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Opinion

Permit me to introduce myself. Let me put a face on the Port Washington Teachers Association. I am Marcia Kirschenbaum, sixth-grade teacher at Weber Middle School and resident of Port Washington for 29 years. I am 56 years old, not that far from retirement. I hope in the next six years to be able to say "goodbye" to teaching, knowing that I have done the best job possible and hopefully made a difference in many young lives. I'd like to remain in this town because I love it; I love its culture, diversity, location. I don't want to remain here, however, if the reputation of the educators is tainted and young families no longer want to educate their children here.

The main attraction for families who are considering investing in real estate in Port Washington is its excellence in education. That excellence comes from the fine teaching staff that is dedicated to teaching all the children in Port.

Since you, the parent, send the whole child to school, I must teach the whole child. Not only is my task to impart math and science curriculum for the sixth grade, but I must also:

1. Advise the child who arrives at school confused because chaos exists in his home.

2. Organize the child who cannot find anything because his book bag has not been cleaned out since October.

3. Nurture the student whose relationship with his peers is falling apart.

4. Tutor the student during my lunch hour because he is at risk, not classified, and has no other time to receive extra help.

5. Parent a student whose parents are having personal difficulties and the child cannot cope.

Shall I go on? Let's see. When I'm not teaching a core class, I'm meeting with guidance or another team of teachers, fighting to get services for a student who is in desperate need of them. I am on the phone with parents explaining, informing, and communicating whatever it is they need to know. Planning-ah, yes! To meet the new standards, we are writing and rewriting curriculum so we can successfully send our students forward with the knowledge they need to fulfill the necessary requirements.

It is now 3:10 p.m. Students go home. Port Washington Teacher Association faces ¬ they stay. They remain to evaluate and assess the day. How did my lessons go? Who needs help? Why? What more can I do to help every child in my class? Some of you don't think we work hard enough or long enough. Unless you would like us to go home with our students, there are no more hours left in the day.

The current state of contract negotiations is very upsetting to me. I feel personally insulted, stripped of my autonomy, dignity and professionalism. I am truly concerned about the future of a community that I have grown to love. We want to attract new residents and master teachers, not deter them.

I truly urge you to rethink your strategies and tactics. Don't alienate the Port Washington teachers. Work with us so that we can work with your children with our dignity intact and our professional standing high. Treat us the way you want us to treat your children: with respect, pride, and most important, honesty. We have all worked very hard this year. It would be nice to look forward to a wonderful, carefree school opening in September.

Marcia Kirschenbaum



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