What Factors Would Improve Local Elementary Schools?

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By Denice Spangler Adams

What are the factors contributing to the achievement gap?  Edhat posted an article headlined "Adams Recognized as Top School in the Nation," because Adams improved from a dismal 35.5% in 2013  to a mediocre 67.9% in 2018.  

What contributed to this improvement: parent involvement, tutoring, principal and/or teacher changes; common core math or other curriculum changes; reduced teacher/ student ration to 24:1; or what?  

Of 5662 CA Elementary schools, as of 9/26/2018, SBUSD Adams ranked 1817, and 4th in the SBUSD.  Of 555 students, 65.8% are on the free lunch program and only 75.1% Hispanic. Area homes sell for $1M-$3M.  What factors changed resulting in this significant improvement? 

Locally the rankings of 5662 elementary schools are: 

  • Cold Spring School 19 @98.8%;
  • MUS 91@97.7%;
  • Mt. View 276@95.1%; 
  • Foothill 347@94.3%;
  • SBUSD Washington 629@90.2%;
  • Kellogg 705@88.6%;
  • Hope 936@84.1%;
  • Monte Vista 1079@80.9%;
  • Vieja Valley 1139@79.9%; 
  • Isla Vista 1248@77.3%;
  • Brandon 1328@75.8%;
  • Ellwood 1609@69.2%;
  • Peabody Charter 1702@67.6%; 
  • SBUSD ADAMS 1817@64.9%;
  • Hollister 1925@62.8%;
  • SBUSD Franklin 1958@61.9%;
  • SBUSD Roosevelt 2078@59%;
  • El Camino 2669@47.8%;
  • LaPatera 2632@48.7%;
  • SBUSD SB Community 3969@28.3%;
  • SBUSD Harding 4351@23.7%;
  • SBUSD Monroe 4490@22.3%;
  • Adelante Charter Dual Language 4917@17.2%;
  • SBUSD Cleveland 5230@13.3%;
  • SBUSD McKinley 5424@10.3%;


Make note that CSS and MUS are single independent school districts; the next 2 schools (Mt View and Foothill) are in the 9-school Goleta District.  The other higher ranking schools are in the 3-school independent Hope District (Monte Vista, Hope, Vieja Valley); with Peabody Elementary, a Charter School in the San Roque area.  

The 2 highest SBUSD schools are Washington on the Mesa which is consistently a high performing school with also a GATE magnet Program;  and Adams off Las Positas Rd which improved from 35.5% in 2013 to 67.9% in 2019.  

The SBUSD ranks 382 of 856 CA School Districts. It is now a Basic Aid District as are CSS, MUS, Hope and Goleta School Districts.  

Cold Spring School ranks 1 in the category of single school districts, or districts with only one school. 

The quality of education to prepare students is essential to our country, community and the student’s future lot in life.  Schools determine neighborhoods: older childless persons buy near Cleveland for example, where many homeowners conclude enrolling their child would be an injustice because instruction must be diluted to accommodate the student majority.  

Stakeholders include everyone in our community.  Property owners paying property taxes which fund schools need to remain informed to ensure their neighborhood school is performing to required standards to prepare students to contribute to America for the benefit of the greater world community.

The mission of the Santa Barbara Unified School District is to ensure the educational success of all students through high expectations and a commitment to excellence and to empower them to reach their full potential as responsible, ethical, and productive citizens in a diverse and changing world.

Do you have an opinion on something local? Share it with us at ed@edhat.com. The views and opinions expressed in Op-Ed articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of edhat.

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a-1546035202 Dec 28, 2018 02:13 PM
What Factors Would Improve Local Elementary Schools?

Zerohawk - Dumbing down our kids. Bill Gates now admits his Common Core was a failure - at our kids expense! Schools ought sow this documentary.
Building the Machine: The Common Core Documentary

We are now 9 years into Common Core 4 years into the implementation phase in our district. Obama used financial crisis to bribe board of governors to sign on to ‘Race to the Top’ federal funding which would bail them out of their funding crisis including pensions. In exchange for the $, the BOG had to agree to implement Common Core. Gates foundation funded to the tune of $400M and influenced $4T of Dept of Ed funds to create this debacle.

Voters, taxpayers and parents remain silent. Those with $, who can shuttle kids to learn, enroll in Kumon math. No wonder SBCC recruits foreign students rather than layoff the math dept faculty. The only local matheletes being produced are by a handful of parents.

a-1546031759 Dec 28, 2018 01:15 PM
What Factors Would Improve Local Elementary Schools?

Funding? There’s plenty of money; it’s how allocated. District chief makes $331,269. The Assistant Sups $192,000 — positions deemed unnecessary and ended until all brought back by David Cash and retained by Cary Matsuoka to hire friends and loyalists. High compensation, high pensions leave little for instruction.

School per pupil spending 2015 $8K-$22K; up to $32 in 2018. SBUSD is a newer basic aid district getting more money regardless of enrollment stats.

Salaries of District Employees
Main Ofc $181K-$331,269.
CSS receives over $22K per student from taxes and asks for an additional $4K per student from family for Enrichment music, art, tech programs costing $650,000/year.
Education Costs per District and State:

a-1546035734 Dec 28, 2018 02:22 PM
What Factors Would Improve Local Elementary Schools?

Good questions. SBUnified is now a basic aid district so revenues should be significantly higher because based on property taxes collected. Since SB is Unified all 4 feeder districts pay into it. How does SBUSD keep money for elementary separate from secondary? The feeder district residents vote school board, leaving SBUSD elementary parents and stakeholders with representation by outsiders. I’d be furious to have no one focused on my neighborhood elementary but apparently no one cares.

EastBeach Dec 28, 2018 02:00 PM
What Factors Would Improve Local Elementary Schools?

OK, then what are the revenues per student in the SB Unified School District and California overall? How does that compare with other states? Why are you citing a wealthy school district like Cold Spring as an example?

EastBeach Dec 28, 2018 12:41 PM
What Factors Would Improve Local Elementary Schools?

Agree with RTO. Hard to overlook funding as a piece of the puzzle. Prop 13 is partly to blame but there are other issues. This is an older article but a good starting point for more reading ...... https://www.kpbs.org/news/2010/mar/26/prop-13s-impact-schools/

a-1546028409 Dec 28, 2018 12:20 PM
What Factors Would Improve Local Elementary Schools?

It's sacrilegious to say this in the USA, but I would remove all organized sports from high schools. You want to play a sport? Students should try out and pay for participation with a club team . Most competitive athletes play on club teams today, and it is in addition to their high school team. And yes, most of the world separates academics from athletics.

EastBeach Dec 28, 2018 12:49 PM
What Factors Would Improve Local Elementary Schools?

Mixed feelings about that. Not all families can afford having their kids in a club team. I'm a STEM advocate but do think PE/PA classes are an important part of the curricula (as are music and arts). Unfortunately, PE/PA classes are a bit of a joke these days.

a-1546028265 Dec 28, 2018 12:17 PM
What Factors Would Improve Local Elementary Schools?

Adams improved under Amy Alzina—Westminster grad who is now the superintendent/principal of #19 ranked Cold Spring School. She was a very strong leader. Lots of accountability and commitment to implementing interventions with fidelity. SBUnified needs more strong principals paid $225,000/yr with lifelong pensions, and a 50% staff reduction at the District Ofc. Think of how many children were instructed and prepared under Alzina’s leadership at Adams, probably 800. The late Joanne McCain was Principal of Adams before going to fix LaCumbre Jr High. In the time between these two strong principals, who ignored know-little ever-changing District Administrators, Adams declined. Every school requires a strong leader respected by teachers. Every student requires a strong, determined, encouraging parent to work with a competent, professional teacher. (As per comments from others: Students benefit from a teacher who is all of the above plus dresses for work as a role model, allows students to salute the American flag, immerses students in proper English instead of engaging in Spanish, disciplines, actively teaches with classroom accountability standards enforced by the principal, and teaches critical thinking skills.)

Ahchooo Dec 28, 2018 11:27 AM
What Factors Would Improve Local Elementary Schools?

I don't have kids and have not been in an elementary school classroom since I was a student. I would love to see what happens in classrooms. Are the students well-behaved and attentive? How do the lessons compare to the ones we middle-aged folk had as kids? Is a lot of time spent on non-academic lessons like stranger-danger and implicit-bias awareness? (I'm not saying those aren't good, I'm just curious.) How are English-learners taught, and are the ones already fluent made to wait while the others are catching up? Is the daily agenda much the same in each class, or are teachers given only broad guidelines? I have so many questions.

ZeroHawk Dec 28, 2018 11:14 AM
What Factors Would Improve Local Elementary Schools?

I have 2 preteen girls that attend Monroe. The funding is a huge part of it. Dave Cash, our former Super really screwed it up. Badly. Also the 'common core' math is a freakin' joke. i am a number cruncher and math is my job. If one of these kids came into our business and tried to do math the common core way, they would be walked out. It doesn't need to take 15 minutes to do a simple math problem and draw 13 stupid diagrams and prove how you came up with a basic number. Its a total waste of time and they are using our kids as test subjects for this common core math. Art, science and music and PE was not killed by parents, that's just foolish statement. They don't have the funding or teachers to pay to do these jobs. I've talked to many other parents, teachers, past and present.
David Cash snuck the common core crap past the parents and shoved it into the schools with little to no training for the teachers. I called him out on it and asked where was the public meeting? When did you ask the parents that pay your salary, if it's ok to change their entire curriculum to something that no one has heard of and something that has NEVER been tested on kids. There is no garauntee that our children will succeed becasue of this. I've asked him, what is wrong with the math that you and I were taught? No response. He ended up sneaking a public meeting and used a robo caller to call people sunday night at 830pm to let them know there would be a meeting at 4pm the next day. Of course very few people could make that time with short notice. I dug deep and found that David Cash also had 5 assistants that all made over $150k a year each and he made more than the POTUS and received huge federal grants to repave parking lots and 1 new playground for Mickinley, which he denied even after i presented the evidence to him. Of course that assh@t is now gone.

As for kids in Europe speaking more languages. That's an easy one....when you can drive in 4 directions within a few hours and be in a foreign country that has different money and a different language, this is needed. In the USA, we should learn Spanish if you live near the border...it's apples and oranges if you think about it.

Mas Gaviota Dec 28, 2018 05:51 PM
What Factors Would Improve Local Elementary Schools?

@ Zerohawk: You need to work on your number crunching. The President of the US makes $400,000 pus lots of benefits. The last year that Cash was "super" he made $219,558.99 including benefits (according to Transparent California). The current "super " Matsuoka made $331,269 with benefits last year. Clearly Cash has never "made more than the POTUS". Maybe math really is not your thing. The theory behing Common Core is to teach not just how to solve a maths problem, but also why a problem is solved using a given method. If you are ok having your children taught to think like a robot that is your problem, but let's encourage the rest of the children to understand why problems are solved a certain way.

Rto Dec 28, 2018 10:46 AM
What Factors Would Improve Local Elementary Schools?

FUNDING! Funding. Funding. Funding. Funding. Funding. Funding. Funding. Funding. Funding. Funding. Funding. Funding. Funding. Funding. Funding. Funding. Funding. Funding. Funding. Funding. Funding. Funding. Funding. Funding. Funding. Funding. Funding. Funding. Funding. Funding. Funding.

If you want good schools, you have to fund them. Period.

Blame it on anything else, but if you're not willing to look at the devastating effect lack of funding has on public schools, then you're wasting your time.

SantaBarbaraObserver Dec 28, 2018 08:39 AM
What Factors Would Improve Local Elementary Schools?

Education starts at home. When parents are both involved and interested in their child's education and future, their kids do well. I read that the #1 influence on a child's educational success is whether their parents read to them as infants and toddlers. When you have parents who are illiterate themselves, that becomes impossible. IMHO giving kids iPads has to be the one of the dumbest moves we've made as a community. While being incredibly fun and interesting and a super great way to keep the kids quiet, they've proven to be averse to learning and development and a complete waste of millions.

ZeroHawk Dec 28, 2018 11:16 AM
What Factors Would Improve Local Elementary Schools?

i use the Kumon learning books for my girls. they were studying 2nd grade work while in Kindergarten. I have them read EVERY evening 30 minutes. No exception. They have been doing this for 8 years now. Reading is key....

a-1546022194 Dec 28, 2018 10:36 AM
What Factors Would Improve Local Elementary Schools?

SantaBarbaraObserver- How do we mobilize to do the right thing? What might help? - Teaching financial literacy and what it takes to parent (like reading daily, vocabulary building). Not all couples don’t make babies to raise or parent them. Children are created for various reasons. (One local abused his son saying the mom would get more if child disabled. New concept - abuse for $)

SantaBarbaraObserver Dec 28, 2018 10:09 AM
What Factors Would Improve Local Elementary Schools?

Re: Pitmix. Well there is the standard line of "Don't have kids if you cannot afford or care for them".... or ... If you have to work 16hours a day to live here, perhaps you should find a new path that doesn't require you to diminish your child's future in order for you to live near the beach? Personally, I think the entire schools local system is an abject failure. We are one of the wealthiest communities in the world with some of the highest property values in the world. Our schools are funded via property taxes, not parents yet we are still falling behind and continue to fall further. So where does all the money go? Follow the dispersement of funds and you'll find your scapegoats and various parties to blame. We simply do not prioritize education or well being in our society. We prioritize large salaries for administrators, unheard of pensions and ridiculous spending on superfluous projects that seem to be at the whim of individuals. We do not promote success or merit by our teachers. Nope. We have tenure and a union that promotes a process that assures the lowest common denominator wins and the most willing are tossed aside. Bottom line is that there is plenty of money and desire, what we lack is a willingness and leadership to do the right thing. Period.

PitMix Dec 28, 2018 09:32 AM
What Factors Would Improve Local Elementary Schools?

Probably almost everyone would agree with this statement. But you never hear any solutions for the situation where the parents aren't involved with education or don't have time for it because they are working 16 hrs a day. Got any solutions, SBO?

2contango Dec 28, 2018 08:32 AM
What Factors Would Improve Local Elementary Schools?

You can't improve what you don't measure. Unfortunately, school leaders are largely prohibited from measuring the performance of their teachers in any detailed way. In jobs outside of education it's not uncommon to identify top performers, learn from them, and then try to replicate their success. But school districts try to avoid measuring anything on the teacher level. The brief annual visit school leaders make to classrooms is no substitute for a process of ongoing assessment and improvement.

pstarSR Dec 28, 2018 07:13 AM
What Factors Would Improve Local Elementary Schools?

I think parents should step away from trying to manage and manipulate a school while their child is currently attending, only to stop as soon as their child is no longer attending. Parents have killed art programs, music programs, library programs because "they dont think my child enjoys it"( yes, they did @ coldpsring school ). This would help schools in the area immensely, getting your nose out of a teachers business.

a-1545978544 Dec 27, 2018 10:29 PM
What Factors Would Improve Local Elementary Schools?

Has anyone looked to see what teachers actually make here in California?
It’s more than you or I make.
$100,000 + benefits +etc...
the problem lies with promising way too much for “government employees “ for the last 50 years.
Just my humble observation.

macpuzl Dec 28, 2018 04:12 PM
What Factors Would Improve Local Elementary Schools?

"Transparent California" is just one of the many names used by the tax-exempt "free-market think tank" Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI). NPRI refuses to provide its own funding sources, stating, “NPRI respects the privacy of our donors, which includes the amount of a donor’s gift”.

NPRI's primary funding source, as determined by The Conservative Transparency Project, is Donors Capital Fund, a dark-money source of funding for conservative groups. Its donors also include The Cato Institute, co-founded by the Koch brothers, and organizations affiliated with the climate change denial movement.

NPRI spends 75% of its revenue on six-figure salaries and benefits. Its goal is to undermine support for employee unions nationwide, thereby decreasing salaries and increasing corporate profits.

a-1546015758 Dec 28, 2018 08:49 AM
What Factors Would Improve Local Elementary Schools?

Please do your homework. Fact check each local school. TransparentCalifornia or TransparencyCalifornia lists every public employee by name and his or her salary. You can also enter a school name for a listing of every employee with compensation cost to taxpayers. Principals are over $220,000; Fire chiefs $300-$500,000. Taxpayers typically complain but too rarely make time to check costs before voting to spend more.

a-1546015662 Dec 28, 2018 08:47 AM
What Factors Would Improve Local Elementary Schools?

Please do your homework. Fact check each local school. TransparentCalifornia or TransparencyCalifornia lists every public employee by name and his or her salary. You can also enter a school name for a listing of every employee with compensation cost to taxpayers. Principals are over $220,000; Fire chiefs $300-$500,000. Taxpayers typically complain but too rarely make time to check costs before voting to spend more.

a-1546015187 Dec 28, 2018 08:39 AM
What Factors Would Improve Local Elementary Schools?

Google TransparentCalifornia to enter in school name. Teachers at top rated local schools are compensated $90,000 to $139,000 for an 8-month year. At top local schools class size is under 20 students with a minimum of one college educated adult classroom aide. Parent volunteetd assist in classroom and with special projects. Work hours 8:30am to 3pm.

a-1545976638 Dec 27, 2018 09:57 PM
What Factors Would Improve Local Elementary Schools?

OP: What exactly are you inferring about Adams School in your posting? You list rankings, etc. which obviously mean a great deal to you. Looks like you did quite a bit of research. So, what is your point? I would appreciate it if you would come out and say it.

SBWoman Dec 28, 2018 09:33 AM
What Factors Would Improve Local Elementary Schools?

The headline reads: ADAMS ELEMENTARY RECOGNIZED AS TOP SCHOOL IN THE NATION. The photo caption reads the same. Something wonderful happened at Adams in a short 5 years? What? Let’s find out to improve each of our neighborhood schools. In 2013, ADAMS had a score of 35% failing its students, and in 2018 improved to 67.9% into a range approaching acceptability. This is a huge improvement in 5 years which the federal government has recognized. Can the success at Adams be replicated? What factors contributed to this improvement to enable McKinley, Cleveland, Adelante, Monroe and Harding to implement. Doesn’t every young child attending a local public school deserve an opportunity to benefit from whatever it is that results in their ability to obtain mastery of the basic fundamentals? Why are we wasting the time of young children, wanting to learn, seeking attention and validation? These young children are our future and locally we are ignoring them. They can’t advocate for parental involvement, a decent school, competent administration, or whatever is required to teach them basics. Look at the contrast between SBUSD Cleveland and Cold Spring 1.5 miles apart: (13.3% to 98.8%). Do you think within the SBUSD, Cleveland might learn something from nationally recognized SBUSD Adams School (67.9%)? I know as a local resident that I’m ready to learn from Adams School because the unacceptable, poor performance of over half of SBUSD’s elementary schools is not of concern to SBUSD Administrators or elected Trustees. Local youth who learn to love learning and school in K-6, are prepared for lifelong learning, career and vocational training, and community participation. Only Adams insiders know what it took to improve Adams School.

a-1545948855 Dec 27, 2018 02:14 PM
What Factors Would Improve Local Elementary Schools?

I know several elementary teachers in the SB and Goleta districts. Without fail, they all claim that the burden placed on the district to support special needs kids is what has changed in education over the past 20 years. This well known "secret" is that an enormous amount of funds go to tutors and aids for special needs kids. The funding is mandated via statewide initiatives and the parents of special needs kids are explicitly aware of their rights. I am torn on the issue, but this is a huge diversion of funds away from traditional school budgets.

monkeyboy Dec 27, 2018 07:31 PM
What Factors Would Improve Local Elementary Schools?

It is so bad at our school that a special needs boy was harassing girls when his aid was on a break. The school covered it up until one girl was pulled for a private school and then the poop hit the fan. The drive to make everyone equal has resulted in the lowest common denominator ruling... Classrooms and school events are at the mercy of the behavior of those that are not capable of being mainstreamed and thus everyone must go at the slowest pace.

a-1545953943 Dec 27, 2018 03:39 PM
What Factors Would Improve Local Elementary Schools?

Downvotes ignore the fact that 20 years ago our teachers each had a classroom aids. No more. Instead, special needs kids are placed in the classroom, where they and their personal aids participate only peripherally. Does this improve test scores? LOL. Have a look at a special needs magnate school such as Kellogg for a glimpse of the new reality.

a-1545947026 Dec 27, 2018 01:43 PM
What Factors Would Improve Local Elementary Schools?

The classes are too large.
Allow no Spanish to be spoken by students in conversation.
Break up schools like Cleveland to keep Spanish speaking population down, bussing if needed to mix students with English speakers in other schools. Many of our native born kids of all races speak lousy English. They are not taught to enunciate! I did not learn English until I was in Kindergarten. It can be done! Make teachers dress like teachers should dress. Some dress and look like slobs! Spend more time on English and Math and less on frivolous subjects. we have too many kids doomed to menial low-paying jobs because they cannot read and write English and are terrible at Math. Their chance for upward mobility are doomed already! Parents need more involvement in making sure that their kids learn. Too many Spanish speaking adults also make no effort to learn English and that inhibits their children's ability to learn it as well because the kids cannot speak in at home. Too many of our kids have already been graduated into a bleak future. Supt. Matsuoka has made progress in the time he has been in charge, but too many years have destroyed a system that will take many more years to repair, if ever!

a-1546020406 Dec 28, 2018 10:06 AM
What Factors Would Improve Local Elementary Schools?

“break up schools like Cleveland to keep Spanish Speaking population down” - what do you mean? Cleveland is 98% Hispanic. Do you advise classes by grade of English proficient, and another class of English learners? This structure could improve learning for all students.

Red Creek Dec 27, 2018 03:57 PM
What Factors Would Improve Local Elementary Schools?

If one checks out the demographics http://www.ed-data.org/district/Santa-Barbara/Santa-Barbara-Unified, numbers of "English Learners" have declined to about 40% of the 8,000 students in the district. Even with declining numbers needing additional English support, the large numbers in an English speaking community, makes shifting students to other schools difficult. Those parents focusing on strong Language Arts in English can and do shift their kids to where they feel the best education is for their child, including private schools, which are flourishing in the Santa Barbara area. The loss of these parents and students affects state funds and the strong parental support programs which boost successful schools.

Red Creek Dec 27, 2018 12:57 PM
What Factors Would Improve Local Elementary Schools?

Interesting how Franklin, only a few blocks from Cleveland, is doing much better by the ratings. Perhaps the District should look to see why there is such a disparity in outcomes between the two nearby schools.

Flicka Dec 27, 2018 12:24 PM
What Factors Would Improve Local Elementary Schools?

Classes with no more than 20 students would help. 50 years ago I read that kids don't drop out in high school, they actually drop out in the 1st 4 grades if they "don't get it", and by high school they are too far behind to keep going.

Yeti Dec 27, 2018 11:25 AM
What Factors Would Improve Local Elementary Schools?

One of the most significant factors is that the schools never instituted English Immersion. These poor immigrant kids, are coddled and not made to learn English from the get go. As a result, they are left behind. Learning the language IS a huge part of the formula to success. The American Dream still exists! I know many immigrants from south of the border, that are very successful due to hard work and being able to communicate effectively. The ones that are not as driven to learn the language really need to be immersed in it at school and at home. The system has to work harder at this since it is in everyone's interest. Better education, more achievement, less petty crime and more income tax revenue as a result. Everybody wins when people exceed.

a-1546019810 Dec 28, 2018 09:56 AM
What Factors Would Improve Local Elementary Schools?

After school and summer LOCAL exchange programs could be the answer. Most all of the English speaking districts (Goleta, Hope, MUS and CSS) have after school enrichment programs in which the SBUSD could enroll it’s Spanish speaking k-6 students for immersion. Classes include keyboarding, computer, cooking, journalism, sports, math, chorus, band, theater, public speaking, hiking for geology and nature learning.... programs vary school to school. Making friends from other schools will result in play dates and additional opportunities to practice English. English speakers needing to learn Spanish Will benefit as well. Parents or school vans can transport enrolled students. The fee is nominal; well worth it to master English and cross-pollinate.

PitMix Dec 28, 2018 09:37 AM
What Factors Would Improve Local Elementary Schools?

Yet somehow kids in Europe learn 3 or 4 languages when they are young and they do very well on school exams. I guess our US kids are just stupid or something? Or maybe the problems that we have in education have nothing to do with what language they are using? But bilingual education is an easy target for the mono-lingual conservatives. Ask Pete Wilson and the republican party how prop 187 worked out for them. They are almost an endangered species.

mattyboy Dec 27, 2018 01:14 PM
What Factors Would Improve Local Elementary Schools?

Yeti - I agree, but the problem with that is the overwhelmingly high percentage of non-English speaking students. How do you immerse them when nearly all their peers are also non-English speaking?

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