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Thirty-five years ago my wife and I declined to buy a house in Port Washington for $42,000. As young Port Washington teachers, we could not prudently afford that house on our salaries. If we had bought it and struggled with mortgage and tax payments, we could now sell that house for about a million dollars. A tidy profit!

How many taxpayers in Port Washington own houses that represent a potential profit of $ one million?

How many of these million-dollar homeowners have paid anywhere near $ one million in school taxes over their lifetime of ownership? How many expect to pay a million dollars of school taxes in future years?

Yet, Mr. Russo (Letters to the Editor Sept. 29) says "teachers are paid enough and should stop asking for raises because the community can't pay for it."

For all the years I taught in Port, I was aware that teaching here meant never asking how much effort was enough. Port teachers gave of their professionalism until it hurt, with the confidence that the effort was well rewarded.

Reading Mr. Russo's letter leads me to think in the other direction. If teachers in Port are really paid enough and if the million-dollar home cannot support the taxbase, then merit pay will make no difference. If what we really want is to pay less regardless of ability to pay, then perhaps what we are asking of the teachers is just to get on with it, don't worry about making the extra effort. Just put in the hours equivalent to your pay, and we'll all be satisfied with the result.

If, as Mr. Russo states, Port students place in the middle third of test results, imagine where they will place when carping over salary degrades the professionalism of our teaching staff into a "show me the money" attitude.

I know this will not happen with the present faculty, but hire enough of the "100 applicants for every position" crowd and that is what we will get. Hiring the spillover candidates from NYC and other desperate situations may save money as well, but it will not maintain professionalism.

Maybe I should have struggled to buy that house in Port Washington. The profits would have dwarfed any school taxes I would have paid and now I'd be able to vote on the reasonable side in the budget elections.

Martin Hamburger


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