Wednesday, February 17, 2021

 Dear Colleague,
 
To those who did not reply to our email last week, we’ve extended the response deadline until this Friday because your input is extremely important. CTEN is doing some media outreach regarding Covid-related school lockdowns. If you are a teacher, please answer the following questions. 

Do you teach in a public, charter, or private school?  In what state?  What grade/s?

Has the district surveyed you regarding the shutdown, reopening efforts, pursuing other models, like hybrid learning, etc.?

Has your union surveyed you regarding the shutdown, reopening efforts, pursuing other models, like hybrid learning etc.?

(For private school teachers) Did your school’s governing body survey you regarding the shutdown, reopening efforts, pursuing other models, like hybrid learning etc.?

According to media coverage, teachers appear to be in lockstep with their union regarding shutdown matters.  Based upon your interactions with your teaching colleagues, is there consensus amongst teachers regarding reopening schools?   

Is there anything you would like to add? Are we missing something important from your perspective as a teaching professional in the national debate surrounding reopening of schools that is not being publicly discussed?


Many thanks for your cooperation!

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 Most schools in California are still closed due to Covid-19, and children are suffering. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 6 percent of U.S. children aged 6 through 17 are afflicted with autism, severe anxiety, depression, trauma-related mental health conditions, and other serious emotional or behavioral difficulties. Due to forced school lockdowns, many of these children who depend on schools for access to vital therapies are being deprived.

Therefore, it is not surprising that mental health problems account for a growing proportion of children’s visits to hospital emergency rooms. In November, the CDC reported that from March 2020, when the pandemic was declared, to October 2020, the figure was up 31 percent for those 12 to 17 years old and 24 percent for children ages 5 to 11, compared with the same period in 2019. And when severe mental health problems exist, suicides escalate.

Additionally, the National Institutes of Health reports that – pre-lockdown – about 70 children in the U.S., ages 5-14 kill themselves every year. While there is no national data yet for 2020, that reported number is likely to skyrocket. In Nevada’s Clark County alone, there were 18 youth suicides in the last 9 months of 2020.

To learn more, go here, here, here, and here.
 
Not surprisingly, several studies have shown that the teachers unions are the major factor in whether or not schools reopen. For example, researchers Corey DeAngelis and Christos Makridis have released the results of a study which finds that school districts in places with strong teachers’ unions were much less likely to offer full-time, in-person instruction in the fall.

New data published at Education Week indicate that 78 percent of the nation’s 50 largest public districts aren’t planning to reopen with any in-person instruction.

Using data on the reopening decisions of 835 public districts covering about 38 percent of all students enrolled in K-12 public schools in the country, our study finds that school districts in places with stronger teachers’ unions are much less likely to offer full-time, in-person instruction this fall.

For example, our models indicate that school districts in states without right-to-work laws are 14 percentage points less likely to reopen in person than those in states with such laws, which prevent unions from requiring membership.

A 10 percent increase in union power is associated with a 1.3 percentage-point lower probability of reopening in person. In Florida, for example, 79 percent of 38 school districts in the Education Week dataset are planning to offer full-time in-person instruction to all students. However, in New York, a state with much stronger teachers’ unions, none of the 21 school districts included in the dataset are planning to do the same.

…These results are remarkably consistent across various analytic models and even after controlling for differences in county demographics, including age, gender, marital status, race, population, education, political affiliation, household income and COVID-19 cases and deaths per capita.
 
To continue reading, go here.
 
As the lockdowns continue, many parents are getting fed up, and they’re getting organized.
 
Citing campus closures’ “devastating effect on students’ learning, mental health, physical health and social and emotional well-being,” a coalition of more than a dozen parent groups has launched a public campaign to pressure the state to reopen school campuses as soon as safely possible.
 
Open Schools California includes parent groups in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Richmond and other cities who say that distance learning has been a disaster for most students, and the state needs to push harder for safety measures that would allow campuses to reopen for in-person instruction. The group announced its formation Monday.
 
“There were all these separate parent organizations, but we realized we’d have a much larger impact if we worked as a unified group and lobbied at a statewide level,” said Megan Bacigalupi, an Oakland parent of two elementary school students and an organizer of the group.
 
Organizers decried what they said was a lack of input from parents on statewide reopening plans. School administrators, teachers’ unions, state officials and public health authorities are providing the primary guidance, “but the parent voice is missing,” Bacigalupi said.
 
“Since March (when campuses closed) we’ve been an integral part of our children’s education, but right now we don’t have a seat at the bargaining table,” she said.
 
To learn more, go here.
 
How will the lockdowns affect the school choice movement? In Education Next, Paul Peterson writes, “Covid-19 Could Be the Moment We Turn to School Choice as a Road to Equal Opportunity.”

Nothing in the historical record has disrupted American schools quite like Covid-19. Millions of students will lose more than a year of classroom instruction. Only the most hopeful think schools will return to normalcy before next September. An entire generation can expect a drop in lifetime earnings of 5% to 10%, economists tell us. Even worse, social and emotional development have been stunted. Schools no longer provide eye and ear exams, nurse office visits, and ready access to social services. Children from low-income backgrounds are suffering the most.

Parents desperately search for alternatives. In affluent communities, neighbors have formed learning pods, with tutors and fellow parents sharing the instructional burden. Home schooling is on the rise. Families are shifting their children to private and charter schools. Entrepreneurial high school seniors are taking dual enrollment courses, hoping to finish high school and begin college at the same time. But too many children are occupying their time in other ways, with ever more high school students simply dropping out. Enrollment at public schools is falling by 5% or more. The opportunity gap is almost certainly widening between rich and poor children.

But what happens after the vaccine arrives and the virus has been cornered? Will parents return to the status quo? Or are they going to demand more choices and greater control over their child’s education? Before Covid-19, nearly a third of all students attended a school of choice, including district-operated magnet schools (7%) other district options such as vocational and exam schools (6%), charters (6%), home schooling (3%), and private schools (8% using family and other private funds and 1% with school vouchers or tax-credit scholarships).

If parents have any say, the demand for choice is almost certain to increase. During the pandemic itself, parents reported teachers at charter and private schools were more likely to provide direct instruction. Loss of learning occurred everywhere, but it was less, parents said, at these schools of choice.

To continue reading, go here.

In fact, some states are already taking action to help parents.

Sixteen states—Arizona, Kentucky, Georgia, Virginia, Washington, New Hampshire, Oregon, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, North Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Indiana, Utah, and Illinois—have introduced proposals that empower parents and provide alternative education options for children, such as education savings accountsprivate school scholarships, or tax credit scholarships.

New Hampshire policymakers, for instance, introduced a proposal that would provide eligible children with Education Freedom Accounts, which are parent-controlled education savings accounts.

These especially versatile accounts can be used to purchase a variety of education expenses, such as private school tuition, tutoring, books, uniforms, or specialized education programs, to name a few.

K-12 students currently enrolled in the Granite State’s public schools are eligible for an account if their school is currently operating under either a hybrid or remote model. New Hampshire students enrolled in a school whose academic achievement outcomes are below 40% are also eligible for an account.

To continue reading, go here.
 
While the Janus decision freed teachers from paying dues to a union, it did not free them from being part of the collective bargaining process. Jade Thompson, a teacher in Ohio, doesn’t want to be “compelled to let a labor union speak for her.”
 
The Buckeye Institute said it filed a petition Friday with the nation’s highest court on behalf of Jade Thompson, a Spanish teacher at Marietta High School. The case revolves around the concept that collective-bargaining units, in this case the Marietta Education Association, speak on behalf of all members.
 
“In this instance, Ohio law recognizes a labor union as representing and speaking on behalf of Ms. Thompson, despite her vehement opposition to its positions and advocacy on issues ranging from fiscal policy to school administration,” the Buckeye Institute’s president and CEO, Robert Alt, wrote in the petition to the high court.
 
…Thompson’s problems with the labor union peaked in 2010, when her husband, former state representative Andy Thompson, was in the midst of his campaign. When the Ohio Education Association campaigned against Andy Thompson, the president of the Marietta Education Association emailed teachers at the high school pushing them to vote against him, according to court documents.
 
“Ms. Thompson’s agency fees fund the activities of the Union, the National Education Association and the Ohio Education Association,” her complaint stated.
 
To read on, go here.
 
While Miguel Cardona, President Biden’s pick for Education Secretary, seems to be a non-controversial choice, his pick for Deputy Secretary of Education, San Diego Unified School District superintendent Cindy Marten, comes with some baggage.
 
She has aligned herself with the California Teachers Association in trying to halt the growth of charter schools. Additionally, the San Diego branch of the NAACP released a statement referring to Marten as an “ineffective leader when it comes to the academic advancement of African American children in San Diego public schools.” Marten also has promoted the concept that schools “spirit murder” black children and that white teachers should undergo “antiracist therapy.”
 
To learn more, go here, here and here.
 
If you have valuable resources that you would like to share, or you’d like to report on what your school district is doing – good, bad or indifferent – to deal with the “new normal,” please do so by emailing cteninfo@ctenhome.org or, if you prefer, posting on Facebook. The CTEN page can be accessed here, and the CTEN group can be found here.
 
Also, anyone wishing to donate to CTEN can do so very simply through check, money order or PayPal - http://www.ctenhome.org/donate.html  As a non-profit, we exist only through the generosity of others.
 
Sincerely,
Larry Sand
CTEN President
 

 

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

 

Dear Colleague,

As the pandemic and the lockdowns continue, teachers’ mental health is suffering in ways they’ve never experienced according to The 19th, an online news source.

Because of the pandemic, about three-fourths of the 100 largest school districts opted for complete remote learning, an October study found, and a little over a quarter of all districts began the year with a hybrid approach. But as COVID-19 case counts climb, districts across the country have ricocheted from remote to in-person to hybrid models, and many that started with even a semblance of in-person learning have fallen back to remote education.

Between the unpredictability, the isolation and the newfound challenges in reaching their students — who mental health experts worry are also struggling — what little mental health support is extended to teachers feels like nowhere near enough.

“I spend all day staring at a screen and kind of generating enthusiasm into the void that Zoom is, and I end the day so tired, and so done, and so frustrated,” said Emma Wohl, a middle school teacher in Washington state whose district has been completely remote this year. “The moments of joy I used to have are so much more rare.” 

To continue reading, go here.

Also, regarding the coronavirus, Education Week reports that, “Fall School Reopenings Didn’t Dramatically Increase COVID-19 Hospitalizations.”

For the most part, school reopenings in the fall did not appear to contribute to increased hospitalization rates due to COVID-19, according to research released on Monday. 

The finding adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting that schools did not play much of a role in fueling infections when community transmission rates remained relatively low. It is the first study to use hospitalization as its key health measure, a research advance that avoids some of the problems with using test-positivity counts as a proxy for COVID-19 spread.

But in places where community spread was higher, the researchers found that the link between schooling and health effects grew murkier, with no clear pattern in the results, a red flag of sorts as schools consider expanding in-person learning options in the midst of a third surge of record-breaking rates of COVID-19 from coast to coast.

To learn more, go here.

Here in California, Governor Gavin Newsom has announced a $2 billion package of incentives to encourage a return to in-person classes for California elementary school students as early as mid-February, an effort that could require coronavirus testing for students, teachers and staff.

But given the bleak public health conditions across most of the state as coronavirus cases surge at alarming rates, it is unclear how quickly districts in hard-hit counties will qualify to reopen, especially those in large urban areas in Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Newsom’s decision, in essence, eases the strict criteria for county health conditions under which schools can be eligible to reopen. His plan comes amid California’s most deadly spell in the pandemic and increases pressure on local school officials to reinstate in-classroom learning.

In his announcement, Newsom cited growing evidence that young students faced “decreased risks” associated with the coronavirus and benefited more from in-person instruction compared to at-home learning. In-classroom learning provides a better opportunity to identify children suffering from depression, anxiety or abuse at home, he said.

To continue reading, go here.

There is hope that schools will open sooner rather than later with the greater availability of the Covid vaccine. But that notion is not as simple as it sounds. Earlier this month in Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine announced a goal of resuming "in-person school by March 1" by soon offering Ohio's school employees COVID-19 vaccines. But the president of the Ohio Education Association says that it's unlikely that many schools will be able to resume completely normal operations by then, even with vaccines.

"We're not out of the woods yet by any stretch of the imagination. Even after the vaccine has been widely distributed, it's not a panacea," said Scott DiMauro, president of the Ohio Education Association, the state's largest teacher's union. "All the things the CDC is saying are important to keep schools safe are still going to be necessary, and I expect that through at least the end of the school year."

During a press briefing last week, DeWine suggested that only schools that are operating in-person, or that indicate they're willing to shift to fully in-person classes, might be offered the shots, possibly as early as mid-January. As of last week, 45% of Ohio's students were learning completely online, 29% were in-person and 26% were a mix of both, he said.

DiMauro said such stipulations might be counterproductive.

"We need to really pay attention to equity and vaccinate communities hit hardest by the pandemic first," DiMauro said. "That would mean in districts like Columbus, that haven't been able to open, because there hasn't been a safe way to do that yet."

To read more, go here.

President-elect Joe Biden has picked Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona to be the new Secretary of Education.

“He understands the deep roots of inequity as the sources of our persistent opportunity gaps,” Biden said as he formally announced Cardona Wednesday. “And he understands the transformative power that comes from investing in public education.” 

Biden said Cardona would help him execute his education platform: tripling federal funding for disadvantaged students, “fully funding” the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and helping schools to create universal prekindergarten programs and raise teacher pay.

He also praised Cardona’s approach to reopening schools in Connecticut. While Cardona has stopped short of mandating schools to reopen for in-person learning, he has urged them to do so. His agency has provided supplies, created public service announcement videos, and held online forums to address concerns. That has drawn pushback from some educators.

Apparently, former NEA president Lily Eskelsen GarcĂ­a disqualified herself from contention for the post when several inappropriate remarks of hers surfaced. Talking to a progressive political advocacy organization in 2015, she referred to special needs kids as “chronically tarded” and “medically annoying.” She also has referred to teacher performance metrics as “the mark of the devil” and that that charter schools are “very misguided school reforms.” And just for good measure, she told a gathering in Michigan in 2014 that some school reformers are like zombies that are “eating our children’s brains.”

To learn more, go here and here.

In an important piece which focuses on San Diego, American Enterprise Institute fellow Ian Rowe writes that “The soft bigotry of ‘anti-racist’ expectations is damaging to Black and White kids alike.”

In the first semester of the 2019–20 school year, the San Diego Unified school district board discovered that 20 percent of Black students had received a D or F grade. In comparison, 7 percent of White students earned the same failing marks. School officials decided that the 13 percent racial disparity was a function of systemic racism, requiring an “honest reckoning as a school district.”

In October, that “reckoning” led the San Diego board to vote unanimously to “interrupt these discriminatory grading practices.” Rather than attempt to replicate the factors empowering the 80 percent of Black students who achieved passing grades, the board’s first action to “be an anti-racist school district” was to dumb down the grading system for all. Under the new protocols, all 106,000 San Diego students are no longer required to hand in their homework on time. Moreover, teachers are now prohibited from factoring a student’s classroom behavior when formulating an academic grade.

To continue reading, go here.

Just in time for “National School Choice Week,” which begins this Sunday, Diane Ravitch writes about “The Dark History of School Choice” in the current New York Review of Books. Reviewing several books on the subject, she does correctly cite a few circumstances where the push for the privatization of schools was used to promote racial segregation, but her 3,700-word tirade is very light on facts, and is instead primarily an excuse to bash Betsy DeVos, Christianity and free market policies in education.

As director of policy at EdChoice Jason Bedrick notes, there have been seven studies examining the effect of private school choice on racial integration. Six found positive effects and one showed no significant statistical difference. Another important piece of data absent from Ravitch’s screed is that a recent American Federation for Children poll conducted by Beck Research – a Democratic polling firm – finds that nationally, school choice is very popular with Latinos – 82 percent support it, while African-Americans are 68 percent in favor. It is important to note that this poll was taken in January 2020, before the teacher unions pushed school districts into ditching in-person learning.

To read more on the subject, go here, here and here.

Due to union “opt-out windows,” which are very possibly illegal, this may be the time to quit if you are planning to do so. If you have any questions about the process, or have experienced any problems because of your decision to leave your union, please let us know and we will do our best to help you – possibly getting you legal assistance, if necessary. We will also be able to share your concerns with other teachers across the state. And talking about sharing, please pass this email along to your colleagues and encourage them to join us.

Also, anyone wishing to donate to CTEN can do so very simply through check, money order or PayPal - http://www.ctenhome.org/donate.html  As a non-profit, we exist only through the generosity of others. Thanks, as always.

Sincerely,

Larry Sand

CTEN President

 

 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

 

Dear Colleague,

As we mentioned last month, it has been shown that school districts with strong teachers unions – especially in the larger districts – are far less likely to bring students back to the classroom for in-person learning during the pandemic. But there is an emerging consensus from the scientific community that schools should be reopening. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield asserts that “school is one of the safest places” for children. Also, drawing on an assessment of data from 31 countries, UNICEF  maintains that “there is strong evidence that, with basic safety measures in place, the net benefits of keeping schools open outweigh the costs of closing them.” Moreover, the findings of a major British study reveal that it was a mistake to close schools. “The results demonstrate no evidence of serious harms from COVID-19 to adults in close contact with children, compared to those living in households without children. This has implications for determining the benefit-harm balance of children attending school in the COVID-19 pandemic.” In October’s Great Barrington Declaration, world renowned scientists noted that keeping children out of school is a “grave injustice.”

Also, there are parents who feel left out of the decision making process.

“Educators and teachers’ unions are not infectious disease experts or public health officials, and frankly, that’s who parents trust in making these decisions,” said Keri Rodrigues, the founding president of the National Parents Union, an advocacy organization with hundreds of parent groups across the country.

Often, teachers’ unions are the loudest voices at the decision-making table, Rodrigues said.

“The balance of power is off,” she said. “It’s very striking to us as parents and families—we have a group of elected officials who make deals with labor unions and decide what policies we’re going to do, and we’re just supposed to take it and be on the roller coaster ride.”

For more information, go here and here.

Recently, there was an unsettling piece in The 74. “As COVID Creeps into Schools, Surveillance Tech Follows” reports what happened when several children tested positive for Covid-19 in an Ohio school district in October,

Twelve children who came in close contact with the student were instructed to quarantine, and the entire seventh-grade class was pushed back into remote learning.

The disruptions had just begun. By mid-November, almost every student at the Wickliffe City School District was sent back to learning from computer screens in their living rooms. Because of “a significant increase in exposures and confirmed COVID-19 cases among our students and employees” that prompted widespread quarantines, the district’s “ability to appropriately staff classrooms is no longer possible,” Superintendent Joseph Spiccia wrote in a letter to parents.

But future virus outbreaks at the Wickliffe district, which educates about 1,500 students, could look a whole lot different. As part of a pilot project that the district began to roll out before Thanksgiving, officials distributed roughly 100 badges to high school students and staff that allow administrators to track their every move as they travel throughout the day between the schools’ hallways and classrooms. Implemented in the name of contact tracing, the bluetooth badges allow administrators to track students for up to a month and identify children who came into close contact with infected classmates. The district plans to give badges to all 430 high school students when they return to in-person learning early next year.

To learn more, go here.

In California, at the beginning of December, a group of Los Angeles and Alameda County families sued the California Board of Education, the Department of Education, and state Superintendent for Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. They accused the powers that be of not giving students in the state an adequate education due to the long-term remote learning measures taken by schools since the shutdown in March.

According to the lawsuit, remote learning has put an undue burden on parents and guardians, especially on low-income families who have poor internet service or don’t have a reliable computer to use. The lawsuit also charges that parents have had to take up the slack from the schools shortfalls, acting as educators for their children and having to pay for all of the associated extra costs usually provided by schools. The suit argued further that these shortfalls had effected minority students, in particular black and Hispanic students, the most.

“Because of the State’s inadequate response, parents and grandparents have had to become tutors, counselors, childminders, and computer technicians, and they have had to find a way to pay for what are now basic school supplies — laptop/tablets, paper, printing, and internet access,” noted the lawsuit that was filed Monday. “California has offered families no training, support, or opportunity to provide input into plans for remote learning, the eventual return to in-person instruction, or the delivery of compensatory education.

To read on, go here.

While the unions clamor for a teacher to become the next Secretary of Education, Center for Education Reform president Jeanne Allen doesn’t necessarily agree. She writes in Forbes,

Having been a teacher is not a prerequisite for success as Secretary of Education. The emphasis is wrong.  Education is primarily about learning, not teaching, just as having dinner is primarily about eating, not cooking. The process is important, as it can help achieve, and alter, the outcome. But teaching is not the goal of education; it is part of the process. While the two are correlated, and while strong teaching is more likely to yield to successful learning, the unions who are pushing the teacher-as-EdSec notion have argued the opposite holds true—that teaching and learning are not in fact correlated!

To continue reading, go here.

The latest “National Sex Education Standards: Core Content and Skills, K-12” is a 72-page document that describes a “whole new world” of human evolution. Brenda Lebsack, Santa Ana school teacher and former board member in the Orange Unified School District, thinks this is a bridge way-too-far and picks apart the document.

Gender is described as a “social construct,” therefore students are taught that they can reject or modify their “sex assigned at birth” to something that FEELS truer to oneself. (p. 58) Examples of gender include, but are NOT LIMITED to: male, female, transgender, androgenous, agender, gender expansive, genderqueer, nonbinary, two-spirit, intersex, or questioning. Genderqueer means a person can identify as both genders, neither gender, something in-between or BEYOND genders. (p. 59, 61,67). The document informs readers on page 8 that there is a continual evolution of language related to gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, and sexual identity, therefore this document is only a snapshot in the evolutionary process. 

Students decide their identities through experiential learning cycles where they learn by doing, reflecting interpreting and exploring questions of how experiences could be different in the future (p.58). These “lived experiences” or collection of events become the student’s firsthand validation of their identities (p. 61).  You may ask, “How is unlimited gender ideology based on science or empirical data?” According to the new definition of “Fact” in the Sex Ed glossary (p. 58) empirical data is not required. Hypothesis, opinions, and theories are now considered fact if most experts in the field agree upon it.  In other words…it’s not about science or even common sense, it’s about whose opinions in society matter most. 

You can see the document in its entirely here. To get Lebsack’s take, go here.

With a new charter law on the books in California, charters were expecting rough going in the new year, but they seem to be getting a reprieve due to the pandemic.

Known as Assembly Bill 1505, the compromise between charters and the teachers union gave local districts the authority to consider whether the opening of a new charter would negatively impact their own schools, and it gave charters a new process to appeal rejected applications.

But with the law going into effect in the middle of a pandemic, districts lack key information needed to decide whether existing charters should continue operating — assessment data from 2020.

As a result, some schools that otherwise would have been shut down are being recommended for renewal.

To learn more, go here.

Many in the educational community have been demanding that student testing be halted during our trying times. But Hoover Institution senior fellow Chester Finn insists that this would be a grave error. He writes in The Washington Post,

Honestly, pretty much no one likes them. No one much likes check-ups with the doctor or dentist, either, no matter how useful they might be. Yet, after last spring’s school shutdowns and the forced — and mostly ill-prepared — transition to online learning, U.S. education may never have had a greater need for reliable information about how students are doing.

What have they learned, and not learned, during these difficult past several months? Which schools and districts moved effectively to virtual education? How did achievement gaps change according to family income or racial group?

To read on, go here.

In Los Angeles-adjacent Burbank, book banning is becoming a reality due to concerns raised by some parents over racism. Until further notice, teachers in the area will not be able to include Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, Theodore Taylor's The Cay, and Mildred D. Taylor's Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry in their curriculum.

Four parents, three of whom are Black, challenged the classic novels for alleged potential harm to the district's roughly 400 Black students.

To learn more, go here.

Anyone wishing to make a year-end donation to CTEN can do so very simply through a personal check or PayPal – here. As a non-profit, we exist and operate only through the generosity and support of people like you. (And to those of you who already regularly donate – our heartfelt thanks!) 

It has been another exciting year for CTEN, and we look forward to an even more vigorous 2021. We are grateful for your interest and involvement, and wish you and your families the happiest of holidays. See you next year!

Sincerely,

Larry Sand

CTEN President