Board Self-Assessment Technology

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The work of the board is critical to the success of the district and schools. Most States require that board members engage in an annual assessment of the work of the board. VitalInsight™, the first online technology designed to measure the existence and strength of research-based best practice in schools, has developed the Board Leadership Agenda Inventory (BLAI) technology to empower boards to assess their collective performance in six key research-based behaviors:

  • Leadership
  • Student Performance
  • Organizational Performance
  • Stakeholder Relations
  • Board Behavior
  • Board Responsibilities

In each area, measures are taken of present and preferred future performance. The data are anonymized, and no individual is identified.

The inventory requires only 20 minutes of individual board member time online. A report of full results is available in a few days and includes a review of both strengths and needs. When used annually, comparative reports of change over time are provided.

The Report of Results highlights areas that the board can focus on and suggestions for goal setting. In addition to narrative summaries of results, graphic presentations highlight the disparity among present and preferred future behaviors.

The cost of BLAI is significantly less than the cost of consultants needed to direct an assessment process, can be done at the convenience of each board member, and produce results that can be easily translated into goals and strategies.BLAI ChartVulnerability: The board and CSA have rated the boards collective behavior lower than in the past, with a greater discrepancy between present and preferred future behaviors. The board should discuss the changes that have taken place that account for this change.

Suggested Goal: Time at a future Board meeting will be devoted to the review of how the Board conducts its business and the impact of most recent board decisions.

Contact us for more information.

VitalInsightBoard Self-Assessment Technology
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Self-Assessment of Adult Mastery: Measuring Professional Growth on the PEFAM™ Scale

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The Performance Expectations for Faculty Adult Mastery (PEFAM™) technology has been developed to assist faculty members in a self-assessment of personal expertise and the acquisition of new levels of expertise across grades and subjects. The data are anonymized, and no individual is identified.

District and school leaders are provided reports that detail the levels of expertise across the faculty, identify where expertise exists, and pinpoint where resources need to be invested to improve professional expertise. PEFAM™ informs each faculty member’s professional growth plan and the professional development program for the entire district and for each individual school.

The PEFAM™ Scale contains a ten-step rubric by which each faculty member indicates existing expertise. Areas of expertise assessed include a combination of the following:

  • Brain Research, the Science of Learning, and Multiple Intelligences (BR, SOL, & MI)
  • Classroom Management (CM)
  • Clinical Leadership Practice (CLP)
  • Content Standards (CS)
  • Curriculum for District and Schools (CURR)
  • Data Analysis and Use (DA & U)
  • Decision Making and Routine Building (DM & RB)
  • English as a Second Language (ESL)/English Language Learners (ELL)
  • Instructional Strategies (IS)
  • Lesson Planning (LP)
  • Professional Responsibilities (PR)
  • Project-Based Learning (PBL)
  • Remote and/or Online Learning (RL)
  • School Resources (SR)
  • Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)
  • Student Behavior and Commitment (SB & C)
  • Teamwork (TW)
  • Technologies (TECH)

Additional areas of expertise can be added at the discretion of district and school leaders

Descriptions of each area of expertise are provided to guide individuals in their assessment. By identifying the grade level or department team on which individuals serve, the capacity level of each team and of the full faculty can be established. Thereafter, professional development activities can be differentiated by school, team, and individual.

Contact us for more information.

PEFAM Reports
The Superintendent/Principal is provided a summary report of PEFAM Results which detail the level, range, and disparity of mastery among faculty in each of the specific areas of expertise. The results allow planning to focus on identified needs in large-scale professional development as well as individual professional growth plans. This guarantees the best use of targeted funds. In addition, PEFAM identifies areas in which expertise already exists among faculty members so that their talents can be utilized within PLCs, grade level and subject areas.

Overall Department Rankings of Adult Mastery on PEFAM by Category
Bayside School District April 2019


VitalInsightSelf-Assessment of Adult Mastery: Measuring Professional Growth on the PEFAM™ Scale
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Solutions for California Schools and the LCAP

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VitalInsight™ technology offers fundamental support to California districts and schools faced with the requirements of LCAP. All eleven priorities identified by the State of California to be addressed by local schools are addressed by VitalInsight™. Among the eighteen research-based systems assessed by VitalInsight™ are measures of effective practice and strategies to improve outcomes in every priority specified by the California Department of Education. A crosswalk of the LCAP priorities and the VitalInsight™ systems is available upon request.

VitalInsight™ is the first cloud-based interactive technology that engages as many as ten community-based stakeholder groups to assess the strengths and vulnerabilities of research-based best practice. Stakeholders invest less than twenty minutes time in responding to the online diagnostic inventory. The data collection and problem-identification process that in most cases can take six months or longer can be accomplished in less than two weeks.

District and school leaders are provided comprehensive dashboard reports that identify strengths and vulnerabilities of practice and present targeted solution strategies from among 8,000+ best practices. In addition, the stakeholders have reported a greater unity of purpose and improved understanding of and support for the agenda for improvement when using VitalInsight™ data reports.

Importantly, because VitalInsight™ is an online assessment, more stakeholders participate in the process, coordinating meeting schedules is not an issue, and in this time of “social distancing,” participation is not dependent on physical gatherings of people. As a result of the efficiency and effectiveness of VitalInsight™, more time and energy are dedicated to the important implementation, monitoring, and assessment processes that produce the positive results school leaders seek.

District and school leaders can get a significant head start on the LCAP process by contacting us now and coordinating communication with their stakeholders to encourage broad participation, significant data collection, and positive energy.

LCAP just got easier, learn more today!

VitalInsightSolutions for California Schools and the LCAP
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Attend our Session Aligning Best Practice to Make Schools Safer at AASA NCE 2020, on February 13th at 9:00am

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Attend our session Aligning Best Practice to Make Schools Safer at AASA NCE 2020, on February 13th at 9:00am as we discuss how to improve safety and security while also improving stakeholder understanding and support, adult performance, and student achievement. Learn from the findings of the “Safer Schools in America” project about the importance and power of best practice in promoting both safer and higher-achieving schools.

Our presenters:
  • Ronna Cadarette, superintendent at NH SAU #58
  • Amy Boettger, principal at Canyons School District, Sandy, UT
  • Phil Esbrandt and Bruce Hayes from VitalInsight™

Stop by booth 104 in the Exhibit Hall to learn how VitalInsight™ can help your district get the most out of research-based practice!

VitalInsightAttend our Session Aligning Best Practice to Make Schools Safer at AASA NCE 2020, on February 13th at 9:00am
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CMTC – Superintendents Discuss How to Improve School Performance

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Former and current superintendents join forces to address challenges and corresponding solutions to provide best practices in adult and student learning, data and metrics, parent and stakeholder engagement, safety and security, and shared leadership to enhance the performance improvement efforts of schools and students.

In the presentation, they have discussed:

  • Seven critical areas of practice related to Safety and Security
  • How to assess best practices within School Safety and Security
  • How Safety and Security practices contribute to performance improvement in other areas
  • Your questions related to the presented data

Contact VitalInsight™ to learn more!

VitalInsightCMTC – Superintendents Discuss How to Improve School Performance
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Davidson High School

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Davidson High School is one high school among several in a district of over 50,000 students. Davidson is an alternative high school that enrolls students who, for the most part, have dropped out of other high schools and are on their second or third attempt to complete graduation requirements. Each year, entering enrollment in grades 9-12 is approximately 100 students and dramatically grows among sophomores and juniors in the second half of the year.

Description: An alternative high school within a district with multiple high schools

Project Type: Develop a performance improvement plan with strategies and tactics addressing priorities; prepare a new school leadership team for school improvement responsibilities, anticipate enrollment growth, and establish a standards-based self-assessment program to guide professional growth of the faculty.

Davidson was cited for not meeting the federal and state target graduation rate for Title I schools. However, since the school opened the rate has improved and the trend is positive for meeting future threshold rates. Consequently, the district is considering bringing back students who are similar to those at Davidson from other alternative high schools in other districts. The challenge had two parts: 1) prepare faculty leaders to implement an improvement plan that will improve the graduation rate; and 2) establish school leadership team (SLT) competence and confidence to work with current and expanding numbers of faculty members.

The VitalInsight™ (VI) diagnostic inventory was completed by school stakeholders (faculty, staff, students, parents, district office administrators, and community partners). VI results and data from the required state’s “needs assessment and root cause analysis” and process were used to prepare a three year improvement plan that was the basis for workshops that prepared the SLT for August implementation. LeadershipEnergies representatives prepared and sent to SLT members the agenda and background reading materials for each day of the July workshop.

The performance improvement plan was approved by the Board of Trustees and the State Board of Education. Ownership of the plan was assumed by the SLT and roles and responsibilities for successful implementation and monitoring were developed and instituted. The SLT defined its mission and how it would work with other faculty members to create unified efforts to improve faculty and student performance and increase the graduation rate. Goals, with multiple strategies for each priority, were established and implemented within the first two months of the school year. Progress is monitored biweekly according to the state DOE design. The SLT “kicked-off” tactics to achieve four priorities: 1) Prepare the SLT and the rest of the faculty for the commitment to and actions for implementation of the plan; 2) improve adult learning through professional development with nine topics of adult expertise related to the goals of the plan (topics were prioritized by the year in which they were to be offered); 3) improve student learning through differentiated instruction and with the use of an instructional coach (this goal coincided with that prescribed by the district for every school); and 4) improve home and school cooperation through a parent engagement program. The state has provided a support system for each participating school’s progress. A process of biweekly review and reporting of progress by the school to LeadershipEnergies has begun. Also, the school reports progress to the district and state. LeadershipEnergies makes monthly reports to the state as well.

Customer Feedback
“We thank VitalInsight™ and LeadershipEnergies for helping us develop a comprehensive map to our destination of school, staff, and student success. Tasks before us are challenging, and yet, we think we are prepared and will prepare others to achieve that success. Every school leadership team and faculty should receive and benefit from the VitalInsight™ LeadershipEnergies treatment.
—Principal, Davidson High School

*The case study is real and positions of personnel are accurate. Names of districts, schools, and personnel have been changed.

VitalInsightDavidson High School
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Highland Academy

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Highland Academy is a grades 7-12 cyber-charter school in a western state. Over 1200 students are enrolled covering all regions of the state. Student population is very diverse including students engaged in international athletic competition, study of the arts, former home schoolers, and former dropouts. Academic instruction and support services are delivered face-to-face online and at regional sites. LeadershipEnergies (LE) provided an online diagnostic inventory (VitalInsight™) for stakeholders to complete a needs assessment and root cause analysis of performance strengths and vulnerabilities. A performance improvement plan was developed with the school’s leadership team.

Description: A state-wide cyber-charter school

Project Type: Develop a performance improvement plan with strategies and tactics addressing priorities, fine-tuning structures, positions, and relationships to accomplish goals, and establishing a standards-based self-assessment program to accelerate the professional growth of the faculty.

Highland Academy is experiencing enrollment growth of 100 or more students annually, and concurrently has a similar problem of onboarding new employees. The main challenge was to develop and implement a plan that would improve the performance quality of the school and staff and increase student achievement and graduation rates while experiencing rapid growth. There were subordinate challenges: 1) implement an appropriate academic and support program for every student; 2) establish ongoing positive relationships among students, families, and school; 3) define roles and responsibilities among a variety of positions and teams to provide consistent, high quality instruction and effective student support; and 4) translate expectations for faculty and staff performance improvement into a program of self-assessment and collegial and coach support for rapid performance quality growth.

VitalInsight™ (VI) results and data from the required state’s “needs assessment and root cause analysis” and process were used to prepare a three year improvement plan. After several meetings with members of the School Leadership Team (SLT) and interviews with faculty and staff members, LE developed Horizontal Organization Charts and descriptions of the roles and responsibilities of employees in chart positions. The Charts identified people working at a dozen Key Contact Points (KCP) where people, programs, protocols, and metrics come together in cooperative and effective team efforts to achieve academic and personal goals. In addition, LE developed with the SLT a standards-based faculty self-assessment instrument to determine each faculty member’s level of mastery in twelve professional development topics. The ten point scale used to establish mastery levels starts at step one (familiar with knowledge and skill) and is used to measure improvements over time. For example, step three defines the practice in each PD topic as, “comfort exists at being video-taped and observed by colleagues implementing a new skill.” At step six a faculty member plans lessons with colleagues who observe one another, provide feedback, and implement modified trials until comfortable with sharing process and results with the faculty. And at step 10, the faculty member is recognized as expert in one or more PD topics and has successfully led multiple workshops and trainings of other faculty members. Faculty members establish in annual Professional Growth Plans, the topics in which they will demonstrate growth, and how and with whom that will be accomplished.

The performance improvement plan was approved by the Board of Trustees and the Utah State Board of Education. The descriptions of the Horizontal Organization Chart and the roles and responsibilities of people in the KCP were reviewed with school leaders who in turn were prepared to teach and support department and grade band team members. Department and grade band team leaders oversee implementation of the strategies to achieve goals. Faculty members completed the online self-assessment instrument in September. The reports were generated and distributed. The results were used to complete annual professional growth plans.

Customer Feedback
“In my twenty-eight years as an educator, this is the most effective diagnostic tool (VI) I’ve used, and that’s including the ones developed by accreditation companies.”
—Dolores Cooke, Ph.D., Principal

*The case study is real and positions of personnel are accurate. Names of districts, schools, and personnel have been changed.

VitalInsightHighland Academy
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College Academy Charter High School (CACHS)

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CACHS is a 400 pupil grade 9-12 high school affiliated with a college since 2005 in an inner city on the east coast. LeadershipEnergies (LE) was hired in 2015-2016 through 2017-2018 to transition the school to better performance through data-driven decision making, and from 2018 to 2020 to provide the diagnostic inventories to generate decision making data.

Industry: Education PK-12 Districts and Schools

Project Type: Transition to data-driven school performance and online diagnoses and prescriptions.

Prepare school leaders, department heads, and faculty members to understand the value of performance data related to organization structures (teams) and adult performance that have an impact on student performance. Create confidence in using self-assessment and stakeholder assessment data and feedback to understand the impacts on student outcomes. Introduce a growing number of online diagnostic tools to help generate prescription options to save time in the development of effective improvement plans.

Instead of concentrating on the vertical aspects of curriculum content and standards within departments to gauge the effectiveness of programs and services, LE encouraged an examination of student and school interactions within and across each grade. LE and faculty members constructed survey instruments to assess two times per year student interest and commitment to success at school and in life. Subject content was a small part of the surveys; larger parts shed light on how students saw their personal goals and in and out-of-school behaviors influencing their performance at school. The “Ratcheting-Up Team” (the Data Team) with representatives from subject matter departments and from support services, special education, social work and counseling, technology, and administration was formed to review a variety of data and to recommend a combination of programs, services, and student experiences that help students be more productive and better prepared for life after high school.

The faculty, administrators, and board have become familiar with the administration and use of diagnostic inventories and survey data and reports that reveal performance strengths that sustain the organization and improvement needs that are close to or actually the root causes of adult and student underperformance. The full package of assessment reports became available in 2017 for team review and decision making and for filing district and state reports. Last year the faculty started a peer observation program within their department. Findings were shared within departments and across the faculty. It appears that half of the departments are ready to conduct peer observations across departments. Starting in 2017-2018, the foundation has been established to use a variety of performance data for informed decisions within department teams, by the Ratcheting-Up Team, by administrators, and by the board to develop and implement strategies likely to produce better adult and student performance outcomes. The board is interested in the use of data reports to make cost-benefit decisions. Administrators developed in 2018-2019 cost-effective decision-making criteria and used them to make programmatic purchase recommendations to the board.

Customer Feedback
“LeadershipEnergies has guided us in the use of paper and pen and online diagnostic instruments to gather meaningful-data from students, faculty, administrators, board members, parents, and the community in order to support our performance improvement efforts. The ninth through twelfth grade survey work has been especially helpful in understanding what does and does not motivate our students. Recently, LeadershipEnergies prepared for us cost-effective decision-making criteria that our board was anxious for us to use with purchase recommendations.”
—Ms. Susanne Canal, Director of Curriculum
—Mr. Edward Lloyd, Jr. Dean and Principal

*The case study is real and positions of personnel are accurate. Names of districts, schools, and personnel have been changed.

VitalInsightCollege Academy Charter High School (CACHS)
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State Department of Education

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The state DOE had identified over 30 Title I high schools in the state that had not achieved the minimal graduation rate standard. LeadershipEnergies (LE) was selected to conduct in five of those schools a needs assessment and root cause analysis to establish priorities that would become the basis for a new performance improvement plan covering school years 2019-2020 through 2021-2022.

Location: Five Public High Schools in and around a major city

Project Type: Assess current performance levels through the use of LE’s diagnostic inventory (VitalInsight™) and state’s protocols to determine strengths and vulnerabilities and establish priorities for future improvement.

The DOE wanted outside consultants, through a combination of campus visits, staff interviews, collection of hard and soft data, meetings with school stakeholder groups, discussions with school leaders and faculty members, and a search of related literature to prioritize performance needs that focused on the improvement of student outcomes. There were several challenges: 1) meet the expectations of the DOE to complete the assessment on time while completing all requirements of the project; 2) establish trust among school leaders and faculty members in a short amount of time; 3) collect sufficient data and information translatable into accurate findings; 4) organize and present data and findings which made sense to leaders and faculty members; 5) and use diagnostic tools that would corroborate and supplement survey and on-site gathered data and information.

Prior to immersing themselves for two days at each of the five schools, representatives of LeadershipEnergies (LE) arranged with schools’ leaders to administer VitalInsight™ (VI), an online technology that produces indispensable data to diagnose root causes of school underperformance. The process included collecting from five to ten stakeholder groups, their assessments of the existence and quality of best practices that drive higher organization, employee, and student learning. The reports were analyzed by LE personnel and distributed to school leaders before consultants arrived on campus. The reports guided interviews, reviews of local and state documents and reports, and the determination of priorities for improvement plans.

With data and information about each school provided by the state, local district, and school and with the data and information collected at each school site and by VI, consultants were confident that findings and recommended priorities were accurate and that an effective performance improvement plan would be established. After representatives from LE made their oral exit report to administrators and faculty members, many employees told LE representatives that the diagnoses presented were accurate, and if addressed, would produce significant improvements. After filing reports, LE was invited back to participate in the development of improvement plans and monitoring of their implementation.

Customer Feedback
“Thank you for providing great feedback to the schools.”
—State Department Personnel

*The case study is real and positions of personnel are accurate. Names of districts, schools, and personnel have been changed.

VitalInsightState Department of Education
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A Comparative Study of Four Suburban Philadelphia Grades K-12 School Districts

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The CEO of LeadershipEnergies (LE) was asked by another company to lead a study team of educators in an examination of four school districts to determine if the home district performance results were appropriate for the level of money spent. The answer to this question was determined by comparing: home district achievement with all students state-wide, with similar school districts state-wide, with three similar regional school districts, and a measure of the performance quality in 35 functions and systems common to all four districts in the region.

Industry: Education K-12 School Districts

Project Type: A study comparing achievement results, resources, performance quality, and funding in four similar suburban districts.

This study presented an unusual challenge through its major study question and four subordinate questions. The board wanted to know if the district received performance and outcome value for the money spent. The study was shaped by four subordinate questions.

  1. How effective are the administrative and management functions, including relationships among the board, administration, faculty, parents, and taxpayers?
  2. Does the district effectively staff and organize administrative services, including transportation, food service, purchasing, facilities, and security?
  3. Does the district offer the highest quality education services, including curriculum and instruction, mandated and non-mandated programs and services, vocational education, special education, program evaluation, data management, student assessment, and others?
  4. How effective is the district’s performance in the areas of financial operations, including payroll, budgeting, accounting, computer services, human resource management, and labor relations?

The solution required four different types of study methodologies.

  1. A comprehensive internal review of the employing district was conducted. Every classroom in the district was visited utilizing a planned checklist. Every administrator and supervisor was interviewed. All interviews included the same basic questions before interviewers pursued participant interests. Focus group meetings were held with board members, administrators, heads of departments, teachers, students, and parents. Internal reports and files were examined. Frequent follow-up meetings were held with key personnel.
  2. An 84 item survey was prepared for non-certificated employees, students, teachers, administrators, board members, general community, and local Chamber of Commerce members. Twenty-two hundred surveys were mailed and 850 scantron answer sheets were returned. Each item required two responses on a five point scale, ratings of present performance on the area described and ratings of desired performance in the future. These responses provided data for discrepancy analyses. Results were reported for the district and each school.
  3. Several visits were made to three similar regional school districts. Interviews were held with all administrators, supervisors, and department heads. Selected classroom, office, and departments were visited by study team members. Those interviewed were given an opportunity to rate the performance of district and school functions and systems. Since the names of these three districts were not going to be revealed, the study team received very reliable data.
  4. The state department of education supplied student performance data in all districts and sub-divided the data by socio-economic groups so that comparisons with the employing district could be made. Financial and other data, such as cost per pupil; tax effort, student attendance, graduation rates, class sizes, and much more were available for all school districts. More detailed data was supplied by the DOE about the four regional districts. Data about administrator and faculty member ages, degree levels, experience in education, and others collected by the state were made available to the study team. (All the data used were published by the state.)

    The study team met frequently to review the data collected by members carrying out their study responsibilities and slowly the findings took shape. From the four methods of collecting data, there was substantial agreement about what strengths existed, what concerns needed to be addressed, and what efforts could be made to improve performance by optimizing available resources.

Although the study team found many performance strengths in the employing district and several performance areas recognized as best in-class in the performance comparisons with the other three districts, overall, the study team found that the district was not receiving full value for the money that was annually invested in the local school district. Specific recommendations were made to address weaknesses found in district and school performance for each of the four subordinate questions in the challenge section above.

The study team recommended that the district implement best practices in seven areas to improve student achievement.

  1. Board, Superintendent, and Administrator Leadership—to connect all improvement efforts
  2. Frequent Measurement, Analysis, and Reporting of Student Performance—to understand student learning progress and needs for lesson planning
  3. Human Resource Excellence—promoted through professional development and changes to labor negotiation processes
  4. Quality Assurance of Curricula, Student Personnel Services, and Business/Finance Services Programs—provide support for administrator and teacher decisions and for parent and student decisions
  5. Stakeholder Satisfaction—annually assess parent, student, and community satisfaction and report results to employees and students
  6. Strategic Planning to Improve Organization Effectiveness—to engage stakeholders in the planning and execution of plans to improve district and school performance
  7. Technology—expand the use of technology for instructional and administrative purposes

Customer Feedback
“We were not comfortable seeing ourselves as underperforming as was described in the study report. However, the accumulated evidence and the comprehensiveness of the recommendations helped us focus on the characteristics of leadership that board members wanted in their next superintendent and on the priorities which got us to performance levels we thought were appropriate for us.”
—Board Member, 1996-2005

“The study became larger and more complex after the agreement was signed with the board. I thank Dr. Esbrandt for agreeing to manage the project and leading us in a very detailed study that uncovered key practices that influenced administrator, faculty member, and student performance.”
—Matt Lionel, President, Educational Associates, Inc.

VitalInsightA Comparative Study of Four Suburban Philadelphia Grades K-12 School Districts
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