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    Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat

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Superintendent's Blog

  • PPS launches four CBL programs

    Posted by Superintendent Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat on 2/10/2018 6:00:00 AM

    Peoria Public Schools (PPS) is one of nine Illinois districts selected last spring to pilot Compentency-Based Learning (CBL). After forming a district-level steering committee comprised of teachers, administrators and retired administrators, and collaborating with the other pilot districts, CBL programs are operating at the three PPS high schools.


    What are competencies?  Competencies are the knowledge, skills, and behaviors students must master in a specific content or performance area. With CBL, students advance upon mastery of essential skills and knowledge – competencies -- without regard to seat time or place. In other words, competencies might be mastered through employment, through an internship, through volunteer work or through online learning, in addition to in the classroom. Similarly, while typical students might require a full year to master specific competencies, some students might only require one semester. CBL gives students flexibility to advance once a skill or knowledge is mastered.


    One CBL program that started in two schools this month is the Peoria Options Program, offered at Peoria High School and Manual Academy. Peoria Options is for 17 – 21 year olds who have earned fewer than 20 hours of high school credit.  A rising senior must have a minimum of 19 credits, so the students in Peoria Options have freshmen, sophomore or junior status. The Peoria Options Program requires parents of the student to attend an orientation meeting. Peoria High School has two Peoria Options cohorts with approximately 40 students.  Manual Academy has one group with about 20 students. Students are required to pass the Illinois and U.S. Constitution text and the flag code assessment; take the SAT exam (a state of Illinois high school graduation requirement); successfully complete the Capstone Portfolio Competencies; successfully complete 15 hours of classroom instruction weekly and successfully complete 15 hours of employment, internship or community service weekly. 


    The Peoria Options Program partners with community organizations including Center for Prevention of Abuse, the Peoria Park District, Neighborhood House, New Millennium, Unity Point Health and Junior Achievement.


    We are excited about this opportunity for our students, along with other programs now underway, which will be announced soon. In coming decades, CBL may dramatically alter the high school experience for our nation’s students. By piloting Peoria Options and other opportunities for our students, Peoria Public Schools is leading the way.

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  • A week of guest readers and speakers

    Posted by Superintendent Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat on 2/9/2018 5:00:00 PM

    This week Kellar Primary School hosted its 25th Annual Guest Reader Week. 100 local leaders including elected officials, business and non-profit executives, media representatives, educators and artists visited the school to read books to students. Each guest also spends time sharing with the children details of their professional lives.  The visits engage students and introduce them to an enormous variety of professional pathways.  Guest Reader Week is a program of the Kellar PTO, which purchases the books for the guest readers, which then become part of the Kellar library. Thank you to all of our guest readers for sharing your love of reading to Kellar students.



    Bringing speakers into our schools shows students that the Peoria community is invested in their future. Thanks to the sponsorship of Rotary Club of Peoria North, Kellar, Roosevelt Magnet School and Northmoor Primary School students enjoyed the high-energy multi-media presentation by pediatric occupational therapist and author Stacey Glorioso. Glorioso’s book Joshua’s Dragon tells the story of a boy who learns to overcome challenges and obstacles – in other words “conquer his dragons.” The presentation helps children understand and manage their emotions and realistic ways to tame their own dragons.


    Stacy Glorioso Joshua's Dragon at Roosevelt


    Friday, February 9, another distinguished speaker will visit Manual Academy for a presentation open to the community. The Manual Academy Robo-Rams welcomes Dr. Luther Beegle, NASA scientist and SHERLOC principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Dr. Beegle will speak from 7 to 9 p.m. on The Robotic Exploration of Mars. Dr. Beegle worked on the Curiosity Rover which has been exploring Mars since 2012, and is leading a team building SHERLOC, an instrument for the next Mars mission which will search for potential signs of life. The presentation is the opening event for the FIRST Tech Challenge Qualifier on Saturday. The Manual Robo Rams are sponsored by Caterpillar Innovation and Technology Development Division and the Nannie M. Johnson Community Center, and the adult leaders are parent volunteers. 


    These are all wonderful examples of caring adults coming into our schools to work with our students. As I have written, for PPS students to succeed, we must create a two-way street. In coming weeks, I will be sharing exciting stories about our students going out into the community through internships and service opportunities.

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  • Celebrating outstanding PPS teachers

    Posted by Superintendent Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat on 1/27/2018 9:00:00 AM

    I am fortunate to lead a team of outstanding and dedicated educators. This week I am happy to tell you about four of them. 


    I recently nominated three Peoria Public School teachers for the national 2018 LifeChanger of the Year award. Sponsored by the National Life Group Foundation, the national LifeChanger of the Year program recognizes and rewards the very best K-12 public and private school educators and employees across the United States who are making a difference in the lives of students by exemplifying excellence, positive influence and leadership.


    I nominated Mrs. Hedy Elliott-Gardner, School-within-in-a-School teacher at Lincoln K-8; Ms. Jitske Miedema, Woodruff Career and Technical Center (WCTC) Culinary Arts Teacher, and Mrs. Debra Redington, the dance teacher for the Preparatory School for the Arts (PSA) at Peoria High School. 


    I nominated these three teachers because their programs are somewhat unique in our district and because all three essentially built those programs from the ground up. Most importantly, I nominated them because one of the criteria for the national LifeChanger Award is to create a nurturing environment for students, and I believe these three teachers do an amazing job in that respect by cultivating caring, respectful relationships with their students. 


    I invite you to visit www.peoriapublicschools.org and follow the link to each nominee’s profile on the LifeChanger of the Year website. I think once you read their profiles you will understand why I nominated these teachers.  If you know Mrs. Elliott-Gardner, Chef Jetty or Mrs. Redington, as a friend, colleague or PPS alum, I encourage you to leave your comment of encouragement and support.  Support from the community is one consideration in choosing the final LifeChanger of the Year, so please join me in supporting these outstanding educators.


    I am also very excited to tell you about Manual Academy science teacher Lori Ettinger.  Ettinger has been selected by the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) to be a writer for the National Science Test – only one of 19 U.S. educators selected and the only teacher from Illinois. NGSS is charged with upgrading national science standards to reflect major scientific advances and greater understanding of children’s cognitive development and the learning process. Ettinger has served as an Illinois Science Assessment Grader for the past two years, grading over 22,000 test items from middle and high school students.  Now, Ettinger will take the next step in her professional development and become a test writer, writing questions describing science-related scenarios with a list of accompanying questions.


    Current national science standards are based on the National Science Education Standards from the National Research Council and Benchmarks for Science Literacy from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The current standards have been in use for 15 years. The National Research Council created NGSS to develop standards reflecting major scientific advances as well as greater understanding of students’ cognitive development and the learning process.


    Peoria Public School students and families are so fortunate to have outstanding teachers such as these and many, many more to guide our children to a successful future. 

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  • Check out Career Coach, free service available through ICC

    Posted by Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat, Superintendent on 1/26/2018 2:00:00 PM

    Illinois Central College (ICC) has a great career coaching piece that I think would be great for our students and even their families.


    It is Career Coach - icc.emsicc.com.


    There are several things that anyone can do to help them look for a career:

    • Take an assessment to learn about themselves and get career suggestions based on interests
    • Browse careers to get information on wages, employment and training
    • Build resumes, etc.


    Career Coach is an online career assessment program offered by Illinois Central College (ICC). The program is free and available to anyone in the ICC district. 


    Career Coach offers a six-question interest assessment and a 60-question interest assessment.  It also asks whether the user is pursuing an associates degree, bachelors degree, masters degree or doctorate degree, or undecided.   Based on the results, Career Coach assigns three predominant traits such as realistic, social and creative and describes these traits. 


    Career Coach then presents the user with a general career areas which most closely match these traits, and within each general career area, presents more specific professions.  For example, the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics category is further divided into Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Industrial Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Energy and Natural Resource Engineering and several additional specific career areas.  From there the user can compare salaries, education requirements and job outlook for the central Illinois region for each profession as well as ICC academic programs and classes that would be required. 


    Career Coach is extremely user friendly. It is an outstanding resource for Peoria Public School students and family members. Take a look at it!

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  • WCTC Salon open to the public

    Posted by Superintendent Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat on 1/18/2018 5:00:00 PM

    I frequently speak to students, parents and civic audiences about the importance of preparing Peoria Public School students for professions which do not require a bachelor’s degree but nonetheless will provide a sustainable, middle-income wage.


    The Woodruff Career and Technical Center (WCTC) cosmetology, barbering and hair braiding programs are preparing students to work in an industry which analysts predict will see consistent growth in the next decade, with revenues reaching over $60 billion by 2020. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment growth for barbers, hair stylists, cosmetologists, manicurists, pedicurists and skincare specialists is expected to grow by 10 to 12 percent by 2024. 


    Currently 133 PPS high school students are enrolled in these programs. While some students pursue a salon career upon graduation, others use their skills to finance post-secondary education opportunities. 


    WCTC cosmetology students practice skills

    The WCTC Salon and Barber Shop is open to the public each Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and the first and second Saturday of each month. 


    • Wednesdays and Thursdays: Noon to 3:30 p.m.
    • Fridays: Noon to 1 p.m.
    • Saturdays: 9 a.m. to noon


    Services offered are:

    • Hair cuts and hair styling
    • Hair braiding
    • Manicures & pedicures
    • Facials
    • Waxing


    Walk-ins are welcome or you can make an appointment by calling 309-282-6644.


    These are just some of the services offered to the public at Woodruff. The Culinary Arts program resumes its Thursday lunch special this week, starting the second semester in the Warrior Way Café. The café is open each Thursday school is in session from 11a.m. until 1:30 p.m. with a different menu each week. Menus can be found at www.peoriapublicschools.org/wctc and reservations can be made at warriorwaycafe@psd150.org.

     Here is the Warrior Way Café for Thursday, January 25, 2018

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  • PLC proposal cuts budgets, addresses parents' concerns

    Posted by Superintendent Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat on 1/12/2018 7:00:00 AM

    As I have written in recent months, Peoria Public School (PPS) administrators and Board of Education members are focused on the formidable challenge of reducing the district’s budget while providing world-class education which prepares our students to succeed.


    To be successful these adjustments must be made with the knowledge, input and support of parents and staff members. Parents’ concerns convinced us to reject a proposal to adjust primary, middle and secondary school-day schedules to reduce transportation costs. Ongoing plans to alter Professional Learning Community (PLC) time generated a proposal which has the support of high school teachers and did not affect primary and middle schools. Academic Instructional Officer (AIO) Dr. Sandra Wilson presented the proposal to the board on January 8. Wilson and PPS high school AIO Thomas Welsh are speaking with each high school PTO over the next week.


    AIOs Welsh, Wilson speak with RHS PTO
    AIOs Thomas Welsh and Dr. Sandra Wilson answer 
    questions about the PLC proposal at a Richwoods
    High School PTO meeting.

    If approved by the Board of Education on January 22, the proposed change for PPS High Schools during the 2018-2019 school year will include:


    • Core teachers (math, science, social studies and language arts) begin teaching a sixth course in place of current PLC period. With a few exceptions, this will mean that most teachers will teach six courses daily.
    • All teachers will keep a daily prep period, per contract.
    • Students will be dismissed one hour early one day each week.
    • Teachers will meet for one 60-minute PLC each week.
    • Both core and non-core teachers will participate.
    • Monthly after-school Professional Development (PD) meeting may also be used for PLCs.
    • SIP Days may also be used for PLC collaboration.

    There will be no changes to monthly faculty meetings.

    It is estimated that this proposal will save the district approximately $750,000, up from the $500,000 expected savings in the initial PLC plan presented to parents and staff in November.


    As we move forward, among the details the PLC committee will manage this spring, include:


    • Student academic support and activities during early release time
    • Required district framework for PLCs, providing flexibility to meet the various needs of each school
    • Which day of the week will be used for PLCs that is most helpful for students, families and staff
    • The best utilization of time following students' early dismissal

    High school PTO discussions this week suggested that this plan could have strong positive implications for students and their families, including:


    • Opportunities for part-time jobs and internships.
    • Opportunities for study tables and extra-curricular activities staffed by support staff or volunteers.

    Families in which high school students are responsible for after-school supervision of younger siblings may benefit from the extra weekly hour.

    The PLC concept and its benefits to educators is strongly supported by research. According to a study release by the U.S. Dept. of Education, “For staff, being part of a professional learning community reduces teacher isolation, increases commitment to the mission and goals of the school, creates shared responsibility for the total development of students, creates powerful learning that defines good teaching and classroom practice, and enhances understanding of course content and teacher roles.”


    Welsh suggests that offering PLC time to non-core faculty, which includes languages, fine arts and career-technical areas, is another advantage to this proposal. 

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  • Make a New Year resolution to partner with PPS

    Posted by Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat on 1/8/2018 11:00:00 AM

    Happy 2018!  Here is a New Year’s resolution that is much easier and much more enjoyable than losing weight: resolve to become a partner with Peoria Public Schools.

    There are so many ways you and the groups you belong to – a neighborhood association, civic organization, your business colleagues, high school, college, sorority or fraternity alumni group, faith community, even your hobby or reading club – can help Peoria Public School students.  Make a resolution to volunteer for the students of Peoria. Here are some ways you can help:

    Reading Buddies – our Reading Buddy program coordinates groups of professionals from Peoria businesses to meet one-on-one with PPS third grade students once each week to work on reading skills. Because team members rotate their scheduled reading time, most Reading Buddy volunteers need only give one or two hours each month. The Reading Buddy program not only strengthens reading skills, but provides students with an adult who cares about their academic progress. For many students at-risk of falling behind, a consistent relationship with one caring, invested adult is enough to sustain their motivation to be a successful student. To find out more about becoming a Reading Buddy, visit https://www.peoriapublicschools.org/readingbuddy or call 672-6536.

    Individual schools also have unique volunteer needs. For example, you may have seen local news coverage about Franklin Primary School’s After-School Sewing Club. The club, which draws nearly two dozen students, meets twice a week after school. This year students sewed blankets for patients at Children’s Hospital of Illinois Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Franklin students sewed, gift-wrapped and delivered the blankets shortly before Christmas. What a wonderful project! Franklin principal Dr. Ann Bond reports that the Sewing Club needs more adult volunteers as well as donations of fabric, sewing supplies and sewing machines.


    Adopt-A-School – become an Adopt-A-School partner. Peoria Public Schools Foundation Adopt-A-School coordinator Sarah Oakford will work with you to define the resources your organization is best equipped to offer and match those with a PPS school. Adopt-A-School partners donate a wide variety of financial and in-kind donations and volunteer time. Contact Sarah Oakford, at 309-282-5270 or email: sarah.oakford@psd150.org.

    Create an internship opportunity for a Peoria Public School high school student. Greater Peoria Works, a project of the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, can work with your business to coordinate an internship to fulfill your workforce needs while giving a PPS high school student valuable business-place exposure. For information on ways you can create opportunities for PPS students, contact LaMar Anderson at 309-922-5354 or lamar.anderson@psd150.org.  

    Volunteer to be a PPS Horizon Club mentor. A program of the PPS Foundation, Horizon Clubs meet during lunch at each PPS middle school and buildings with grades 6-7-8.  Each month business mentors speak to students about their career field, education requirements, a typical workday, and challenges and opportunities in their field. Most children this age have had very little introduction to the enormous variety of opportunities available in the central Illinois region. Guided by goal-setting instruction and supplies donated by Eureka College, Horizon Club students make connections between mentor presentations and possibilities for their futures. By contributing just one or two lunch hours each year, you can indeed expand their horizons. For information contact, Trish O’Shaughnessy, Community Engagement Coordinator, 309-696-3406 or email: patricia.oshaughnessy@psd150.org. You can also learn more about supporting all PPS Foundation Programs by joining us at the PPS Foundation’s Third Annual 365 Breakfast on Thursday, January 11, 2018 at WCTC – Woodruff Career and Technical Center. The event begins at 7:15 a.m. Thanks to sponsors, there is no charge for the breakfast, but guests will learn how a dollar a day donation throughout the year can help PPS students!


    If you just want a great way get out of the house and support a great cause this winter, gather your colleagues and friends and form a team for the First Schoolhouse Open on January 27. This mini-golf meets Warehouse District pub-crawl fund raising event will benefit the work of the Peoria Public Schools Foundation, including classroom grants, student scholarships, emergency funding for PPS families in distress, Horizons Club and much more. Find out more about this fun event at www.peoriaschoolhouseopen.org.  Tickets are $60 for individuals or $240 for a team of four. Registration includes competition entry, two beverage tickets and a t-shirt.

    Finally, if you are a parent, guardian or grandparent of a PPS student, find out about your school’s PTA organization. The meeting schedule is posted on your school’s website calendar and in the school newsletter. Your input, involvement, ideas and energy are needed and welcome at your child’s school.  

    Make 2018 the year you make a personal commitment to be a part of our region’s largest school district – your investment will be immediately appreciated and reap rewards for years to come. 

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  • Happy Holidays from Peoria Public Schools

    Posted by Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat on 12/22/2017 11:00:00 AM

    On behalf of Peoria Public Schools staff, students, families and Board of Education members, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

    In recent weeks, through the generosity of the Peoria community, Public School students received food and clothing, particularly through The Roundtable, a program of PPS support staff. Located at Richwoods High School and Franklin School, The Roundtable provides food, personal hygiene products, household items such as dish soap and laundry detergent, and clothing to our students.  Another local organization, It Takes A Village, provides a similar service to students and families at Manual Academy.

    Yesterday, representatives of Alliance Benefit Group arrived at Roosevelt Magnet School with gift bags for each of the school’s 580 students. Employees of the Adopt-A-School partner held casual days, 50/50 raffles, bake sales and more to raise over $2,200 to bring the gift bags to Roosevelt students. Other Adopt-A-School partners have provided similar holiday surprises to our students. We are truly grateful for these partnerships.

    Generosity is a two-way street. The outpouring of Peoria Public School administrators, teachers, staff members, students and their families in recent weeks has been amazing.

    This month members of the Manual Academy 7th and 8th grade student council collected 25 milk crates of non-perishable food for Neighborhood House. Similarly, canned food drives at Peoria High School (organized by AVID seniors), Calvin Coolidge Middle School, Mark Bills Middle School, Franklin Primary School, Roosevelt Magnet School, Von Steuben Middle School, Lincoln K-8, Thomas Jefferson Primary School, Rolling Acres Middle School and Hines Primary School have helped stock shelves at Southside Mission, The Salvation Army, Moonlight Coalition Adult Literacy, First United Methodist Loaves and Fishes, and East Bluff Community Center.  Lindbergh Middle School, Sterling Middle School and Woodrow Wilson School collected food for families within their school communities. 

    In addition to canned food drives, here are other PPS holiday-giving events: 

    • Richwoods High School students raised $1,300 for the Southside Mission during Spirit Week in early December.
    • At Peoria High School, the student council organized a sock drive to benefit the clothing pantry at the First United Methodist Church Loaves and Fishes program. PHS AVID students delivered handcrafted ornaments and candy to seniors at Heartland Care Center.
    • Kellar Primary School students held a pajama drive, collecting 112 pairs of pajamas for children. The students will celebrate with pajama day this week.
    • Northmoor Primary School maintained its long tradition of holding a pajama and reading day to raise money for St. Jude Midwest Affiliate, in memory of a Northmoor student who died many years ago. The event raised $550 for St. Jude and students also drew holiday cards to give to children who are spending the Christmas season in the hospital.
    • Northmoor Primary School and Franklin Primary School have Giving Trees in their front office. Students can contribute small items like hats, mittens, socks and lip balm for any other student in the school in need.
    • Fourth grade students at Charter Oak Primary School collected pet supplies for Peoria Animal Welfare Shelter (PAWS).
    • Harrison Community Learning Center staff and students are raising money for Easter Seals of Central Illinois, and collecting coats, hats and mittens for Harrison children.
    • As part of its recent Muffins with Moms celebration, Mark Bills Middle School students, mom, aunts and grandmas, raised $158 for the Journal Star Christmas fund. Mark Bills students also rang the Salvation Army bells at Northwoods Mall.

    It is significant that many of these activities were initiated and organized by Peoria Public School students, often as part of student government activities.  Giving to those less fortunate builds empathy and compassion and engenders in students an awareness of their part of a larger community, a role that carries responsibilities and rewards.  These Social Emotional Learning opportunities will last beyond the holiday season and past graduation.


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  • Mid-year time of exciting transitions for PPS students

    Posted by Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat on 12/15/2017 8:00:00 AM

    A number of Peoria Public School students are working toward the next level of their education this week.  Change can be intimidating for young people, but mastering change builds self-confidence that carries into adulthood. 


    Fourth grade students are undergoing the Washington Gifted Middle School application, screening and selection process for the 2018-2019 school year.  All Peoria Public Schools 4th grade students are tested in the fall. Each primary school generates a list of students who have consistently demonstrated exceptional abilities in math and reading on standardized exams and those students’ families were contacted last week. The Gifted Selection Committee will convene in late January/early February to make the final selection and families will be notified in writing in February.


    Parents of fourth grade students who did not receive a letter and feel strongly that their child should be considered can submit a referral to the selection committee no later than January 5, 2018.  For information please go to www.peoriapublicschools.org/gifted.


    Also this week 8th grade applicants to the Richwoods High School International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme are undergoing their application interviews. Acceptance into the IB programme will be announced in January.


    At Woodruff Career and Technical Center (WCTC) high school seniors in the construction trades Work-Based Learning Program will learn this week where they will serve internships from February through May. Since August these students have rotated through eight local trade unions: bricklayers, laborers, steamfitters, operating engineers, electricians, cement masons, plumbers and sheet metal workers. Each rotation includes classroom and hands-on skill practice. Students also have studied Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards, blueprint reading, job estimating, resume and cover letter writing, interview skills as well as performing volunteer work for the Midwest Food Bank and Wildlife Prairie Park. In January, prior to their internships, they rotate through a final trade, the ironworker’s local, and have a classroom introduction to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) or green building.


    Finally, 17 students will receive their high school diploma this week at the Knoxville Center for Student Success (KCSS) mid-year graduation ceremony. This is a particularly exciting moment for these young people who have faced daunting obstacles and challenges in their personal lives but who have been determined to graduate from high school.  Their resourcefulness is truly admirable. 


    Each of these transitions provides Peoria Public School students the tools to become well-balanced citizens prepared to contribute to our rapidly changing world.

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  • Make plans to enjoy Thursday lunch at the Warrior Way Café

    Posted by Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat on 12/12/2017 11:00:00 AM

    Have you tried the Warrior Way Café, located at Woodruff Career and Technical Center (WCTC)? A program of the PPS Culinary Arts program, the Warrior Way Café serves lunch to the public each Thursday when school is in session. This is, by far, the best $5 lunch available in Peoria. Menus are designed, prepared and served by students. You can enjoy your lunch in the former Woodruff High School cafeteria, which has been transformed to an upscale bistro, or you can order take-out for yourself and your entire office!

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Last Modified on February 9, 2018