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Friday, April 28, 2017

A look at Teach for America Jax's finances (rough draft)

You may have picked up that I am frustrated by the QEA giving the local Teach for America office 6.25 million dollars. Especially since DCPS already picks up the salaries, benefits and training of the local teachers and has kicked in an extra 600,000 dollars beyond that. Currently according to the TFA Jax web-site there are 125 corp members a tiny sliver of the 8,000 teachers in the district.

That 6.25 million dollars isn't the only money they have brought in from locals.

It's kind of hard to tell because they give a range of donations and not the specific amount but they seem to have raked in millions more.

Now I bet 17 salaries, and an office, plus printer paper, I bet they have plenty of printer paper adds up but as schools are being squeezed tighter and tighter, is this really the best way the educational philanthropist community could be using their money?

I don't believe so.

These people/organizations want so desperately to be involved in education but at the same time they don't want to be seen helping public schools as they are somehow beneath them.

I can imagine how their thought process went. Cue Scooby Doo flashback music.

We'll give to those nice young men and women killing time before grad school. Give to that 22 year veteran Mrs. Mcgillicutty at P.S. 189 who spends her own money to buy her kids jackets and has to buy her own ink and paper, oh no,  No, no, no, no. Did you see the people at the TFA office they have little alligators on their sweaters, we will send our money there.


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Teach for America Jacksonville has 17 employees for 125 corp members (rough draft)

And who wants to bet they all make a lot more than teachers in the classroom?

It's probably not the best idea to blog after a thirsty Thursday game at the Suns, Jumbo Shrimp.

That being said I think there are some things you should know. The Jacksonville Education Fund was kind of enough to tell me how much money it had give to Teach for America Jacksonville over the last three years. It have given then 5,000,000 in Quality Education for All funds with an additional 1,250, 000 heading to them this coming June. They could not tell me what the money was used for suggesting I contact TFA Jax which I have.

A quick primer about the QEA and TFA. The QEA money comes from local philanthropists who pledged 40 million dollars over three years to help local schools.

Teach for America takes non education majors, puts them through a six week teacher book camp and then into our neediest schools where they are supposed to stay for two years.

I have many issues with TFA that I have well documented, the thing is this post is not about those issues, it's about the use of 6,250,000 QEA dollars.

Now here is the thing. The district pays for TFA salaries, benefits and training and kicked in an additional 600,000 dollars over the last three years.

yet despite that TFA needed an extra $6.250,000.

According to the TFA Jax web-site there are currently 125 corp members working in our schools. To help sever them the local TFA office has 17 staff members.

17 Staff, that is a little over 7.3 to one ratio to help teachers who are immersed in DCPS. These teachers have their salaries paid by DCPS, they have their benefits paid by DCPS who has their training paid for by DCPS, and the same DCPS that has already paid an additional $600,000 over the last three years.

Now I am sure they would say they do lots of different things but for f%$#&s sake, are you kidding me? Is this a good investment for the QEA and our schools? Could this money have been used to hire/recruit professional teachers, people who trained to be teachers and about a million other things that would have been more helpful?

Trying to be generous I guess earnest people can disagree on the merits of TFA but can anybody really say this money was well spent?

Most high school teachers I know have 120 kids on their rosters. Other than center schools what school has a ratio of 7.3 to one staff to students?

I am nauseated and its not because of all the dollar beers I had.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Dear Parents and Teachers, you don't matter, only we do, sincerely "civic leaders"

The editorial's title is:  Guest column: School Board must be wise in selecting new superintendent

Translation, you better pick who we want you to pick. 

Today a group of "civic leaders" had an editorial published in the Times Union.

Have you ever wondered what it takes to be a civic leader? 

I have written more prolifically about local education than anyone in Jacksonville's history and been published hundreds of times and I am just a blogger, though SB member Scott Shine has referred to me as a parasite.

I even half jokingly asked the TU to stop referring to me as a blogger once as my friends pick on me when they hear that, and said how about education advocate instead, and they said, no we couldn't do that. 

So how do people get titles? Yeah, you are right, we all know, and that's money.

If you are rich you are a civic leader, if you are not you are a blogger unless they dislike what you say and then you are a parasite. 

Back to the editorial you can read it here:

Ugh, the last person we should be taking suggestions from is Poppy Clements and her gang of ne're do wells. I don't believe for a second that the city's teachers and students are their priority, instead controlling them is.

I believe the community is split on Vitti, sure most people, even I could point to some nice things he did, but most parents and teachers, you know those closest to what is going on are okay with him leaving, while"civic leaders" and Times Union editors, or you know those who don't have a clue to what is going on, want him to stay/lament him leaving.

Therein lies the rub. The super may still be here, and please he had to see the writing on the wall, had he tried to include parents and teachers, listened to their concerns and tried to work with them. Instead Vitti preferred hobnobbing with editors and "civic leaders".   

At the end of the day these people are not civic, and they sure as heck are not leaders.

They closed their editorial by writing, "Our organizations stand ready and willing to assist the board in any way we can..." to which I would suggest to the board run. 

Why the Times Union has no credibility, Vitti edition

Superintendent Vitti is leaving and the editorial board did a farewell piece.

From the Times Union:

who is leaving as superintendent of the Duval County public schools, is handing off an urban school system on the way up.

In the last five years:
- Graduation rates are up by 19 percent. And this is not smoke and mirrors. This represents high school diplomas being earned with some of the most demanding requirements in the state.
- The number of African-American students who are taking rigorous college-type courses has increased by 77 percent. This is a special point of pride.
- The number of students passing tough, college-level exams like Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate increased by 64 percent. You can’t fake a passing grade on these courses.
- The proportion of students passing dual enrollment courses increased by a startling 87 percent. This is the best education deal in Jacksonville, getting credit for a college course in high school — when the courses are practically free.

- The proportion of Duval County students graduating with a college-ready curriculum has increased by 26 percent while the proportion for the state as a whole is basically flat.
Things sound great, why would the board let him leave? Here is the thing above was from the Times Union's good bye to former superintendent Ed Pratt Dannals.  
Today they wrote a farewell editorial about Vitti which made it sound like he arrived to a district teetering on collapse and stopped just short of saying he walked on water.
It was embarrassing but what is more so is they wrote the same thing about Pratt-Dannals his predecessor. I guess they have just one editorial and only change the names as needed.
We have issues in Jacksonville, I don't want to sugar coat it, but undoubtedly one of the biggest is a media who doesn't do it's job. 
The super did some nice things but more often than not he appeared in over his head. His communication skills with the board and the district's teachers at the end of the day was woeful and that is what he will be remembered for. This is what the Times Union's editorial board should have written.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Vitti is leaving and the shame of it. (rough draft)

Many members of the business community lament his leaving, they say it is a shame. They don’t think about all the careers he ruined when he thought of teachers as little more than widgets. When I hear people like Scott Shine and John Peyton talking about him leaving will be a loss for the city, I think it’s shameful. The teachers he forced to leave, many the profession all together or who he chased into early retirement, they represent the real loss to the city.

That being said there is a fair degree of, “the shame of it all”

The first thing Vitti did when he arrived was called for a relaxation of the learning schedule and I know to lots of teachers, who now feel they can’t fall even a minute behind, that might seem crazy, but there it was in an email in his first November, administrators shouldn’t threaten or cajole teachers who deviate from the learning schedule. Talk about a complete 180 Batman.   

He also made bringing back the arts a priority, though I don’t think many of us realized how ham fisted it would be as lots of classes ballooned to untenable numbers and librarians at most schools paid the price for it.

While I am on the subject, why does this guy hate books so much? I know his dyslexia is widely documented, but did that cause him to get rid of most of our libraries and choose a bookless curriculum? I imagine books didn’t play a huge roll in his march towards education domination, but come on.    

Though that might explain a lot of his disdain for teachers. He was one for two years and then a decade later he was running one of the biggest districts in the country. Things that didn’t meet up with his personal definition of success, books, libraries, being a teacher, had little importance to him. Want more evidence, his dyslexia, now we have an entire school dedicated to kids with dyslexia. That was personal and important to him, while the other things weren’t.   

Vitti has been lauded for going on listening tours to find out what members of the community thought, though sadly what they really were, was a waste of people’s time tours, as almost from since day one he has ignored community members. It’s only those business leaders that Scott Shine referenced in a recent Times Union piece that he really listened to. Hobnobbing in board rooms was his aphrodisiac while he avoided teacher’s lounges like the plague.  

On the surface, these were great ideas and gave people hope. Hope however can be the killer of worlds as Vitti revealed his true colors.

Personal loyalty to him rather than ability determined promotions and despite the fact he barely had a cup of coffee as a teacher he came to think he was the smartest person in the room. when surrounded by them. His hubris and if you have ever been to one of his graduation ceremonies, you know exactly what I am talking about, was on display.

Then desperate to show improvement he started to throw one idea after another against the wall to see if anyone would stick and when most of his ideas proved unworkable or unpopular he started a three shell Monty game with the district, moving kids around and creating schools that were protected from the state assessments.

The cherry on top was despite his tough talk against charter schools the reality is charters in Jacksonville have never had a better friend than him.

He did have a few wins, the parent academy is a great idea, though since this administration blows everything remotely positive way out of proportion, I do wonder how effective it really is and then there is grants.

This admin could write grants like I have never seen before and grant writing, not graduation rates which are up everywhere and the fact that some people see fit to give him credit for them up here is infuriating and sickening, grant writing is his one, as far as I can tell untainted success.

You might be thinking I have been harsh, to which I will reply, talk to a teacher about what they think. Ask them if the district improved and what the super has done to make it happen. I don’t want to imply we haven’t had successes, on the contrary we have had many, 8000, teachers and six thousand support staff showing up every day in challenging conditions have made quite the difference, but the vast majority of those successes have happened in despite of the super not because of him.

Then look at the conduct of the school board. I get it everyone there has egos but would they really wash their hands of somebody who had moved the district? You might be thinking, hey, Shine, and Grymes really, really like him, to which I reply, okay but would the board members who have bothered to do their job, really let him go if they thought he was effective?

There is a shame in Vitti leaving, he is obviously a smart and capable man. Smoke and mirrors won’t get you to the super job at the 20th largest district in the nation but somewhere along the way he started to believe the press clippings and that ultimately caused his downfall and make no mistake going to Detroit is a dramatic step back.

I wish him and Detroit luck, but if the same guy who leaves here shows up there, then they are going to need it.

If you re interested, the Times Union has a different take.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Scott Shine, good God man, let it go

Do you know that person who always has problems with other people. People do even mundane things that make them upset, They always feel disrespected by someone, it's always somebody else's fault? You're probably not close with them and you constantly want to tell them hey maybe it's not everyone else that has the problem, maybe it's you. I give you Scott Shine.

While most of the board is being diplomatic and wishing Vitti well, he's still trying to hold on to Vitti like a tenth grader whose first kiss has traded up.

Scott just what are you seeing that they aren't?

From the Times Union:

Shine, speaking during an emergency Board meeting, said Jacksonville’s community and business leaders are watching the Board’s actions, hoping they won’t let Vitti walk away.

“Yes, Detroit is Dr. Vitti’s hometown; but I believe here today that Jacksonville is also his home,” Shine said. “We could change the situation if we present a unified board and say, ‘We want you to stay.’”

Notice he didn't say teachers and parents? I mean really he could have said anybody, but he chose business leaders. Most teachers and parents I know and am talking to and I bet I am talking to a fair bit more than Shine are glad Vitti is taking his talents to Detroit.

I don't want to say Shine is alone on the board, I imagine Jones and Grymes wouldn't mind going through the couch cushions to look for extra cash but the majority of the board has spoken and they are more than okay with Vitti leaving. He has to know this too but there he is banging his drum. 

It's time Shine got on board before he further divides an already divided board.

Vitti is leaving the building, it's time Shine moved on.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The district calls Teach for America "questionable" ya think!?! (rough draft)

Okay before the Teach for America apologist crowd lambastes me, let me say I am sure there are great and dedicated Teach for America teachers and people who have had all the training and education in the world who have probably chosen the wrong field.

It's not the people who show up to work with our kids that I have a problem with, it's the very expensive program, that exasperates teacher turnover, belittles experience, and gives our neediest students novice teachers when they need veterans, that I do.  

From the Times Union.

In the strategic abandonment report, the reading and the math coaches were listed as questionable. At total of 14 of the 37 programs were questionable, including Teach for America, a national nonprofit which recruits, trains and places teachers in high-poverty schools, including 50 in Duval schools this year.
Over the past three years, Duval has spent $600,000 with Teach for America, not counting teachers’ salaries. The report says the teachers’ students do as well as other Duval students in reading and slightly better in math.
 Six hundred thousand dollars beyond salaries, let that sink in. Now prepared to get outraged. What we have really spent, when we include the QEA initiative is 6.5 million dollars over the last three years.


I did a piece a while back and the district spends more on TFA teachers than it does on ten year veterans. Also remember the vast majority of these TFA teachers leave after two years assuring a revolving door in our most vulnerable schools.

What would have happened had we used that money to recruit veteran teachers? You know people who weren't killing time until grad school and to whom being a teacher was the career they had chosen?

What if we had spent that money on mental health counselors, or social workers, something many of our most vulnerable children need more than a novice teacher without an education background?

How about spending that money to make classes smaller, or provide summer school and after school opportunities? Any of these would have been a better use of the money.  

Questionable? My %$#, it's a bad deal for our schools and kids no matter how you slice it.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Will Monday be the beginning of the end for Superintendent Vitti?

Regardless of what happens in Detroit, if he gets the super gig there or not, Monday may be the last day for Superintendent Vitti here in Duval. Let me lay it out for you.  

In Detroit despite considerable push back from the community, the school board has passed the statutory time limit for picking a super, Vitti is still the favorite to get a job there. Monday may be the day they make their choice.

If not but more importantly if they pass, that doesn’t mean the super’s job here is safe.

You see there is a special school board meeting here tomorrow at 9:00.  It’s no secret a segment of the board was all right with Vitti applying for the job in Detroit.  If a boss wants to keep an employee they don’t say, we wish them well in their future opportunities, no, instead they check the couch cushions for more money, something this board was obviously unwilling to do.   

Furthermore, I can’t imagine at this point the relationship between the board and the super is repairable. The Detroit position is definitely a few steps down the ladder, and even though it is his hometown that tells me he has a foot, and probably a few more body parts, out the door. The board must know this.

Finally let me ask you a question, if you were on the board would you rather have a super that you had a good relationship with and wanted to be here, or one you had a poor relationship with and didn’t.

Most of the time special board meetings are ho-hum affairs, I however think tomorrows may have some fireworks. My bet is he gets a note that says, thank you for your service and you may finish the year but then it would be best if we went our separate ways.    

Check this space.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Superintendent Vitt, even on the way out the door shows he just doesn't get it.

In the last few weeks he referred to teachers as easily replaceable widgets and interviewed for the superintendent position in Detroit. Then once again this week he showed that he just doesn't get it.

WJCT did a piece about his concern over teaching vacancies, and it would have been nice had they mentioned he was at least partly responsible for so many. They didn't but they did show how little Vitti appreciates teachers and what they do.

From WJCT:

 “We know that the number of teachers that would be coming into our district right now, if all things stay the same, would be less than it was the year before,” Vitti said.

Vitti said that could mean using reading and math coaches as full-fledged teachers.

Wow, that might work if all our teacher vacancies were in math and reading, unfortunately they are not.

In the same piece he said:

Another strategy to keep teachers is to promote them into a master teacher role, coaching peers “so that our strongest teachers stay in the profession and don’t leave for other districts or other professions because they’re not growing professionally,” Vitti said.
He said one area where the district struggles according to the research group, National Council on Teacher Quality, is lack of career advancement. But the group also ranked Duval high in other areas like compensation and student support.
Teacher recruitment studies show programs like paid residencies, apprenticeships and a work environment where teachers feel valued and appreciated rank high.
Vitti said the district is improving in school culture according to district surveys.
Um he referenced the National Council of Teacher Quality, an astro turf group with scant credibility which consistently attacks teachers. What, Betsy DeVos or Jeb Bush weren't available? 

Then they ranked us high on salary and student support??? Are they high? Oh boy, teachers ask yourselves would you rank us high in those categories? Did he fill out their survey? I ask because we all now how he fills out surveys. Remember when he gave himself 47 out of 50 highly effectives after a few months on the job.  

Furthermore District surveys cannot be taken seriously. He can reference them all he wants but nobody is buying it

Now the idea of a master teacher is a good one, a suggestion made in this blog over and over throughout the years but when he says teachers crave advancement, he belittles all the people to whom teaching is the career. He doesn't get it, he seems to think that people who just want to stay in the classroom are stupid for doing so. Do some teachers want to go to admin? Sure but you know what most want? A decent salary, realistic expectations and support. Duval county is 0-3 in those categories. 

Finally I want to dissect the following sentence to show how ridiculous it is and how little he says can be taken seriously. Teacher recruitment studies show programs like paid residencies, apprenticeships and a work environment where teachers feel valued and appreciated rank high.

Teachers want to have paid apprenticeships and residencies? Um what? Are they recruiting professional teachers or college freshmen?  And yes teachers want to work in environments where they feel valued and appreciated and because Duval does not have that type of environment is why we find ourselves where we are.

Teaching is a hard gig and if the super was one for more than a cup of coffee he might know that.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Vitti and Wright show the Detroit delegation around, and that's a problem, here is why.

I wonder if I applied for another gig if I could bring in my potential employers to school and show them around, if it would be okay that I took a day off from doing my duties. Hmm would I have to put in a leave form?

The district is knuckling down for testing but there Vitti and Wright are showing people from other districts around, and you know I get it we probably get people every few weeks or so and somebody has to show them around but generally they aren't here to poach employees, and yes it is true I think the district would be better off if the super took his talents elsewhere but at the same time there is a right way and a wrong way to do things.

Here however may be the bigger problem. One of the Detroit school board members live streamed a visit to the Grasp academy where he prominently showed kids. Now all of the kids may have signed a press release but why is my guess not? There is the super and Iranetta Wright just standing back as the principal and a Detroit school board member interview a junior high student who by the shuffling of her feet at least appeared uncomfortable.  

I asked the district if this was permissible and rather than answer my question they blasted a comment I left on the live stream.

I wrote: Why are there 8 kids in that algebra I class while I have 12 in my IND, the most profound kids in the district, class? If only one of the super's kids went to my school.

To which the district instead of answering my questions responded, 
While researching your previous request, I am sending this email to set the record straight in reference to your post about class size and the Superintendent’s children on the Detroit Board Member’s Facebook page. None of Dr. Vitti’s children are enrolled in this class, and their attendance at GRASP has nothing to do with course offerings and class size. As you know, Duval County Public Schools made a commitment to ensure all schools with an 8th grade class offer Algebra 1. The overall 8th grade class at GRASP Academy is small, and an even smaller number of students take Algebra 1 which determines the class size.

To which I replied, 
You know a lot of people feel the superintendent used his position to create this school to serve his families particular needs and believe a disproportionate amount of resources are being used on the school. As someone who teaches at a school with profoundly disabled children in classes that run 12-15-16 deep I am more than a little outraged that an algebra I class even at a school for dyslexic children is considerably smaller.

My snarky comment and the district's tone deafness aside, we are a district with rules and procedures or we are not and at least for the super it seems like we are not.

Finally I would like to remind you that this seems like a pattern that the "elite" can do what they want when they want too. Last summer Jason Fischer filmed a commercial at a school and the district shrugged and yawned despite the fact that is supposed to be unacceptable.

Welcome to Duval County.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Vitti’s had a few pretty bad days.

I still think he is the odds-on favorite to get the Detroit Superintendent gig, but them pumping on the breaks must be disconcerting.

When the Detroit school board on Thursday scheduled a special meeting for next week, it seemed like a sign that a vote for superintendent was near.
But late Friday, the board canceled the special Monday meeting, signaling that it is unlikely to make a final decision then — even though Tuesday marks its legal deadline to choose a schools chief.
Members still plan to meet on Tuesday but have pushed off the major discussion about who will lead the district. Later Friday, the special board meeting to discussion the superintendent candidates was rescheduled for Thursday, April 13.
Two finalists are vying for the district’s top position: Jacksonville, Florida, schools chief Nikolai Vitti and Derrick Coleman, who runs the suburban Detroit district of River Rouge. Each spent a day interviewing in the city recently.

The schedule change comes as board members face pressure to slow the search down and consider other candidates, including interim superintendent Alycia Meriweather. Both of the city’s leading newspapers this week called on the board to reopen the search, and Dan Gilbert, the businessman and philanthropist who is heavily involved in Detroit issues, joined the chorus supporting Meriweather with a tweet on Friday.

Then the Jacksonville Journey voted to end the District’s suspension centers. I believe these have been expensive boondoggles and after years and millions of dollars the city finally agreed with me.
The district and its supporters may spin that the ATOSS’s were a success but the truth is if you look at the numbers they went empty more than not and they never explained why the district should pay for services that schools could provide. ATOSSs’ were glorified and expensive ISSP programs and in schools is where they should have happened.

Detroit pushing on the brakes and one of his signature programs biting the dust can’t be good news for the super, though like the millers daughter in Rumpelstiltskin I am sure he will be able to spin it into gold.  

Public education and teachers are under attack in Florida… again!

Public education and teachers are under attack in Florida… again!

Zippia a career building site ranked Florida 49th out of fifty for teachers, and that’s wasn’t al about pay either.

You see according to the teacher portal our ranking zooms all the way up to 44.

No Florida is attacking the teaching profession and education in increasingly creative ways.
This year alone there have been proposals to increase the money sent to charter schools, which amounts to public money for private and for profit money.  The house is close to passing a bill that would give public schools to charter schools despite the fact nearly 350 have failed in Florida and for the most part they do no better and often do worse than traditional public schools.

Instead of giving Florida’s teachers a long overdue raise they legislative bodies have been haggling over a teacher bonus schemes that is reviled by most teachers that bases the bonuses on things like SAT, GRE and even LSAT scores.

And let’s not forget the union busting bill that exempts police and firefighting unions that is attack against teachers and their representatives.

A highly controversial measure opponents describe as “union-busting” legislation meant to target Florida public school teachers passed the Republican-led House Thursday in a near party-line vote

Then once again the legislature is seeking t ignore the will of the people and further cripple the already watered down class size amendment. If there is going to be no enforcement of the law, then the law will exist in name only.

Even promising and popular recess and testing bills have experienced resistance and push back.

Friends we’re not on the verge of a teaching crisis we are in the middle of one that unless things change is only going to get worse. What’s Florida’s solution? To double down on their attacks on teachers and education.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

What pressure really is

He would have fit in quite nicely in Duval.

Image may contain: 1 person, text

Duval's HS social studies teacher experience a cruel joke

I tried to tie the title it into April Fool's day but I couldn't make it work, that being said what the district wants them to do is no joke.

Here is an email sent to many of the district's HS social studies teachers.

 Good Afternoon,

The Social Studies Department will be providing professional development for Economics and American Government teachers on April 6th & 7th. Please view the attached flyer for the time, date, and location of the training session you are scheduled to attend.

If I have omitted anyone in error, please forward this information to them.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.


TiLena Robinson

Um, April 6th and 7th? When schools are testing and teachers are reviewing for the CAST test? This by the way has nothing to with what is happening this year, which begs the question why couldn't this with until things slow down?

The answer is it definitely could and this is just one more example of a tone deaf administration that doesn't take into account what teachers are doing or going through. It's like they don't even care and we wonder why so many teachers are unhappy and are making contingency plans to leave.

Welcome to Duval County.

Please support the third grade retention law suit!

You aren't going to fund a more worthy cause.

Dear Friends of Public Education,

As the Plaintiffs move towards the Florida Supreme Court, they must continue to pay their attorney. They have agreed to pay $7400.00 to progress this case. This is a small portion of the entire legal bill. With your generous donations, we can make it.
Here is a compelling video appeal from one of the parents: 

At this time they have raised over $5000.00 of that $7400.00 and for that we thank you!
The families now have until April 4th to commit so please share the campaign and continue to support the fight to make sure that #180DaysCount

There are 3 ways to donate.
2) Paypal link on
3) To avoid GoFundMe fees, you may send a check directly to Attorney for the Plaintiffs:
The Law Office of Andrea Flynn Mogensen, P.A.
200 South Washington Boulevard, Suite 7
Sarasota FL 34236
Note on your check: "Third Grade Florida Supreme Court" and please let us know you have sent it at

It has been encouraging that SO MANY teachers have donated. 

If you can contribute a challenge match to help the families get over this first hurdle, we would be very grateful. 

Thank you,