note…report card comments take 15-18 hrs/trimester alone) What about all the SIP data that I have to input into spreadsheets and turn in every trimester, or the student’s of concern document I have to write up, or the emails to parents that are time stamped for 7:00 pm or 6:00 am. I can print all that out and turn it in for documentation if they really want documentation. At least then I wouldn’t have to spend time in meetings that just make me have to work later in the evening to finish what I would have gotten done had there not been a meeting.

      We don’t even get awknowledged for all the extra time we put in. We just get “you need to go to this meeting so that we know you actually earned the extra pay”.

      Really, how many of us are sitting back doing nothing? Do they really think that low of us?

    • EA's gone Says:

      I took the EA position 2 years ago. I had to teach 3 classes a day and spend the rest of the day as the EA. I received a $2500 stipend….bringing my 11 teacher salary to $50,000.

      This year KSD cut my EA position and put me back into the classroom full time, and took away $2500..so basically I took on two extra classes for $2500 less…

      They called my position administrative…. Hmmm

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