• James Townsend

School Board Candidates answer questions from Beacon Staff and Readers


Seven candidates are running for three seats on the Portland Public School Board of Education. The top three vote getters will serve a six-year term.

The Beacon reached out to our readers for questions they wanted to ask the candidates. We posed these reader submitted questions, along with a few from Beacon contributors, to all seven candidates. A courtesy photo of each candidate, along with their responses, are provided below. The question is listed in bold, followed by the candidates response in plain text.

The election date is November 3rd, but absentee and mail in ballots are already arriving in mailboxes.


Jonathan Bair



1. Why are you running for the Portland Public School Board?

Since moving to Portland in 2013 I’ve been passionate about the people and the area and tried to be involved as much as I can. I was a volunteer with the Portland Main Street program on the Promotions and Marketing committee, planning and working events such as the Portland Block Party, Wine the Walk, and Holiday Fest. The past few years I’ve been involved with the Portland Community Theater and the Portland Civic Players and have loved the opportunity to interact closely with the community. Utilizing my experiences while serving on the Portland Public School Board will allow me to act as a voice for the people of Portland and ensure our schools continue to provide quality educational experiences for our children.

2. Do you have children in the Portland school system? If so, what grade(s)?

My wife and I have a current Senior, Freshman, and Kindergartener in Portland Schools, and a 3 year old who can’t wait to start! As you can see, the future of Portland Schools is going to be important to us for years to come!

3. Do you have any family members or relatives employed by PPS?

None of my direct family or close relatives are employed by PPS.

4. What do you see as the board’s roles and responsibilities?

The most important responsibility of the board is to act as a representative for the community. A board member has a bilateral responsibility to inform the public of issues affecting the schools and be the public’s voice in shaping the future direction of the district. Beyond this, the board is responsible for ensuring the district is acting in an appropriate educational and administrative manner and utilizing taxpayer funds to the fullest.

5. What do you think are the most important issues facing Portland Public Schools?

In the immediate short-term, the COVID pandemic should rightly be at the forefront of board discussions. Retaining a quality educational experience while protecting our community will likely be the focus of board meetings for many months. However, as the pandemic wanes and the board phases into a more traditional role, I’d like to see an improvement to the overall performance of PPS. While we are above the state average, we lag behind schools with similar characteristics in several key areas, such as our graduation rate, attendance, and advanced coursework. I believe utilizing and improving some of the framework being created for virtual enrollment will be able to help address these key issues.

6. Do you have any particular issue you especially care about?

Portland has had many accomplishments the community is proud of, and overall I am passionate regarding what the school district offers our community. Beyond support for our students, I have a strong background in the arts, and if possible would love to support PPS in this area to the best of my ability.

7. What do you think the PPS should be doing differently?

As I indicated above, Portland has lagged behind schools with similar characteristics in several key areas (attendance, graduation rate, advanced coursework). Numerous new tools are now at our disposal (implemented as a response to COVID) to address these concerns. Once the immediate threat of the pandemic has passed, I would like to see Portland continue to improve upon our virtual abilities to better assist disenfranchised students and to offer additional support and experiences for advanced coursework.

8. What’s one thing PPS could do differently to improve its outcomes?

I’d like to see Portland develop virtual instruction pertaining to real-world application. Specifically, in our district we have many highly respected and successful business owners/CEO’s and trades members. The requirements of traditional in-person schooling have made it difficult in the past for teachers to provide direct real-world experience and education from such individuals in a manner to which students could relate. The ability to utilize virtual platforms allows us to capture this experience/instruction from anyone, in any location, at any time, in a multitude of digital formats. This real-world educational information can then be packaged and distributed to students in a manner students can relate to and learn from in a profound and impactful way. Gone are the days of rolling a TV into a room and playing a video – students can now virtually walk through a work day at a career they’re interested in and experience learning on a completely different level.

9. Where are you employed? Or what is your occupation?

I have worked for the past 13 years at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The majority of that time was spent serving Ionia County residents directly with a focus on helping families gain self-sufficiency. I now work for Medicaid Provider Outreach and Education, ensuring Medicaid Providers have the necessary resources and training to ensure a smooth billing experience for beneficiaries.

10. What specific skills do you bring to the Board?

While in the camping industry, I was part of a team which developed and taught an accredited outdoor experiential education program, with courses heavily geared toward earth sciences and biology. I’m currently involved on a daily basis with in-person (prior to COVID) and virtual training of Medicaid Providers pertaining to State and Federal initiatives and billing requirements. In the short-term, my experience with State medical requirements pertaining to the COVID pandemic will be beneficial in implementing and revising PPS’ medical and social distancing guidelines. On an ongoing basis, the district will benefit from my technical and communications expertise pertaining to planning and developing training materials.

11. What is your educational background?

I studied Youth Ministry through Indiana Wesleyan University in the late 90’s and subsequently worked full-time for several years in the Christian camping industry. After changing the direction of my career, I enrolled in 2013 via Cornerstone’s adult education program while working full-time to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Business Management. Outside of a traditional school I subscribe to the concept of Continuous Learning, striving to gain in-depth knowledge of a broad variety of subjects.

12. Have you served on the board of any other companies or organizations? If so, what were those companies/organizations?

I served on the board of the Michigan Council of Social Service Workers (MCSSW) from 2010-2012; originally as a voting delegate for Ionia County, then as the 2nd Vice President of the MCSSW Executive Board and the Medicaid and State Funded Programs Chair. MCSSW advocates on behalf of at-risk families and individuals in Michigan through multi-sector policy change, coalition building, collaborative program demonstrations and community-wide dissemination of information about local and statewide needs of at-risk families and individuals.

13. Have you ever held an elected public position before? If so, what was that?

I have not previously held an elected public position.

14. How many PPS school board meetings did you attend in-person or virtually in 2019?

I did not attend a school board meeting in 2019, however I have stayed regularly updated on the board’s actions through the meeting minutes posted online.

15. What are the priority issues facing the School Board during this pandemic and how would you address them if elected?

The biggest concern for the entire community during this pandemic is how to ensure our students are getting a quality educational experience, while at the same time keeping the students, teachers, support staff, and community safe. The district has done a superb job so far dealing with additional cleaning requirements, social distancing requirements, and developing a virtual learning environment from scratch. There are always lessons that can be learned from what has already been implemented; the district should now begin to build on the virtual education foundation to ensure Portland isn’t just responding to this crisis as issues occur but is developing a useful and effective virtual environment that can be utilized in the future. In the same manner, the school should use this experience to solidify a seamless disaster recovery plan so our students don’t bear an unintentional educational gap when unexpected events occur.

16. How would you respond to community members with their concerns and questions about the district's response to the COVID-19 pandemic?

The school board should act as the community’s voice to the schools; as such it’s important to ensure board members are actively listening to and relaying these concerns. At the same time, the board should ensure it is acting in an educated (and not knee-jerk) manner when the community has concerns. Board members should always be prepared to lay out the reasoning for why the district is taking a certain action, and also always be prepared to change that action if necessary based on reliable information and the community’s preference for the district.

17. What are your thoughts on how Portland Public School is doing with its programming for Special Education, Alternative and Adult Education, Home School Partnership, and Early College? Would you recommend any changes to the current programming?

PPS offers well-rounded opportunities for students with special needs. As technology advances, I believe we can utilize it to enhance and continue to support all students’ education and understanding in this area.

The district comprises many students who could benefit from alternative education; this is one area the district could focus on to increase the graduation rate. The educational opportunities offered should be expanded on, and the online footprint increased to ensure those in our community who can best benefit from alternative education can easily access the information they need to enroll.

Given the issues surrounding COVID-19, the district benefits from a strong home school partnership. Unfortunately, the only available information regarding this partnership can only be obtained currently by contacting the district directly. The PPS web page discussing the partnership currently states the page has been disabled and is outdated, and the single social media site advocating it has only 23 followers and no information regarding the partnership (aside from directing to the PPS web page, which again is disabled). As with alternative education, this is an area that should be revised to make information more easily available to the public.

Portland’s Early College options are fantastic opportunities for students. The district should continue to build on current collegiate partnerships to the best of their ability.

18. What is one goal you hope to achieve as a PPS school Board Member?

As mentioned in earlier answers, I’d hope to be able to research and implement programs and/or practices to help increase the graduation rate and decrease the absentee rate. With my passion for the arts, I’d love to be able to support Portland arts programs in any way possible. I’d also fight to maintain or improve on the ways the district already shines; we have a fantastic district, while I believe there is room for improvement in some areas I see the entire school developing into a leader in many areas over the next decade.

19. Why should voters choose you as a Board Member?

Beyond the passion and experience I bring to the table, I want to be the person who you can go to and have your voice heard. Voters can choose three board members in the upcoming election, and I’d be honored to be one of your choices. Everyone should have a “friend on the school board I can ask about this.” I’d love to be that friend for you!

20. Is there anything else you’d like to share?

If you’d like to know more, get updates on school activities/information, or ask me a question, check out my page on facebook! www.facebook.com/JonathanBairForPortland


Anthony W. Edwards


1. Why are you running for the Portland Public School Board?

I decided to run because I believe it’s important to give back to my community. I want to be able to share by experience to improve the future of our students and teachers.

2. Do you have children in the Portland school system? If so, what grade(s)?

I currently have one son in fourth grade. I also have a three-year-old who will be entering Little Raiders soon.

3. Do you have any family members or relatives employed by PPS?

I currently do not have any relatives employed by PPS.

4. What do you see as the board’s roles and responsibilities?

The board’s responsibility to establish policies for the best interest of our students and teachers’ future for which our superintended to uphold. We as a group need to be vigilant in how these policies are impacting everyone involved.

5. What do you think are the most important issues facing Portland Public Schools?

Currently we need to focus on battling Covid-19. We need to keep all our students and teachers safe while ensuring top-notch education. We also need to do more for our special-needs students. We need to upgrade our curriculum, in order to give these students that best chance to achieve after graduation. I also believe we need to focus on our students and teachers’ mental health. I will expand on that with the next question.

6. Do you have any issue you especially care about?

I truly believe our students and teachers’ mental health should be addressed. Before Covid-19, the country was dealing with mass shootings. I believe we need to strengthen our ability to have therapists easily accessible for all our students and teachers. I am a firm believe that in order to correctly protect our students and teachers, we need to give them a safe place to deal with their own personal issues.

7. What do you think the PPS should be doing differently?

I believe PPS has been an amazing school for my son. I do not have any major complaints but do see where we can improve. I have never believed in the phrase “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it”. I believe it’s our responsibility to always be future forward thinking. We need to listen to the voices that are sometimes ignored, our students and teachers. The only way we can ensure we are doing everything possible, is to listen to the individuals whom our policies affect.

8. What’s one thing PPS could do differently to improve its outcomes?

Listen. We need to listen to our students and teachers. We as a board should have an open-door policy when it comes to new ideas. If elected, I will encourage individuals to approach me to share their ideas. I will not be working only a few hours a month. I will have a mindset that this will be a full-time job to improve PPS.

9. Where are you employed? Or what is your occupation?

I currently work as an Investment Accountant for the State of Michigan. I am also a Board of Director for Astera Credit Union as their Treasurer.

10. What specific skills do you bring to the Board?

I have numerous years of financial experience, ranging from reading a financial statement to budgeting. I am an extremely driven individual who will fight for what is best for PPS. I am always thinking about what we can do better. I am future minded and will always try to move PPS forward.

11. What is your educational background?

I graduated Olivet College, Cum Laude, in 2014. I was the President of the Accounting Students Organization my senior year. While at Olivet College I’ve earned the following awards: Outstanding Senior Award, Pete Schmidt Memorial Scholar-Athlete Award (2nd to every win this award at Olivet College), Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year, and Capital-One Academic All-District Award.

12. Have you served on the board of any other companies or organizations? If so, what were those companies/organizations?

I sat on the Board for Association of Government Accounts for four years (I’ve won three awards). I currently sit on the Board for Astera Credit Union as their Treasurer.

13. Have you ever held an elected public position before? If so, what was that?

I have never held an elected public position, but I am excited for the opportunity to do so.

14. How many PPS school board meetings did you attend in-person or virtually in 2019?

I was unable to attend any board meetings last year due to scheduling. I do have years of experience sitting in board meetings and have no concerns with smoothly transitioning into a school board meeting.

15. What are the priority issues facing the School Board during this pandemic and how would you address them if elected?

The biggest issue is keeping our students and teachers safe and in class. I do believe that the current board has done a wonderful job maneuvering around very difficult situation. We need to have the parents diligent in screening their children before sending them into our schools. Our teachers need to continue to encourage students to social distance and wear their masks. We need a solid plan to transition students back to virtual learning if an outbreak occurs. This is a very difficult time we are living through and the biggest thing we can ask is for patience. We are all trying our best and we all want the same thing.

16. How would you respond to community members with their concerns and questions about the district's response to the COVID-19 pandemic?

The best thing to do is to keep the politics out of it. We need to strictly deal with the science of the pandemic. We are all trying to keep everyone healthy. We want each student and teacher to be able to go home safely each day. We don’t want to be the reason an individual needs hospitalization. We understand everyone’s concerns and at the end of the day, we all want the same thing.

17. What are your thoughts on how Portland Public School is doing with its programming for Special Education, Alternative and Adult Education, Home School Partnership, and Early College? Would you recommend any changes to the current programming?

My son is in some special education classes at Westwood and his best friend is also in those classes. I am a strong believer that we need to have a strong focus on our special education program. I truly believe we need to reevaluate how we are teaching these programs. Like everything else, we want to stay ahead of the curb and be forward thinking. I believe it’s a good idea to make sure we are giving our best when it comes to the education we are teaching.

18. What is one goal you hope to achieve as a PPS school Board Member?

My main goal is ensuring the future is bright for our students and teachers. I want each of our students to pursue their post-graduation goals with a high level of education and confidence. I want our teachers to enjoy coming to work each day be able to give their students the best education possible. Portland should be a place everyone is proud to call home.

19. Why should voters choose you as a Board Member?

I am educated, driven, and passionate about everything I’ve discussed above and more. I give 100% on everything I do, and I do not give up. I will continue to fight for what students and teachers are asking for. I encourage every student, teacher, parent, or community member to share your voice, because I promise I will always listen. I promise to give you honest and heartful answers to all question and concerns.

20. Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I am truly excited for this opportunity. I have volunteered for so many amazing causes and I can’t wait to share my experience with PPS. I promise to be a strong presence on the School Board for all our community. I promise to be there when times get tough. I promise to be honest and respectful. I promise to be the best decision you’ve ever made. Thank you!


Beth Goodman




1. Why are you running for the Portland Public School Board

As I wrap up my first term on the school board as the Board Vice President, I feel consistency and experience are important especially while we are facing COVID challenges and completing bond work. There has been so much information on COVID and the changes it has brought to our schools. I’ve worked with a great team on the board to help navigate and implement the COVID challenges and the numerous state regulations. I believe my experience and knowledge are essential in continuing to provide safe and robust schools for our children and community.

2. Do you have children in the Portland school system? If so, what grade(s)?

My youngest daughter Alayna is senior. My other daughters Bryn & Cally graduated from PHS in 2016 and 2019 respectively and are both in college.

3. Do you have any family members or relatives employed by PPS?

I have a cousin who teaches outside of our district whose husband is a teacher at Portland.

4. What do you see as the board’s roles and responsibilities?

Board members are charged with creating vision, creating structure, developing accountability and advocating for children. It’s my responsibility as a member of the board to have a shared vision, to hire and evaluate the superintendent, and be involved in planning, goal setting and evaluating progress. I’m responsible for a strong financial budget that positively impacts our students and our community. Much of the work of the board is done inside vision and policy, but an important distinction is that the board does not run the school or carry out policy but ensures that the school is run well with the policies that are set. The vision and policies are also where we are able to make the school a reflection of the community and include priorities and values of our community.

5. What do you think are the most important issues facing Portland Public Schools?

The most important issues facing our school today include how to best educate our children with their safety and academic, social and emotional needs at the forefront. We also face technology challenges with ensuring all children have access to reliable internet. Through our current bond work and with other budget dollars we have been fortunate to be able to provide devices for all students who need them during this academic school year. We also purchased a learning management system which will allow us to manage virtual education for all students when necessary. Learning how to effectively teach and support virtually is new to much of our district and we are working hard to figure out how to best do that. We will continue supporting staff and training student and families how to best face the challenges and opportunities with virtual learning and to succeed in this new environment. Finally, successfully completing the bond work that was approved by voters continues to be important.

6. Do you have any particular issue you especially care about?

How to best safely educate and meet all the needs of our students, ensuring access to technology and completing the approved bond work are all important current issues. It has been necessary to re-prioritize due to the pandemic to figure out how to most effectively educate our children. And while priorities will change again in the future many issues are important and we should be working daily to get better and be better on all issues.

7. What do you think the PPS should be doing differently?

PPS should continue to have a vision to be a leading district and seek innovative ways and new ideas to educate all our children and prepare them for bright futures. We are currently learning how to effectively educate and support virtually when throughout our history most of what we have done has been in-person instruction. Fortunately, we have offered online courses for a while and have staff with experience so we will use their knowledge and experience to improve outcomes now that virtual education is more prevalent. While we are a successful district we should continue to develop ways to better serve and prepare all students including curriculum alignment which is ongoing and innovative programs such as work based learning at all levels, trade and industry education, early college, work study and home school community partnerships.

8. What’s one thing PPS could do differently to improve its outcomes?

PPS should continue to learn how to improve outcomes with virtual education as this is new to many in our community. Community input and communication is taking different forms with social media channels and we will continue to create more opportunities for communication and celebration of all of the positive things happening at our schools.

9. Where are you employed? Or what is your occupation?

I work for Accident Fund as a Regional Director. I have worked in the insurance industry in management, marketing, training and territory development for the past 25 years. My business experience and dedication to children has allowed me to make decisions based on business needs as well as the needs of our district.

10. What specific skills do you bring to the Board?

I currently serve as the Vice President of the Board and as the Chair of the Operations Committee which handles buildings, grounds, transportation and safety. I also serve on the Policy and Community/Public Relations Committee and as an alternate on the Board Negotiations Committee. My degrees and experience in business, insurance, negotiation, and marketing gives me a perspective on the business needs of the district. There is a significant learning curve to be a school board member and I have attended hours of board member training courses each year and school board conventions to learn what is needed to be an educated and effective board member. I am currently in the process of earning a Certified Board Member certificate from the Michigan Association of School Boards.

11. What is your educational background?

After graduation from Portland High School I earned a bachelor's degree from MSU and then completed my MBA after my kids were all in Portland schools. I am a believer in continuing education and am currently in the process of earning CBA (Certified Board Member) which is a training program for school board members and the CPCU insurance designation.

12. Have you served on the board of any other companies or organizations? If so, what were those companies/organizations?

I served as the President and Vice President of the Portland Schools PTO before running for the school board.

13. Have you ever held an elected public position before? If so, what was that?

I was elected to the school board in the election of November 2014 beginning my first six year term in January 2015.

14. How many PPS school board meetings did you attend in-person or virtually in 2019

I attended on average two formal school board meetings per month in 2019 in addition to many special committee meetings to review bond decisions, do bond work walk- throughs, etc., to approve new school policies and adopt policy updates, and various other topics that needed attention. In 2019 all meetings that were attended were in-person.

15. What are the priority issues facing the School Board during this pandemic and how would you address them if elected?

The priority during this pandemic is the same as our top priority has always been which is how to best educate our children with their safety and needs at the forefront. This pandemic has changed everything about how we do that but the priority is the same. Our district has worked hard to create a plan that meets the academic, social and emotional needs of our students. The dedication of our administrators, teachers and staff have been unwavering. We will continue with the plan that has been set out and make modifications when necessary to ensure we are best meeting student needs while keeping them safe.

16. How would you respond to community members with their concerns and questions about the district's response to the COVID-19 pandemic?

As I do today, I will continue to listen to understand the concerns and perspectives of our community members. I appreciate hearing various perspectives and learning from others. I tell the community member who is best to address the question or concern or take the questions raised or information gathered to the appropriate person or to the board when necessary.

17. What are your thoughts on how Portland Public School is doing with its programming for Special Education, Alternative and Adult Education, Home School Partnership, and Early College? Would you recommend any changes to the current programming?

I am proud of the innovation of our district with the programming of Special Education, Alternative and Adult Education, Home School Partnership, and Early College. For the past six years I have been a part of setting the vision and policy for implementation of these programs. I am proud of this work and would like to see us continue to improve on these programs as well as be open to other programs to ensure we are meeting the needs of all of our students to be successful in life as well as meeting the needs of our community.

18. What is one goal you hope to achieve as a PPS school Board Member?

My goal is to provide consistency, and use my knowledge, education and experience as a board member to continue the successful path we are on providing education during this challenging time.

19. Why should voters choose you as a Board Member?

I would be honored to continue to serve on the school board. Experience, consistency, and knowledge are important as we work to successfully educate during the pandemic. The current board of education has a great working relationship and mutual respect which allows us to learn from each other and get a lot of work done. We are in the middle of implementing bond improvements with numerous stakeholders which is important to our community. It takes a significant amount of time and training to be an effective board member. While diversity of thought and experience is very important a turnover of almost half of the board may prevent the board from being as productive and effective as we need to be at this crucial time. My dedication to the school over the past six years on the school board and for years before that as a board member on the PTO, member of the PAA, team parent for several organizations, and coach at the Varsity, JV and Jr Raider level has shown a long experience of supporting our schools and has given me years of experience.

20. Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I would appreciate your continued confidence in the work that I have done on the school board for the past six years. Placing a priority on the knowledge, experience and dedication that I have allows us to have more consistency on the board to continue with the success we are having and allows me to complete the work that we are in the middle of with the district vision and bond work. I welcome the new members that we will have on the board and the new ideas and experiences that come with that change. We have a wonderful board working relationship that allows us to have good conversations and share ideas, and I would be proud to continue working with this team.


Andrew M. Huhn



1. Why are you running for the Portland Public School Board?

As a Portland native, I want to be active and give back to my community; joining the School Board is a profound and impactful way to do that here in Portland.

2. Do you have children in the Portland school system? If so, what grade(s)?

I have two children in the school district. They are in 10th grade and 8th grade.

3. Do you have any family members or relatives employed by PPS?

I do not have any immediate family members working for PPS at this time. I have had family who retired from PPS though.

4. What do you see as the board’s roles and responsibilities?

The School Board provides oversight to the administration putting the ‘Public’ in public schools. We set the vision for the district and the structure for the administration to accomplish that vision.

5. What do you think are the most important issues facing Portland Public Schools?

The most important issue is the safety of our students, staff, and administrators. We need to continue to allow a quality education for all students and tend to their mental health needs.

6. Do you have any particular issue you especially care about?

I would like to see the School Board adopt a strategic plan for the district and evolve the curriculum into a Learner-Centric model.

7. What do you think the PPS should be doing differently?

There isn’t much that I feel PPS should do differently, but I think the last year has taught everyone that more things in our daily lives can be done virtually. I’d like to see more virtual options for our traditional students.

8. What’s one thing PPS could do differently to improve its outcomes?

As stated previously, I think getting our traditional students more familiar with virtual learning environments will prepare them for their future as they either go to college or start a career.

9. Where are you employed? Or what is your occupation?

Respectfully, I would prefer to keep my employer anonymous. I currently work as a certified IT Project Manager for a company in Lansing.

10. What specific skills do you bring to the Board?

I believe all voices need to be heard for decisions to be made. As a Board Member, I provide collaboration and facilitated leadership.

11. What is your educational background?

I received a Master’s and Bachelor’s Degree from Central Michigan University (Fire Up!) as well as an Associate’s Degree from the Community College of the Air Force. I have earned approximately a half dozen professional designations including the Project Management Professional (PMP).

12. Have you served on the board of any other companies or organizations? If so, what were those companies/organizations?

I currently serve as a Board Member for Portland Public Schools, Trustee on the Education Trust Fund for St. Joseph Parish, Member on the Planning Commission for Portland Township, and the Senior Vice Commander for VFW Post 4090 here in Portland.

13. Have you ever held an elected public position before? If so, what was that?

I have never held elected office.

14. How many PPS school board meetings did you attend in-person or virtually in 2019?

I attended approximately six meetings in person during the 2019/2020 school year. I have attended every meeting during this school year since June.

15. What are the priority issues facing the School Board during this pandemic and how would you address them if elected?

The biggest priority is safety for students, staff, and administrators while still providing excellent education. If elected, I would continue to work with the other board members and Superintendent Heath to ensure we are safely and effectively teaching our students.

16. How would you respond to community members with their concerns and questions about the district's response to the COVID-19 pandemic?

I believe parents in our district should be proud of what we have implemented so far. PPS has gone above and beyond the recommendations from the Ionia County Health Department. The introduction of block scheduling has allowed us to remain open for in-person learning, in spite of a few positive COVID tests, while neighboring districts were forced into a virtual only environment when they experienced a few positive cases.

17. What are your thoughts on how Portland Public School is doing with its programming for Special Education, Alternative and Adult Education, Home School Partnership, and Early College? Would you recommend any changes to the current programming?

I think PPS programming for nontraditional learning is beneficial and helpful. Resources are available to help everyone get the quality education they deserve in the way that is best for them. I would not recommend any changes at this time.

18. What is one goal you hope to achieve as a PPS school Board Member?

I would like to incorporate a Learner-Centric curriculum for our students. I would also like to continue the integration with Brightspace as the districts Learning Management System., as this will allow us to easily transition between in-person and virtual learning.

19. Why should voters choose you as a Board Member?

The Board selected me as an interim member in July. I have a good working relationship with those on the board and I’ve had a chance to work with them on several challenging issues. I believe consistency in the board membership is important during these unprecedented times.

20. Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Having grown up in this community, Portland is very important to me. It’s the reason I chose to raise my family here. My goal is to keep this community and our schools moving in a positive direction.


Nancyann P. Lufkin




1. Why are you running for the Portland Public School Board?

I am running for school board to bring a fresh point of view. I am one of the only candidates that has direct experience working in a school and understands the impact of decisions made by school board members. I have lived in Portland for over 30 years, my husband and I feel fortunate that we were able to raise our children in this community. All three of our children attended PPS, and our youngest is a senior this year. PPS has offered our family so many educational opportunities including; building relationships with staff, participation in advanced placement classes/ dual enrollment, service opportunities, and sports activities. My work experience has been with children who struggle in the academic environment. I am running for school board to provide a voice to the advanced learners as well as those whose are not always understood by the district.

2. Do you have children in the Portland school system? If so, what grade(s)?

I have two children who have graduated from Portland Public School. My youngest is a senior this school year.

3. Do you have any family members or relatives employed by PPS?

No

4. What do you see as the board’s roles and responsibilities?

I see the school board’s primary job to oversee the educational programs that are being provided by our district. This includes making sound financial decisions to support these programs. The board needs to seek information from administration, make personnel decisions and demonstrate sound financial decisions for the district.

5. What do you think are the most important issues facing Portland Public Schools?

My hope for the future of PPS is that we become a district that continues to be financially sound, provides flexible and quality education, and has a staff that is excited to be a part of a new approach to providing education to our youth. As online education is increasing, I plan to challenge the staff of PPS to continue seeking ways to offer more relevant virtual enrollment opportunities to students. I also plan to focus on community outreach being done by the district and how we are ensuring all students have wifi access, or computers to complete work schools are assigning. I would further challenge staff and administration to demonstrate how they are providing outreach services to our most vulnerable families, including those with special educational needs. As a district we need to support the needs of our staff in order to provide an innovative educational format

6. Do you have any particular issue you especially care about?

There has been so much focus lately on the daunting outlook for schools, I am concerned how this is impacting the staff directly responsible for providing education to children. As a direct service provider responsible for implementing decisions made by the school board, I understand the impact of the decisions being made by this board. The PPS staff need to be supported by the school board, and respected for the direct work that they do. I feel the tasks we are facing are an opportunity for PPS to be creative, work with the community to address students needs, and create innovative means of reaching all our students.

7. What do you think the PPS should be doing differently?

I feel the primary focus for the school board is providing a fluid educational plan for the 2020-21 school year. This plan will need to encompass safety for staff and students, provide quality education to all students, while being proactive in alternative approaches to educational programming. The board needs to consider how different educational plans will impact students and staff staffing with illness. As a board member I plan to be proactive in preparing for further funding cuts and plan accordingly so that Portland continues to be a financially sound district. Providing quality education will be imperative to continued enrollment in our district, further impacting our budget. We need to give families a reason to choose PPS. I feel the board needs to work closely with the superintendent and administration to review and support the needs of staff and students throughout this school year. Our work this school year will set the tone for further educational planning for the next four years.

8. What’s one thing PPS could do differently to improve its outcomes?

One area PPS could continue to build on is communicating effectively with parents regarding decisions that are made by the district. Weekly updates from building administration will be imperative as information is changing so quickly. During these difficult times, parents are overwhel and staying informed will keep everyone aware and supported as we work through this pandemic.

9. Where are you employed? Or what is your occupation?

I am a licenced clinical social worker and I am currently employed with the Ionia County Intermediate School District as a school social worker. Establishing myself in the community has given me the opportunity to develop long term professional relationships and foster collaboration with parents, school staff, and community agencies.

10. What specific skills do you bring to the Board?

As a school social worker, I have first hand experience with the new challenges that COVID has brought to our staff and students. I see my experience in the school setting giving me an understanding of the difficult task that our school board is facing with tough decisions needing to be made financially and academically in our district. I feel the school board needs to partner with the Superintendent as they work collaboratively to navigate through the impact of COVID on students and staff.

11. What is your Educational background?

I completed my undergraduate degree at Michigan State University and earned a Masters Degree in Social Work from Grand Valley State University.

12. Have you served on the board of any other companies or organizations? If so, what were those companies/organizations?

I am currently Secretary of the Ionia County Council Against the Abuse and Neglect of Children (ICAN) . This board is served by community and agency members who make financial decisions that impact our most vulnerable children in the county.

13. Have you ever held an elected public position before? If so, what was that?

No

14. How many PPS school board meetings did you attend in-person or virtually in 2019?

0. My child is a varsity athlete and there is an expectation that parents attend PAA meetings. Unfortunately, the PPS School Board meetings are the same time as PAA meetings.

15. What are the priority issues facing the School Board during this pandemic and how would you address them if elected?

Overall I feel that PPS has done an incredible job implementing an educational plan to address the needs of our community in these ever-changing times. One of the primary issues this school year is keeping students and staff safe while providing quality education for all students. The board needs to consider how different educational plans will impact student/ staff illness, need for closures and the impact on the financial standing of the district. As a board member I plan to be proactive in preparing for further funding sources, restructuring so that Portland continues to be a financially sound district.

16. How would you respond to community members with their concerns and questions about the district's response to the COVID-19 pandemic?

I feel it is important to listen for understanding, while being cognizant that decisions are made for the district as a whole. The loudest voice needs to be heard, but cannot be the only voice making important safety and educational decisions for the entire school district. As a parent, I empathize with concerns for the safety of students and staff, while trying to uphold educational integrity in our district. I feel that board decisions need to be collaborative, looked at from multiple angles, and reflect the current and long term needs of PPS. As a social worker I have experience listening, respectfully disagreeing with an individual, and being aware of any confidentiality issues that may arise. If approached by a vocal parent in the community, I would support decisions made by the board and outline the process on how it was reached.

17. What are your thoughts on how Portland Public School is doing with its programming for Special Education, Alternative and Adult Education, Home School Partnership, and Early College? Would you recommend any changes to the current programming?

My experience as a special education provider has always been positive with Portland Public Schools. PPS staff have been willing to work collaboratively to meet students' IEPC needs and goals. As a parent in PPS, all three of my children have benefited from Portland's relationship with Lansing Community College. My children selected dual enrollment at LCC to supplement their interests and education. I look forward to staff exploring more options that may become available to students, especially with online options becoming more prominent. My youngest daughter, Maura, participated in ISHALL through PPS and Michigan State University. This allowed her to further enrich her Language Arts interest by attending Michigan State University one day per week. This was a fantastic opportunity for her, to enrich her curriculum and was fully supported by PPS staff and administration. I am not as familiar with home school partnership or alternative education within PPS, but I look forward to the challenge of learning about how this process impacts families within PPS.

18. What is one goal you hope to achieve as a PPS school Board Member?

During my time on the school board I plan to work on developing public partnerships to encourage practical life skills for our youth. I feel it is vital for our youth to be prepared for the ever changing job market. In my experience, I have found high school students may excel with academic skills, but do not have the softer skills of engaging appropriately with coworkers, self advocating, or following complex directions. Classes currently offered at PPS are not enough to help students develop these skills. While a member of the school board I would challenge staff and administration to create opportunities for our youth to develop career shadowing programs, job interview skills, and utilizing the vast array of independent business owners in our community as resources for the students. The Career Fair and college visits are a good start, but our students need more support and opportunities on a consistent basis, and from a younger age. Not all of our students will be attending college, but they all need to be prepared to be contributing members of the workforce. As a school district we have an obligation to teach job/ life skills to our students long before high school so our students are prepared for college, career, trade or military paths.

19. Why should voters choose you as a Board Member?

I have the unique position of being a parent of three children who have attended Portland Public Schools, as well as being a direct service provider for a local school district. I understand the importance and direct impact of decisions made by our school board. As a school board member I plan to work collaboratively with the superintendent, while being mindful of the needs of all students throughout our district.

20. Is there anything else you’d like to share?

My experience in Ionia County as a school social worker has given me first hand experience with the new challenges that COVID has brought to our staff and students. My daily work in the school setting has also given me an understanding of the difficult task that our school board is facing with tough decisions needing to be made financially and academically in our district.

Joe Polasek




1. Why are you running for the Portland Public School Board?

I have always been impressed with the Portland community, specifically how the people support each other. This city has a great deal of Raider Pride, and it shows. Honestly, it is one of the traits that led us to look for a home here in the district. Since moving here, I have looked for a way that I could positively contribute to our city. As I considered my options, running for the Board of Education seemed like the best fit and I feel like I have a lot to offer. My work at the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) across multiple offices means that I am uniquely positioned provide a state-level perspective to our local school proceedings and my current position as the State E-Rate Coordinator (focusing on broadband to schools) means that I have a unique understanding of the inequities of spotty broadband service and uneven deployment as well as their effect on education. I wanted to find a way to positively impact my community as so many others have and do.

2. Do you have children in the Portland school system? If so, what grade(s)?

I have three children enrolled in the public schools- a sixth grader, a kindergartner, and a Little Raider (pre-k).

3. Do you have any family members or relatives employed by PPS?

Yes- my wife, Chandra Polasek, teaches English, Communications, and Drama at Portland High School. She also directs the high school shows (plays/musicals) and manages the high school auditorium.

4. What do you see as the board’s roles and responsibilities?

The board should develop a vision, set a framework for realizing that vision, and develop accountability metrics. The board then works through the superintendent to achieve that vision while holding the superintendent accountable for hitting the implementation metrics. While the superintendent steers the proverbial ship, the board plots the course.

5. What do you think are the most important issues facing Portland Public Schools?

If you asked me any other year I would probably give you a different answer. This year, the most important issue facing all of us is the safety of our students, staff, and community at large. That said, Portland Public Schools is well positioned, even with the uncertainty of 2020, to not only survive but thrive after a return to “normal”.

6. Do you have any particular issue you especially care about?

To me, ensuring our students leave school "college-and-career" ready is a must. High school graduation rates alone do not tell the story of student success. Tracking, as best we can, post-secondary outcomes for our students is very important to improving instruction to enhance student outcomes.

7. What do you think the PPS should be doing differently?

There are certainly programs and processes that I would like to see utilized more or differently, but right now I think it’s important to note that administration and staff are doing yeoman’s work as they work to keep our children safe and deliver, as best they can, instruction both in-person and virtually. I would love to see wider implementation of technology in support of instruction. I believe that Career Technical Education and the Early College program should be promoted widely and early to our students as possible paths of study. But there will be time for that. Right now, the focus has to be on the safety of our students and staff and I think the district is handling those challenges well.

8. What’s one thing PPS could do differently to improve its outcomes?

That is a question that would have to be answered after looking at data and evaluating practices already in place. It would be improper and unprofessional to, if elected, demand action on items without having a complete context surrounding a situation. It is possible that the district may have already identified issues and are working to improve outcomes on their own. I think it would be inappropriate to assume I know better than others without having a close look at the data and a chance to talk to district staff.

9. Where are you employed? Or what is your occupation?

Currently, I work for the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) in the Office of Systems, Evaluation, and Technology (OSET) in the Educational Technology Unit. I am the State E-Rate Coordinator and focus on helping schools and libraries around the state procure discounts on their broadband service through the federal E-Rate program.

10. What specific skills do you bring to the Board?

While I am not a trained educator, I have worked at the MDE for nearly 7 years. Because I have worked in several different offices throughout the MDE, I have a very well-rounded view of education at the state level that would benefit the local district. I have worked in the Office of Career and Technical Education (OCTE), the Office of Special Education, and for the last 2 ½ years I have worked as the State E-Rate Coordinator as part of the Educational Technology Unit. I understand and respect the benefits of skilled trades training, both for students and for our local and state economies. I know how Early/Middle College programs should look when run well because I used to sit on the board that approved new schools and programs. I understand the challenges to broadband adoption in rural areas of our state and am working with partners both inside and outside of state government to bridge the Digital Divide because that is the focus of my current position. For a guy who has never taught or worked in a school, I have a very clear understanding of educational issues here in our state because I deal with them every day.

Second, specific to my current position as State E-Rate Coordinator, I understand that technology is a tool that should supplement, not supplant, quality education delivered by quality educators. Devices and software work best when they support curriculum and instruction, but reaching that point takes a lot of work. Students must feel comfortable using a tool and teachers must have enough professional development to understand how to teach their lessons through the tool. It is a delicate balance, and one we are all doing our best to work through this school year.

Finally, I am a communication professional. I worked for years in radio and media sales. I know the importance and value of clear, concise, and correct communication. I also know that most organizations, schools included, have room for improvement in this area. I want to give kudos to Superintendent Heath and the current Board of Education for their leadership and their regular and efficient interactions with district parents. They have worked tirelessly and that cannot be overstated. However, there are always opportunities to increase public understanding through transparency. The best strategic plans can lose support if the “why” and “how” are not articulated clearly to all stakeholders.

11. What is your educational background?

I have a B.S. in Broadcast and Cinematic Arts from Central Michigan University.

12. Have you served on the board of any other companies or organizations? If so, what were those companies/organizations?

I have not served previously on any company or organizational board.

13. Have you ever held an elected public position before? If so, what was that?

I have never been elected to public office.

14. How many PPS school board meetings did you attend in-person or virtually in 2019?

I attended one school board meeting in-person and watched two virtually in 2019.

15. What are the priority issues facing the School Board during this pandemic and how would you address them if elected?

As I mentioned before, the top priority is the safety of students and staff. I again want to give kudos to Mr. Heath and all the building staff for working tirelessly to support student learning both in and out of the classroom this year. I think the district response shows an attempt to meet the needs of all families and students while keeping safety as a top priority and the approval of additional virtual days are so important for our teachers who are now serving students in and out of the classroom. The time is needed for our teachers to prepare adequately.

16. How would you respond to community members with their concerns and questions about the district's response to the COVID-19 pandemic?

First, I would listen. Once we have clearly identified their issue and community member’s specific ask, I would take their question to my fellow board members and district administration. In most cases, district administration should follow up with community members on their concerns, but the board may empower a specific member to respond. The important point here is that responses to community questions should come from the board and/or administration together. It would not be proper for a formal request for information to be answered by one board member without consultation of the whole group.

17. What are your thoughts on how Portland Public School is doing with its programming for Special Education, Alternative and Adult Education, Home School Partnership, and Early College? Would you recommend any changes to the current programming?

In a different time, I would likely have more to say about these programs, specifically what suggestions I might have to improve process and outcomes. There will be time to focus more specifically on those programs, their processes, and their outcomes. I am not sure that this is the year or the space to pass judgment as we continue to deal with the fallout of a global pandemic.

18. What is one goal you hope to achieve as a PPS school Board Member?

I will give you two. Increased participation in two of my favorite programs- Early College and Career and Technical Education. Students who complete CTE instruction have higher graduation rates, higher GPAs, and better post-secondary outcomes than their non-CTE counterparts. Early/Middle College students have the opportunity to graduate high school with a diploma, an associate’s degree, and no debt. We need to continue to grow these programs because the outcomes for kids are outstanding.

19. Why should voters choose you as a Board Member?

Through my experience and current work with the Michigan Department of Education, I am uniquely positioned to offer context to board members with a “state level” perspective. I have a background in educational technology and am working with partners inside and outside of state government to bring broadband internet to the unserved and underserved communities to better support education and spur economic growth. I am well qualified to join and help this Board of Education continue to positively impact our community by supporting our district’s students and families and I look forward to that opportunity.

20. Is there anything else you would like to share?

Thank you to Mr. Jim Townsend for reaching out and giving me the opportunity to respond to these questions.


Angela M. Shinaver




1. Why are you running for the Portland Public School Board?

I am running for the school board because I am very interested in giving back to my community that I grew up in, am raising my children in, and plan to spend the rest of my life in. I have always had an interest in serving on the school board but I made the decision to devote the last 19 years to raising my children and being there to support them 100% of the time, before pursuing my own interests. As my children have grown and are involved in less extracurricular activities, I decided this is the time to pursue a goal of my own. In addition, conducting research on educational policies and law for the last four years, as part of my career, has further expanded my desire to become involved in the Portland school district to try to help make a difference.

2. Do you have children in the Portland school system? If so, what grade(s)?

Yes, my son is in the 8th grade and my daughter graduated from PHS in 2019.

3. Do you have any family members or relatives employed by PPS?

No, I do not.

4. What do you see as the board’s roles and responsibilities?

An effective school board has the important role of ensuring that our school is being managed in a way that the community’s values support and desire. In addition, the Board has a role in helping to establish policies and helping to create the district’s vision and goals. Also, the Board is ultimately responsible for holding the district administration and staff accountable for meeting their responsibilities and equally as important the Board has a responsibility to support and express appreciation for staff’s. The Board must be transparent and answer to the school administration, staff, faculty, and the community they are elected to serve. As an auditor, holding organizations accountable and determining their effectiveness is something that I do daily and is not something that I would take lightly as a member of the Board.

5. What do you think are the most important issues facing Portland Public Schools?

For Portland and schools all over the country, the most important issue facing districts this school year is ensuring that the district is focused on maintaining the safety of our students, staff, and faculty while at the same time finding a way to help guarantee our students’ education is not being compromised and students continue to achieve their educational goals. Schools have many issues and challenges that they were faced with pre-pandemic, and while equally important to solving today, those are obstacles that have had to be pushed to the background for administration and teachers to be able to focus on the immediate issues they face. In addition, the pandemic has accelerated the need for the technology to be implemented within our educational system and I believe that we need to support our teaching staff, more than ever, during this time while they too learn and are being asked to grow and change the way they have taught our students for many years. Likely, our teaching staff’s education did not include courses on how to be an effective online teacher and this is a skill they are now forced to succeed in while still providing the level of instruction that parents and administration of this district desire. As a district, we need to support the teaching staff so that they become effective in learning how to teach using the new technology that will remain well after the pandemic is over.

6. Do you have any particular issue you especially care about?

I do not have one issue that I especially care more about than others. I want to become more involved with the district and help it to be successful and continue to serve the needs of Portland students and families the best way possible. I want to become involved to help address concerns that are raised by staff and community members and believe that I can bring a new set of ideas to the Board that could be beneficial to the district. In my professional background, I strive for accountability and transparency in organizations and I value those characteristics and believe they are of the upmost importance to the success of any district and school board.

7. What do you think the PPS should be doing differently?

Others might disagree, but I consider recognizing the importance of and expanding on non-athletic extracurricular activities as something that the Board and administration could consider in the future. A first step in this process would be to survey students and parents to identify new ideas for extracurricular activities. If elected, I would work to find ways to support those activities when there is sufficient interest by students and the district can economically afford funding additional activities. Our district staff and community do an exceptional job supporting our athletics, however, not all Portland Public students are athletes and the non-athletic students deserve an equal chance to grow their interests outside of school and feel the support of the community. In the recent years, I have seen an amazing difference in the level of support that the district has given to the band program and believe this is a step in the right direction and is very much appreciated.

8. What’s one thing PPS could do differently to improve its outcomes?

To help improve our district’s outcomes it is critical for the district to have measurable goals and metrics established and then evaluate the student performance to determine its success at achieving those desired outcomes. I believe Portland has made many improvements over the recent years in helping our students achieve high school graduation and is generally successful in preparing its students for entering the workforce or continuing their education.

9. Where are you employed? Or what is your occupation?

I am a Senior Audit Supervisor for a non-partisan audit office within the State of Michigan’s Legislative branch. I have been an auditor for over 21 years.

10. What specific skills do you bring to the Board?

The skills I can bring to the Board are my: strong work ethic, exceptional organizational skills, years of experience in researching educational policy, an aspiration to help all students in Portland, the ability to listen and willingness to help solve problems, a desire to continue to learn, and capability to evaluate programs, policies and organizations to determine their effectiveness.

11. What is your educational background?

I earned my Bachelor of Business Administration degree with a major in Accounting from Grand Valley State University.

12. Have you served on the board of any other companies or organizations? If so, what were those companies/organizations?

I have no prior experience serving on a company or organization’s board.

13. Have you ever held an elected public position before? If so, what was that?

I have not held an elected public position before.

14. How many PPS school board meetings did you attend in-person or virtually in 2019?

I attended one meeting in 2019 and in 2020 I have attended many virtually.

15. What are the priority issues facing the School Board during this pandemic and how would you address them if elected?

An important issue facing the Board is the need to find new innovative ways to assist the faculty and support staff during this unprecedented school year while at the same time recognizing and meeting the needs of Portland’s families. If I were elected, I would like to try to organize groups of community members that are willing to volunteer for our schools doing tasks that do not require them to work with students but take a considerable time to complete. Even the smallest tasks that community members can assist with, would help reduce the amount of work for staff and faculty.

This school year, unlike most others, the teachers and the support staff are being asked to not only teach our students in person but to create an effective method to teach the PPS’s curriculum in an online environment. I believe Portland’s Return to School plan is a model that should be recognized by other school districts and the Department of Education as an innovative way to return to school. What this model is designed to do is allow all the students in our district to be provided the same curriculum taught by Portland’s own outstanding teachers. In speaking with many other parents with children in other districts, I have yet to hear of a model such as what Portland hopes to be able to achieve. Our district administration listened to parents’ desire to have their children in a face-to-face classroom setting while recognizing the importance of ensuring students who wanted to remain at home received the same level of education. Other district’s virtual students were only given access to a generic software programming for students to work through lessons and answering questions, commonly referred to as “point and click”. The goal for Portland’s model is that students will receive the same level of instruction as if they had been in the classroom. I believe this model is outstanding and is very ambitious to achieve, but if this model can be implemented effectively this will set Portland far ahead of many other districts. This model cannot be implemented without recognizing the immense efforts that are going to be needed by our teaching staff.

16. How would you respond to community members with their concerns and questions about the district's response to the COVID-19 pandemic?

It is important to listen to community members and respond to their concerns in the most appropriate manner possible. While social media can have its positives, too often it is a setting for community “complaining” and this is not the way for serious and important matters to be addressed. I recognize, if elected, that I would be a representative of the district and would do my best to ensure that community members concerns are resolved appropriately. If the level of questions and concerns warrant it, I believe virtual townhall meetings would be one way to be able to hear our community members and answer their questions directly by individuals that can address the concerns.

17. What are your thoughts on how Portland Public School is doing with its programming for Special Education, Alternative and Adult Education, Home School Partnership, and Early College? Would you recommend any changes to the current programming?

The Early College Program is an amazing opportunity that parents should be encouraging their high schoolers to consider. Portland being approved to administer this type of program should be commended, as not many districts throughout Michigan are able to achieve and offer this programming. The district’s administration should be recognized for their efforts to bring the ability, for our relatively small district, to be able to offer to its students a way of earning a free associate degree. This is an extremely huge benefit and lessens the financial burdens for both students and their families when they want to continue their education. I am not as familiar with the success or areas of concerns related to the special education program here in Portland. However, I am personally familiar with the ability for parents to work with the school to create a 504 plan to help ensure the needs of their children are being met appropriately with accommodations. School administration and teaching staff have been very supportive of these plans for students and have been able to fulfill those accommodations.

I do have some concerns related to the Home School Partnership and Alternative Education programs that I hope to be able to share with the Board and administration if I am elected. While both programs offer options for students and serve a great purpose in our community, there are some specific things that I feel could be improved upon.

18. What is one goal you hope to achieve as a PPS school Board Member?

I hope to bring a new perspective and ideas for ways to continue to increase our student enrollment and find new ways to provide services to all the students in Portland.

19. Why should voters choose you as a Board Member?

Voters should choose me because of my strong desire to serve the community, to help students, and to find new ways to grow this incredible district. I have some new and exciting ideas that could be beneficial to the district and hope to be able to become a part of the Board to be able to share them.

20. Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Portland is great place to live and I never wanted to raise my children anywhere else. I want to give back to the school district that provided me with my education that lead me to become the first college graduate in my family. I have always been a PROUD RAIDER and will work incredibly hard to help meet the needs of our district in these unprecedented times.

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