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The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

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Live updates: MCPS Board meeting 6/11

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Live Coverage
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Jun 10, 2024, 8:58 pm

Follow along live

The Board of Education will meet June 11 at 12:00 p.m. for a regular business meeting.

Tune in live at MCPSTV and on the MCPS YouTube page and follow along here for live updates of the meeting.

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Agenda item 16.1
Jun 11, 2024, 6:22 pm

Board adjournment

With the discussion of Evans' resolution over, the Board has unanimously adjourned the open session and goes now into another closed session.

Thank you for following along today. The Board will next meet on June 25 for its last regular business meeting this fiscal year.

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Agenda item 14.3
Jun 11, 2024, 6:20 pm

Evans' Resolution

Evans is bringing forward a new resolution that will direct Board members' paid staff to study if the Board should be full-time and to study the level of effort Board members provide with results back before August 5.

Unlike the county council, which is considered a full time position, currently, Board members are only paid $25,000 per year and it is considered a part-time position.

The resolution, like all pieces of new business, will be tabled until the next meeting on June 25.

"This is quite a full time job, and I think the time has come that we need to do the advocacy because I believe in the best interests of the system," Board member Grace Rivera-Oven said. "Some of us are killing ourselves trying to do the job because we want to do a good job for the kids ... this is our reality now and this is what the job is going to be like."

Karla Silvestre asked about the salary going up if the position was to be considered full-time. Evans discussed how it would be easier to justify a higher salary once the position was a full-time one.

"How you attract diversity and voices is you make such that anybody would want to do this job if they can make a liveable wage doing it," Evans said. "We do a lot. I have two kids, second ones about to college, and I really had to take a lot of time this year to take time for my children. And I felt bad. And I shouldn't have to feel bad."

Harris chimed in to agree with Evans.

"We talk about equity all the time. This job is not equitable," Lynne Harris said. "Anybody who wants to put in this time ... they should be able to, but right now, they can not."

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Agenda Item 12.1
Jun 11, 2024, 6:04 pm

Climate Survey Action Plan

Following the comments from Board members and discussion, the second part of the presentation focused on the action plan for the results of the survey.

"A survey is something that should initiate other things," Associate Superintendent Dr. Peter Moran said.

Items 13 and 14.1 and 14.2 moved in block and moving on to a piece of new business from Shebra Evans.

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Agenda item 12.1
Jun 11, 2024, 5:10 pm

School and Office Climate Survey Results

Board running about 45 minutes ahead of schedule now.

Felder introduced the team that will present about the results of this year's School and Office Climate Survey.

Kecia Addison, director of Shared Accountability discussed the survey.

6.6% of parents/guardians responded, while the target rate was 40%. 55.2% of students responded, with an 80% target. And 44.7% of staff completed the survey while the target rate was 60%. Addison discussed survey fatigue, with the community having received multiple surveys and causing it to be ignored. To reduce this, next year a survey calendar will be implemented by Shared Accountability.

Another concern with the survey response rates was that staff and parents had to log in with their or their students ID, despite the survey actually being confidential.

The actual survey findings are available online on the Shared Accountability website.

At the middle school level, only around 50% of students who responded agreed or strongly agreed that the energy of the school was positive. The number was around 70% for high school students. The lowest levels of agreement, around 55% of high school students, said the behavior of other students helps their learning. Middle and high school students who responded graded MCPS higher (on a scale of A-F) than they did their own school.

Floor open for questions and comments now.

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Agenda item 11.1
Jun 11, 2024, 4:32 pm

Charter school questions and comments

Shebra Evans: "This is exactly what we need. I don't have any questions."

Lynne Harris: Asks about engagement and possible application process to meet enrollment projections. Asks about application proccess specifically, if there would be a lottery. Response from LaChaundra Graham, CEO of MBEF, was that if enrollment was more than cap of 250 seats, lottery would be used. Asks about Quiet Waters Park for usage for athletics, PE, etc and how the school would ensure priority access. Graham says they would submit a permit and work with the district to select sites.

Grace Rivera-Oven: Asks about construction plans, when students would start going to school, if students would be going to school during construction. Graham says construction would not affect school, would happen over summer. Also asks about plan B if they don't meet enrollment goals.

Rebecca Smondrowski: Asks how kids are gonna get there - Graham says they plan to use yellow bus transportation, whether contracted or through the district, which would be negotiated in the future. Asks if building plans goes awry, if MCPS would be financially responsible, which Graham confirms would be on MBEF. Finally, asks how MBLI would be different from MCPS college and career programs. Graham says difference start at middle school level, early engagement and early planning.

Karla Silvestre: Asking again about enrollment if they do not meet their target, how they would pay rent, teachers. Raises hypothetical if only 50 kids sign up. Response focuses on contingencies built in, not operating dollar for dollar.

Moving on to agenda item 12 with the vote at the next meeting.




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Jun 11, 2024, 4:11 pm

Charter proposal presentation

Niki Hazel, Associate Superintendent of Curriculum and Instructional Programs, and Dr. Kenneth Marcus, Charter School liaison, delivered the presentation.

Most of the presentation was about the foundations plan for obtaining a facility - and their financial ability to do so. The facility at 20261 Goldenrod Road, would be in Gaithersburg, adjacent to Montgomery College. The current building, which is one story, would be expanded to two stories. Middle school (6-8th grades) would be on the first floor and 9-12 grades would be on the second.

The school projects a first year enrollment of around 250 students and eventually up to 700 students.

With the presentation complete, Silvestre opened the floor to comments and questions from Board members.

The Board will vote on the matter at the next Board meeting on Tuesday, June 25.

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Agenda item 11.1
Jun 11, 2024, 3:57 pm

New charter school proposal

Welcome back from the recess. A bit of a rarity, the Board is actually running ahead of schedule as this next item was supposed to start at 4:15 p.m.

The next item on the agenda for the Board is a proposal for a new charter school in MCPS run by the Mentoring by Example Foundation (M.B.E.F.). It would be called the Mentoring by Example College and Career Academies Inc. (M.E.C.C.A.), Business Learning Institute (MBLI) and would open in the 2025-2026 school year.

The Board declined MBEF's first application in 2022, which they appealed to the state Board, with the Board ruling that MCPS had to give MBEF a chance as long as they demonstrated the ability to open and operate the school. In 2023, MBEF came back to the Board but the Board ruled that they did not have sufficient funds to acquire and maintain a school building.

MBEF again appealed to the state board, and the state Board again ruled in favor of MBEF, directing MCPS to award the charter as long as they can again demonstrate financial ability, which is what the Board will review right now. At the end of the report about MBEF, Felder and the district have reported to the Board that "it appears that the contingencies in the contingent charter school agreement have been met."

Charter schools are schools that are publicly funded with no tuition, but are privately run. According to Moco360, only one charter school has ever been approved by the Board: the Community Montessori Charter School which closed in 2014

The MBEF school would focus on business education.

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Agenda item 9.3
Jun 11, 2024, 3:23 pm

Policy GEA approved

April Key, Chief of Human Resources, presented the changes to the policy, which included changes to the stakeholder interview process and attempts to reduce the number of long-term acting positions.

Another change: no candidate will be considered until any investigations against that candidate are complete. This results from this year's scandal surrounding the promotion of Principal Joel Beiddleman, who was accused of sexual misconduct and other inappropriate behaviors.

Following quick comments from Smondrowski, Silvestre, who has returned, asked about the 45-day length after which the Board is required to be notified about an official in an acting position.

Key responds that it was a Board suggestion. Silvestre clarified temporary appointments longer than 45 days would now require Board approval.

Smondrowski moves the policy and gets unanimous approval.

The Board goes now into recess and will return at approximately 3:50 p.m. 


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Agenda Item 9.2
Jun 11, 2024, 3:13 pm

Policy IOD passes

Policy IOD passes unanimously among those present.

Interim Superintendent Dr. Felder and Board president Karla Silvestre have left the room, for unknown reasons.

Smondrowski, leading the meeting, now talking about Policy GEA, Board Appointment of MCPS Leaders.

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Agenda item 9.2
Jun 11, 2024, 3:10 pm

Policy approval

MCR-SGA officers wrap up with comments from Dr. Felder. Now, the Board moves on to approving changes to Board policy.

The first policy is IOD, Education of English Language Learners. Smondrowski, chair of the Policy Management Committee, introduces the policy and the changes made. Three central office staff are now presenting about the specific changes that were made and the revisions process.


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Agenda item 8.1
Jun 11, 2024, 2:59 pm

MCR-SGA Officers

This year's and next year's officers of the countywide SGA are speaking at the meeting. Board members are questioning/discussing following the presentation from the officers.

Rockville High School junior Sophie Nguyen, president-elect of MCR talks about MCR's annual policy platform, the platform of planks and issues that matter to the organization.

"This work that you're doing is just amazing," Rebecca Smondrowski says. Smondrowski asks about how MCR engages kids who don't even know about MCR.

Current MCR president and Poolesville High School senior Anusha Krishnan says MCR strives for diversity, works to go to different schools and talk to students, reaching students that don't speak English, and have students with disabilities represented in the Board and in the organization's policies. "Ultimately we are trying to represent every single student in Montgomery County," Krishnan says.

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Agenda item 7.1
Jun 11, 2024, 2:33 pm

Final approval of the FY25 Budget

Silvestre makes final comments again about how hard the budget this year was. "We have made decisions nobody wanted to make," Silvestre says. "As this budget concludes, we start the next budget tomorrow. We have to come together as a community ... our children and our community are too important ... we have to figure this out."

Smondrowski interjects last-minute to give further appreciation to officials. "People have no idea how much work goes into this," Smondrowski says.

Hull reads the resolution for the budget.

Smondrowski moves approval, Yang seconds, and the vote is unanimous. SMOB Sami Saeed was not present. A crowd member shouts out as the budget is approved, "MVA must stay" chants still ongoing.

Next up is officers of the Montgomery County Regional SGA (MCR-SGA).

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Agenda item 7.1
Jun 11, 2024, 2:28 pm

Other Board members on budget

Julie Yang:

"This year I think the Board has asked more questions, met more times ... however, there are still more line items we can further break down for transparency,"

Lynne Harris: 

Addresses concerns from county council members that spending has gone up but enrollment hasn't. "It doesn't do us any service to do a dance around that reality," Harris says.

Talks about sacrifice of Chief Medical Officer, who will be cut and laid off in this budget. "Dr. Kapunun's work has been transformational," Harris says as her words begin to choke up.

Rebecca Smondrowski:

Vocally emotional at beginning of comments:  "I have spent the last two days not knowing what I was going to do ... it's easy to say we should keep everything, it's harder to pick out what can go."

Grace Rivera-Oven:

Concurs with everyone. "This is my second budget, so I'm not the biggest expert in town, but in my opinion ... I thought we were pretty thorough. I thought we were pretty transparent," Rivera-Oven says. "90% of our budget goes to people, who make this system work, and there is a human cost at the other side ... as a parent, there is an impact"

Hull interjects following Rivera-Oven's comment. "We can always do better. We start the new budget process tomorrow," Hull says.

No other Board members comment. Final comments from Felder appreciating input and everyone involved in the process.

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Agenda item 7.1
Jun 11, 2024, 2:13 pm

Board questions about budget

Silvestre asks Felder about communication plans. "How will people know what is no longer there?" Silvestre asks.

Brian Hull responds first saying they will work with the communications department. "Waiting for final adoption today before we share additional details," Hull says.

Evans proposes making budgets multiple years in advance, three years out. "We can't just keep thinking about the next year ... We need to display and show the numbers so that we have an idea," Evans says. "This is not a budget that makes me happy at all. There are no winners."

"I'll give my vote ... but I'm not happy," Evans says. "We can not end up in this situation again."

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Agenda item 7.1
Jun 11, 2024, 2:00 pm

Brian Hull speaking about the budget

Hull walking the Board through the budget process. Hull discusses how $26 million in reductions were already made in the MCPS budget proposal in December, and with the further county council cuts, there is now a total of $55 million in reductions over the past two years.

Hull goes over specific numbers in the budget - changes from this year to next year and the total numbers for revenues and expenditures and their largest sources of revenue (state, federal and county), also mentioning how $120 million in revenue is lost due to the loss of ESSER Covid-era funding from the federal government. Also a $25 million decrease due to not using the leftover fund balance this year.

Back over to Reilly, who talks further about the budget process and how the numbers were made and set.

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Agenda item 7.1
Jun 11, 2024, 1:54 pm

Final adoption of the budget upcoming

With contracts approved, Interim Superintendent Dr. Monique Felder is now introducing the FY25 budget, which will be approved now (or soon, following discussion by members).

The final number is $3.3 billion, an increase of $147.3 million, a 4.6% increase over this years budget.

"This has been an extraordinarly difficult budget year for all of us," Felder says. "There are no easy reductions to take. We recognize that every reduction to the budget has a significant impact."

Felder introduces COO Brian Hull and his team for the presentation.

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Agenda item 6.1
Jun 11, 2024, 1:39 pm

Contracts reviewed, approved

6.9 - Synergy and StudentVUE and ParentVUE extension

Smondrowski pulled it for review, but after asking, says that she was thinking about a different data system, not Synergy.

6.20 - Woodward change order

Board member Lynne Harris pulled it for review. Harris concerned about the athletic fields, specifically noise concerns about the playing of pickleball.

Associate Superintendent Seth Adams responding to Harris' question. Talking about shrubs and other methods for noise reduction. "The reality is we can do things that will help ... but we do have a number of schools where theres close proximity to neighbors," Adams said. "Fit within that neighborly spirit of cooperation."

6.24 - Monthly Financial Report

Harris, the chair of the Fiscal Management Committee, also pulled this one. Associate Superintendent Robert Reilly responding about ESSER spending, Employee Benefit Plan (EBP) spending and this years budget, mostly walking through the report.

All three moved in block and approved unanimously.

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Agenda item 6.1
Jun 11, 2024, 1:37 pm

Contracts approved

Board moves almost all contracts in block. Three items pulled for special review by the full Board.

Contracts are:

6.9 - Student Information System—Extension

6.20 - Change Order Over $100,000—Charles W. Woodward High School Reopening Project

6.24 - Monthly Financial Report

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Agenda item 5
Jun 11, 2024, 1:36 pm

Grace Rivera-Oven and end of public comments

Grace Rivera-Oven on a possible special appropriation for the MVA from the county council:

"We can ask for the appropriation, but I don't wanna mislead you," Rivera-Oven says. "It is my hope that something does happen ... but at the end of the day we have done our diligence. You might not see it directly, but the advocacy that we do, because I have someone that I care greatly [about]. This is to me, very personal. I am incredibly sorry that the parents are in this position ... we truly care about every child in the academy."

"Lets move on" from Karla Silvestre as members of the audience start to heckle Rivera-Oven. Floor turned over back to Evans and now going to Silvestre.

"There has been no discussion. I do not wanna give anyone false hopes," Silvestre says about a special appropriation.


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Agenda item 5
Jun 11, 2024, 1:28 pm

Response of Brenda Wolff

Brenda Wolff responding now.

Speaking about a comment from Wootton High School students and anti-hate and bias incidents.

On the budget: "We haven't backed down from our orignal request ... we have made the best decisions that we could make with what we have," Wolff said. Wolff agrees with Handy that the county needs to start earlier on the budget process. "I understand the concerns of the parents of the MVA, this has been a very difficult discussion and decision."



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Agenda item 5
Jun 11, 2024, 1:25 pm

Response of Rebecca Smondrowski

Following Evans' response, next to comment is Board member Rebecca Smondrowski.

"I hope everybody knows we would love to fund everything ... we wanna do what's best for kids," Smondrowski said. "If you go back to Board meetings 12 years ago, I was advocating for the MVA."

Smondrowski said it was going to pain her to raise her hand to kill the MVA, which prompted immediate response from the audience telling her to not raise her hand, and to "stand up for us."

Smondrowski asking COO Brian Hull if a special appropiation is possible from the county council, prompting applause from the audience. Hull says its possible, even after July 1.

"I would like to advocate we go ahead and do that," Smondrowski says.

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Agenda item 5
Jun 11, 2024, 1:17 pm

Response to public comments from Board members

Following the in-person and virtual testimonies, Board members have a chance to comment on any and all of the testimonies.

Board President Karla Silvestre turned the floor over first to Board member Shebra Evans. Evans thanked everyone for coming out, said it was the first time in 8 years where she has not been in agreement with the cuts being made and apologized for earlier commitments to funding the MVA this year. She said she "will get into it further during the operating budget section."

"I am not going to blame the county council ... we know there's a limited amount of funding," Evans said about the budget.

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Agenda item 5
Jun 11, 2024, 1:07 pm

Public comment (continued)

With the in-person testimonies now over, the Board is hearing video testimony, of which there are five.

First up is Diane Nason, an MCPS teacher, once again speaking about the closure of the MVA. Kristin and Jonathan Lasko, parents of a student in the MVA, who suffers from a chronic disease and is immunocompromised spoke next. Lasko say the MVA "eliminates barriers to learning."

All five of the testimonies were related to the MVA.

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Agenda item 5
Jun 11, 2024, 12:43 pm

Public comment

Public testimony coming from Julia Rogers and Amy Eye, both educators at the Montgomery Virtual Academy, have both testified about saving the program. Started in the aftermath of Covid, the MVA is on the chopping block this year in the face of spending reductions planned in the budget. Parents and many in the MVA have protested, with a in-person sit-in having occurred last week.

According to MCPS, cutting the MVA will save the district 53.2 full time equivalent positions and $5,049,921.

There seems to be a sizable number of public comments today about the MVA.

Chants of "MVA must stay" breaking out following the passionate testimony of Barbara Galasso.

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Agenda item 4.1-4.3
Jun 11, 2024, 12:37 pm

Recognitions made, public testimony ongoing

The Board announced recipients of certain awards.

For the MCPS Counselor of the Year, the Board recognized Ms. AnneMarie V. Hetrick, school counselor, Candlewood Elementary School, Mr. Richard B. Solomon, resource counselor, Silver Spring International Middle School and Mrs. Melanie A. Khani, school counselor, Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School

The Board also recognized the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Scholarship Award Winners. See the full list of students here.

Finally, the Board recognized its partnership with higher education instutitions that it works with. See the full list of colleges here.

Currently, the Board is hearing testimony from parents, students and other community members. Notable speakers include Jennifer Martin, president of MCEA, the teachers union in MCPS, and Christine Handy, president of MCAAP, the principal and administrators union. Most of the testimony today seems to be around the budget, which is coming up on the agenda later today.

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Agenda Item 3.2
Jun 11, 2024, 12:30 pm

Appointments made

Appointments today:

Dr. Genevieve L. Floyd, director, Division of Career and Postsecondary Partnerships and Career Advising

Meredith L. Benning, assistant director, Department of Human Capital Management, Office of Human Resources and Development

Charlene M. Parilla, supervisor, Department of Special Education Services, Office of Special Education

Raquel M. Carson, supervisor, Elementary English Learners and Multilingual Education, Office of Curriculum and Instructional Programs

Daniel R. Yip, supervisor, Secondary English Learners and Multilingual Education, Office of Curriculum and Instructional Programs

Kurshanna J. Dean, principal, Greencastle Elementary School

Allison L. Serino, principal, Bannockburn Elementary School


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Agenda Item 1.1
Jun 11, 2024, 12:07 pm

Board meeting starting now

The Board of Education has just emerged from their closed session meeting that started this morning at 9:00 a.m. and are now opening with the Pledge of Allegiance and approval of the agenda for the public portion of the meeting.

In closed session, the Board discusses things like contracts, budgets, legal advice and personnel matters (promotion, hiring and firing of employees). The last item is likely to be the most relevant as MCPS is expected to announce a candidate for permanent superintendent in the coming days, and the Board has been conducting interviews of candidates this month.

According to the news website Moderately Moco, the current interim superintendent Dr. Monique Felder will not be returning as the permanent appointee; however, this has not been confirmed by MCPS, and it is not clear who MCPS would turn to for direction of the 160,000 student district.

The agenda was amended at the begining of the meeting with agenda item 5.2 removed and moved agenda items 9.1 and 15.1.

First up on the agenda will be recommended appointments, which will include principals of schools and central office staff. As part of this fiscal year's budget, which will be discussed later, MCPS has proposed eliminating many central office jobs and positions, including completely eliminating the Office of the Deputy Superintendent (which has been vacant for months) and the Office of the Chief Medical Officer.

Follow along for any notable appointments.

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A quick preview
Jun 10, 2024, 9:18 pm

Board of Education to meet Tuesday

Good evening, morning, or afternoon. The MCPS Board of Education is meeting on Tuesday, June 11 for a regular business meeting. This meeting is likely to be one of the biggest of the year, with a slew of heavy-hitting agenda items to get through in what is sure to be a marathon meeting (according to the agenda, the meeting should end around 6:30, but I would not be suprised to see a 9 p.m. or later finish).

Here is the full agenda for reference.

First up, the Board will go through recommended appointments. This will likely include many principals and central office staff for the upcoming school year. Keep an eye out also for a possible superintendent announcement, although this seems unlikely today, given the little notice we have gotten. MCPS has until July 1 to nominate a superintendent for the upcoming school year.

Following public testimonies, the Board will vote on a long list of contracts for the 2024-25 school year, from things like testing software, and its annual Synergy SIS contract, to its contracts for pizza, bread and HVAC.

This is also related to the next agenda item, which is the final approval of the Fiscal Year 2025 budget. This is likely the Board's biggest task of the day, and has drawn many recent headlines for the possible threat of employee layoffs or furloughs and other budget cuts due to a slight gap in the amount of money MCPS requested from the county council and the final amount awarded.

The Board will also discuss later in the evening the MCR-SGA, revisions to polices on homework and appointment of leaders in MCPS and a proposal for a new charter school in MCPS.

It's sure to be a jam-packed day in Rockville.

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    Josh hananelJun 11, 2024 at 12:08 pm

    cant believe i can see all the updates live