Monday, May 27, 2013


Onward! 4LAKids
4LAKids: Sunday•26•May•2013 Memorial Day Weekend
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The meaning is clear:

1. (transitive) To think something is true without having proof or empirical evidence

… but by definition #5 isn’t quite so clear:

5. (transitive) To consider likely.

How transitive I that?

The meanings range from the Nicene Creed “We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible….” to W.C. Fields “Everybody has to believe in something. I believe I’ll have another drink.”

There’s a Marky Mark Song “YOU GOTTA BELIEVE", and a Spin Doctors song “YOU’VE GOT TO BELIEVE IN SOMETHING.”

John Stuart Mill said that “one person with a belief is equal to a force of 99 with only interests.” A couple of Mills believers quickly adds to Margaret Mead’s dedicated few who changes the world – and becomes the village that raises the child.

A teacher I know who likes to give assignments suggested I write this week on "Belief", apropos of Monica’s Ratliff’s “unbelievable” victory against the odds on Tuesday in her school board race.

A Ratliff canvasser called in last weekend to campaign H.Q. after a day of knocking on doors – his own disbelief disturbed: The electorate was listening, the arrow was shifting. The voters were going to vote. Not in droves because the turnout would be abysmal …but in sufficiency.

“I believe we are actually going to win this!”

I believe.

Belief isn’t the opposite of science. Or math. Or data or anecdote. Belief complements those things.

Edward R. Morrow had a radio program in the 1950’s of spoken essays called “THIS I BELIEVE”; the program was revived by NPR and has generated tens of thousands of individual statements of personal belief. One of them “THE CAREFUL CULTIVATION OF BELIEF” is about belief in belief – and on the educational value thereof. |

In the show biz, which I was once a part, the entire fantasy machine is driven by the necessity of the double negative Suspension of Disbelief. In every theater and cinema the audience is required to give up what they know to be true: That they are sitting in a seat and watching actors (or shadows of actors) - and not the Battle of Agincourt or the decadence of Gatsby or Wallace+André (or Wallace+Gromit) eating a meal. Theater began in ancient Greece as a religious rite: The masked shadows of Gods and Men told their stories to the believers.

With all the definitions and permutations of belief each one of us ends up defining belief and what we choose to believe in for ourselves. I looked at the polls and the trending data and into my heart of hearts -- and applied experience and Poli Sci classes from the last century and believed Monica Ratliff would win …without having proof or empirical evidence. I wasn’t right, Monica Ratliff was right for that moment. And hopefully for the next four years.

I also believe in teachers and administrators and in the hard work done by students. I believe in my own work – and the great changes in this school district over the past fifteen years. I and others believe good things happened at LAUSD prior April of 2010. We believe great things are yet to come.

We didn’t win this one; every child won this one. And democracy and heart and a teacher who taught in the classroom everyday and who ran for school board after school and on the weekends won this. She had her victory party in her apartment and was back in school on Wednesday morning. The little engine that chugs up the mountain thinking-it-can-and-thinking-it-can won this. Si se puede won this. And carpe diem. Doing the work and checking your answers and going for extra credit won this.

Political operatives and conventional thinking and billionaire check writers and careful bet-hedging and special interests and big labor didn’t win. Not this time. And maybe, when you look up at the sky there’s a little more light, a little more disinfecting sunshine. Thomas Jefferson said that with “A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles.”

Like that. You gotta believe.

NOT AS AN AFTERTHOUGHT, BUT IN MEMORIAM: Honor and hold dear in the dedicated, consecrated and hallowed ground of memory the many who stood and fell for our Right to Believe.

¡Onward/Adelante! - smf

By Barbara Jones, Staff Writer, LA Daily News |

5/22/2013 - 8:00:42 PM PDT :: Attorney-turned-teacher Monica Ratliff was elected to represent the East San Fernando Valley on the LAUSD board, upsetting a heavily favored rival with strong political ties and seemingly unlimited campaign resources.

According to unofficial results from Tuesday's runoff, Ratliff received 20,243 votes compared with 18,779 for self-described education advocate Antonio Sanchez, who finished well ahead of her in the March primary.

Sanchez, 31, had the endorsement of powerful labor unions and financial support from well-funded political action campaigns, while Ratliff ran a part-time campaign on a shoestring budget. That had been seen as a disadvantage heading into the runoff, but on Wednesday it was viewed as a key to her success.

"At the end of the day, the teacher running against the establishment and outside money was the main thing driving her victory," said Raphael Sonenshein, the executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State Los Angeles. "Sometimes, getting all of the support is worse than getting some of the support."

Ratliff was at work Wednesday in her fifth-grade classroom at San Pedro Elementary, as she was every day during the campaign. She said she went to bed about 11 p.m. Tuesday, when early returns gave her a slight edge and didn't know until morning that she had won.

Once she was at school, she turned news of her campaign into a civics lesson
for her students, the last class of kids she'll be teaching for a while.

"I'm going to finish out this year, but then I'll be giving it up," she said. "I was really sad today when I thought about packing up the classroom. But it's a real opportunity and one I'm really looking forward to.

"We can fix the schools together," she said.

Ratliff will take office on July 1, succeeding Nury Martinez, who ran instead for City Council.

The District 6 contest filled the last open seat on the Los Angeles Unified board. Incumbents Steve Zimmer and Monica Garcia won re-election in March, in bruising campaigns funded by United Teachers Los Angeles and rival reform groups that favor Superintendent John Deasy.

As a vocal supporter of Deasy, Sanchez received strong backing from those groups, which support issues like data-based teacher evaluations and the growth of charter schools. The Coalition for School Reform spent more than $800,000 on behalf of Sanchez, who also collected nearly $87,000 in individual donations.

Ratliff received no help from political action committees but raised $37,000 in contributions for the runoff. She spent about $40,000 on her campaign, which works out to about $1.98 a vote. With direct and independent expenditures, Sanchez spent $47.16 per vote.

Ratliff has expressed cautious support for Deasy, saying she supports some of his policies and wants to know more about others. She recently said she wouldn't move to replace him at this time.

Deasy said Wednesday that he'd placed an early-morning call to congratulate Ratliff but hadn't been able to immediately reach her.

"I'm looking forward to working with her," he said. "Our agenda remains exactly where it's always been, front and center on behalf of students."

Garcia, the board president, and Zimmer each said LAUSD will benefit from having a teacher helping to set policy.

"She brings the substance of immediate experience that is irreplaceable," said Zimmer, a former high school teacher and counselor. "If Monica is able to bring that immediacy to our issue of elementary instruction, we're going to be a better school board."

The head of United Teachers Los Angeles, which had endorsed both candidates in the race, said he was "overjoyed" that voters had selected a teacher to represent them.

"She can hit the ground running," said UTLA President Warren Fletcher. "She understands the challenges the district is facing, and what's needed. This is a very positive development."

Zimmer said he believes that Sanchez also would have been a good board member, but he decried donations made by the coalition and its supporters, who included New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Los Angeles philanthropist Eli Broad.

"Our involvement in this election has always been about the children, families, and educators of LAUSD. With the election behind us, we will continue to work to move the cause of real public school reform forward in Los Angeles in the years to come."


By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times |

11:14 PM PDT, May 22, 2013 :: On its face, the election this week of a Los Angeles fifth-grade teacher to the Board of Education was a stunner. Monica Ratliff's low-budget effort included her boyfriend, a film school instructor, as her campaign manager. She had no paid staff and no meaningful help from her own politically active teachers union.

Her strategy to achieve some name recognition was to mail out refrigerator magnets, which cost $5,000 in scarce campaign funds. Ten to 20 faithful volunteers knocked on doors every weekend.

Her election night party? She jammed some 10 people into her one-bedroom apartment and then shooed them out at 11 p.m. — before the results were in — because she had to get up early to teach on Wednesday.

Her opponent, Antonio Sanchez, meanwhile, had more than $2.2 million spent on his behalf and an aggressive ground campaign of union volunteers and paid canvassers. He was endorsed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's Coalition for School Reform, which received major donations from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and L.A. philanthropist Eli Broad, among others.

Political observers shook their heads Wednesday as they tried to make sense of it all.

Ratliff, 43, had the lead from the get-go Tuesday, ending up with about 52% of the votes, or 20,243 to Sanchez's 18,779.

"This is a huge upset," said Charles Kerchner, a professor at Claremont Graduate University who studies labor and education politics. "Overcoming financial odds of this size … suggests a big difference in the allure of the candidates and the ability to make big money unattractive."

Ratliff echoed that view.

"This is a testament to the voters," she said just before the start of class Wednesday at San Pedro Elementary south of downtown. "Voters put their belief in skills and expertise.... It sends the clear message that school board seats are not for sale."

The teachers union endorsed both candidates in the East Valley race, even though Ratliff is a highly regarded teacher and union leader at her school. The neutrality of United Teachers Los Angeles was a huge advantage to Sanchez because it cut off Ratliff from her best hope of major support.

The L.A. County Federation of Labor jumped in strongly for Sanchez, as did the Service Employees International Union. Local 99 of SEIU, which spent about $400,000 on his behalf, sent out 90 canvassers who talked to more than 21,000 households about Sanchez.

In the end there were various factors contributing to the outcome. Sanchez's base, for example, was in the low-turnout city of San Fernando, which lacked any higher interest races.

"When that few people show up to an election, almost anything can happen," Sanchez campaign consultant Mike Shimpoc said.

Turnout was comparatively strong in Ratliff's environs of Sunland and Tujunga, according to her team.

District 6 was set up to elect a Latino, but among likely voters, Latinos don't hold a majority, consultants said. Ratliff replaces Nury Martinez, who is running for the L.A. City Council.

Using her $52,000 in contributions strategically, Ratliff appealed to targeted groups. She touted the endorsement of Republican county Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, for example, in a mailer to Republicans. Latino voters learned, in another letter, that she won a college scholarship available only to Latinos. (Ratliff has a Latino parent.)

Ratliff benefited, too, from her ballot designation: fifth-grade teacher. She also succeeded in winning endorsements from Los Angeles' two major newspapers and from educators as well.

A campaign consultant, Fred Huebscher, packaged the magnets — which featured a ruler and a conversion table for recipes — in an oversized envelope. He wanted people to remember Ratliff's name, recall that she is a teacher and make sure Latinos recognized her ethnicity. There was an accent over the o in Monica.

On Wednesday, Ratliff returned to her classroom, where she continued to read "Holes" to her students and worked on algebraic formulas. She skipped lunch to meet two journalists, but insisted that no students be photographed — she hadn't told them about her candidacy.

A colleague, Ruby Chavez, echoed feelings of some shock and much pride at the school over the election results.

To help the principal, Ratliff had volunteered to take on a difficult assignment next year — a combination class with fourth- and fifth-grade students. But in July, she'll take on instead the challenge of being one of seven board members during a time of change in the nation's second-largest school district.

She'll help oversee a new evaluation system that will, for the first time, use student standardized test scores in teacher evaluations. Charter schools are battling the district for classroom space and her former union is fighting for job restorations.

Near her classroom door is a poster of a ball and a basketball hoop. It states: "You'll always miss 100% of the shots you don't take."

Ratliff took a shot. And she made it.


By Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times |

4:08 PM PDT, May 24, 2013 :: Third-grade teacher Kate Lewis said Irma Cobian is the best principal she's had in nine years at Weigand Avenue Elementary School in Watts.

Joseph Shamel called Cobian a "godsend" who has used her mastery of special education to show him how to craft effective learning plans for his students.

Los Angeles Unified Supt. John Deasy praised a plan developed by Cobian and her team to turn around the struggling campus — where most students test below grade level in reading and math — calling it a "well-organized program for accelerated student achievement." He thanked Cobian for her commitment and hard work.

So why did the school board oust Cobian from her job last week?

That question has raged on the Weigand campus ever since board members voted 5 to 2 to accept a petition demanding Cobian's removal.

Under California's 2010 trigger law, parents at low-performing schools can force out staff, change the curriculum, close the campus or convert it to an independent, publicly funded charter. At Weigand, the district verified signatures of parents representing 221 of 420 students, or 53%; 35 signatures were thrown out as invalid.

It was the state's first successful campaign to remove an administrator, and a sign of the power that can be wielded by a group of disaffected parents. But the outcome has prompted elected officials and education groups to call for closer monitoring of trigger campaigns.

Parent leader Llury Garcia said that although her second-grade daughter has done fairly well at Weigand, Cobian was inaccessible and rude. She and other petition backers were assisted by Parent Revolution, a Los Angeles nonprofit that lobbied for the parent trigger law and is aiding overhaul efforts at several other Los Angeles campuses.

"We want strong leadership," said Garcia, who has kept her daughter at Weigand instead of her neighborhood school because of concerns about bullying. "We support our teachers."

But in a show of loyalty to Cobian, 21 of 22 teachers have asked for transfers to other schools. Several said the petition campaign has poisoned the campus. Profanity has been scrawled on walls and even on Cobian's car. Others said they have no desire to stay without the leader who inspired them.

"It devastated our morale," said Robyn Hernandez, who followed Cobian to Weigand in 2010. "It felt like a betrayal of something we had worked so hard for."

Kathleen McGrath, a district instructional director who works with Weigand, said it could take three years to rebuild a team and get the campus back on track.

This week, parents voted to accept Cobian's turnaround plan as the next step forward. Although a Parent Revolution statement quoted Garcia as saying that parents "spent several months carefully reviewing" the plan, she told The Times last week that she had never read it and disagreed with key elements, such as its focus on reading and writing.

The day after the removal vote, Cobian, 53, made no attempt to mask her emotions.

Trying to cheer herself up, she dropped by Lewis' class to give prizes to those who have read 25 books this year. Cobian whooped for Andrea's 28 and encouraged Joseph to push his 11 to 15.

"I need happiness today," Cobian told the bright-eyed students. "What do I do when I'm sad?"

"Come here!" the students sang out.

For a moment, her sadness gave way to smiles. But later, she said: "I am crushed."

More than two decades ago, Cobian walked away from a high-powered law firm to teach. The daughter of Mexican immigrants, she said she was inspired by a newspaper article about the low high school graduation rates of Latinos and wanted to make a difference.

Her passion for social justice led her to Watts in 2009.

When Cobian arrived, Weigand was beset with conflicts over a dual-language program and low parent participation. The school presented challenges associated with lesser achievement: All the students come from low-income families, more than half are not fluent in English and a quarter turn over every year.

She focused right away on morale, sprucing up the campus with a new school logo and banners. She offered prizes and popcorn parties to entice students to read more and initiated good-behavior incentives. Last year she eliminated student suspensions.

Aaliyah Harrison, 12, said Cobian is a special principal who gives her hugs and understands her struggles, such as losing her father to cancer last year. "She is a wonderful person," Aaliyah said.

From the start, Cobian laid out her belief that literacy is the gateway to academic success and she helped teachers boost their classroom skills.

Fourth-grade teacher Hector Hernandez said Cobian is the first principal he's had who frequently pops into classrooms to model good teaching herself. Recently, he said, she demonstrated how to teach about different literary genres by engaging students in lively exercises using characters from the "Avengers" comic book and film.

Her staff says she has built an open and collaborative culture — and boosted what Hernandez said had been "atrocious" morale with gestures of appreciation like hauling in her griddle to make pancakes for them.

In Cobian's first year as principal, Weigand's state test scores dropped in both reading and math. But some bright spots are emerging, McGrath said. Reading scores increased among all students last year, and district assessments so far this year show particular growth in reading comprehension. Math scores have dipped overall but rose for African Americans and students with disabilities.

Cobian also has focused on boosting parent participation. The percentage of Weigand parents returning district surveys has increased from 4% the year before she came to 51% this year. Answering specific questions, 93% of parents said they felt welcome at the campus and 94% reported that the staff treated them with respect; 95% felt their concerns were taken seriously.

On a recent day, the school's parent center was filled with more than a dozen mothers — and a few fathers — who said Cobian has welcomed their involvement. All but one opposed the petition; that mother said she now regrets signing.

But Cobian has offended some parents.

Alicia Cardiel, a petition supporter, said Cobian failed to help her second-grader for more than two years with his behavioral and academic problems. Six months ago, she said, he finally received an individualized learning plan and is now receiving psychological help — but she questioned why it took so long.

The parents behind the campaign have denied allegations that they misled or harassed anyone into signing, as some have alleged. As they noted, the petition — printed in both English and Spanish — clearly stated the demand to remove the principal.

Ben Austin, Parent Revolution's executive director, said the move against Cobian was justified. He said the school had "academically flat-lined" and that the children could no longer wait for improvement.

"The kids will be better off under new leadership, not someone who has presided over abject failure," he said.

But the Cobian case has prompted calls to rethink the process.

Judith Perez, president of Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, said the campaign was an unjustified attack on an outstanding administrator and urged the district to better support targeted campuses. Weigand teachers said they were prevented from defending Cobian's record by district instructions not to speak to parents about the petition while it was being circulated.

"There needs to be a rigorous approach because the stakes are so high," Perez said. "You're talking about a whole school and all of the children."

Board member Richard Vladovic, whose 7th District includes Weigand, said Cobian — who will stay on as principal through the end of the school year — was "a good person" but that he had to follow the law and approve the verified petition.

"Basically we had no choice," he said.

But he added that greater monitoring could help ensure that parents clearly understood petition campaigns.

"Another pair of eyes wouldn't hurt," he said. "Everybody should be told the truth."

Associated Administrators of Los Angeles Update | Week of May 27, 2013 |

May 23, 2013 :: Virtually all media outlets have touted the parent trigger law and ensuing school takeovers as parent empowerment and reform of a system that has protected teachers and administrators via their unions. Parent trigger campaigns and procharter groups have received glowing reports in the media, while none of the outlets have exposed their funding conflicts of interest. The most well-known parent trigger group is Parent Revolution, which was covered in previous editions of Update. We informed you then that Parent Revolution receives the bulk of its funding from the Walton Foundation, which is definitely no friend to public education; in fact, it has spent over $1 billion to promote school privatization. But delving even deeper, we find that some of the media funding is coming from the same sources that are funding Parent Revolution and other privatizing education efforts.

News Corp, the world’s second largest media conglomerate, has holdings in newspapers, books, radio, studios, Internet and cable, satellite and broadcast TV. This includes all of the Fox TV networks and studios, National Geographic, Harper Collins Publishers, New York Post, Wall Street Journal, Barrons and several smaller newspapers throughout the eastern portion of the country. Its holdings also include Wireless Generation/Amplify, an online education, software, tablet and testing corporation. News Corp’s owner, Rupert Murdoch, called K-12 education a “$500 billion sector that is waiting desperately to be transformed.” Is it no wonder that Parent Revolution and the parent trigger always receive positive comments on Fox TV?

NPR stations have embraced Michele Rhee’s procharter group StudentsFirst and describe her as a crusading reformer trying to “build a national movement to defend the interests of children in public education.” Both NPR and StudentsFirst have received millions from the Walton Family Foundation which is known for union-busting and the privatization of public education. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has funneled about $8.5 million to NPR over the last decade and earmarked it for improving education reporting. (Note: Parent Revolution receives the bulk of its funding from the Walton and Gates Foundations). NPR hosts and reporters routinely cover charter schools, parent trigger campaigns and procharter groups in a positive light, while not mentioning the financial conflict of interest.

Education Week received a $2 million grant from the Gates Foundation to support coverage of innovation in K-12 education. An assistant editor at Education Week, Sean Cavanagh, runs the Charters & Choice blog for the newspaper. The blog embraced a study by the Friedman Foundation that showed how vouchers and charters help boost academic performance. Surprise? The Friedman Foundation is funded by the Waltons and Mr. Cavanagh had nothing but praise for Parent Revolution and its director, Ben Austin. Also, Mr. Cavanagh recently was a guest on NPR’s Talk of the Nation, hosted by Neal Conan, where the battle waged in Adelanto by Parent Revolution and the movie, Won’t Back Down (released by 20th Century Fox/News Corp), were the main topics. Here we have an entire program, its host, its guest and its topic, all funded by the same groups—Walton and Gates.

Won’t Back Down was the story of the use of the parent trigger law to transform a “failing” school, but its facts were somewhat distorted. In the movie, a parent and a teacher unite to go door-to-door to convince parents to sign the petition to trigger a school transformation. While in reality, most teachers do not sign the petition and actually are likely to be replaced when the trigger is pulled. Instead of promoting unity, as in the movie, generally the petition drives have created chaos and division in the school community and have been run by those who have no connection to the site. What is true is the result of the parent trigger—the school turns into a charter run by a noneducator. Won’t Back Down was produced by Walden Media which is owned by billionaire Philip Anschutz (AEG) who has ties to many conservative groups, particularly the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) which has been instrumental in pushing parent trigger legislation and “don’t back down” laws across the country.

As we continue to follow the money behind education reform, parent empowerment, public choice and school transformation, we see that the same billionaires are now controlling the media as they continue to expand their coffers through the privatization of public education.

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When measuring educator performance, what weight do we give teachers who return to their classroom after winning the school board election?

When measuring educator performance, what weight do we give to principals who place themselves in harm's way during a crisis?

When measuring educator performance, what weight do we give to teachers who shield students with their bodies in a tornado?

MARK HER PRESENT: @LADNschools: San Pedro ES says teacher Monica Ratliff is there today, as she was during the campaign for a #LAUSD boa ...


1More2Go: There will a singular woman in LA Govt after July. Who to be decided in CD6 runoff 7/23 CINDY MONTANEZ 44%


RESULTS: Member of the LAUSD Board of Ed, Dist #6 w/100% reporting
Monica Ratliff 20,243 | 51.87%
Antonio Sanchez 18,779 | 48.12%

Steve Lopez@LA Times: this just in. 10 more votes counted. final results expected by memorial day.

Steve Lopez@LA Times: how long would it take these knuckleheads to count votes if we had a respectable turnout? anyone got any medical marijuana?

Barbara Jones ‏@LADNschools: About 1,200 more ballots counted in #LAUSD District 6. Ratliff and Sanchez margin still 52-48.

smf ‏@4LAKids: The Bow+Truss Restaurant in NoHo, where Antonio Sanchez is having his "victory" party, is apparently NOT in his school board district.

smf ‏@4LAKids 21 May: As of 10:31 PM:

@LADNschools: Monica Ratliff holds her lead over Antonio Sanchez thru second round of ballots.

Official (but-not Final) L.A.Election Night Results: Updated approximately every 45 minutes after the polls close |

EVENTS: Coming up next week...

*Dates and times subject to change. ________________________________________
Phone: 213-241-5183
Phone: 213-241.8700


What can YOU do?
• E-mail, call or write your school board member: • 213-241-6386 • 213-241-6180 • 213-241-5555 • 213-241-6382 • 213-241-6388 • 213-241-6385 • 213-241-6387
...or your city councilperson, mayor, the governor, member of congress, senator - or the president. Tell them what you really think! • Find your state legislator based on your home address. Just go to: • There are 26 mayors and five county supervisors representing jurisdictions within LAUSD, the mayor of LA can be reached at • 213.978.0600
• Call or e-mail Governor Brown: 213-897-0322 e-mail:
• Open the dialogue. Write a letter to the editor. Circulate these thoughts. Talk to the principal and teachers at your local school.
• Speak with your friends, neighbors and coworkers. Stay on top of education issues. Don't take my word for it!
• Get involved at your neighborhood school. Join your PTA. Serve on a School Site Council. Be there for a child.
• If you are eligible to become a citizen, BECOME ONE.
• If you a a citizen, REGISTER TO VOTE.
• If you are registered, VOTE LIKE THE FUTURE DEPENDS ON IT. THEY DO!.

Who are your elected federal & state representatives? How do you contact them?

Scott Folsom is a parent leader in LAUSD and is Parent/Volunteer of the Year for 2010-11 for Los Angeles County. • He is Past President of Los Angeles Tenth District PTSA and represented PTA on the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee for ten years. He is a Health Commissioner, Legislation Team member and a member of the Board of Managers of the California State PTA. He serves on numerous school district advisory and policy committees and has served as a PTA officer and governance council member at three LAUSD schools. He is the recipient of the UTLA/AFT 2009 "WHO" Gold Award for his support of education and public schools - an honor he hopes to someday deserve. • In this forum his opinions are his own and your opinions and feedback are invited. Quoted and/or cited content copyright © the original author and/or publisher. All other material copyright © 4LAKids.
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