When I read Mr. Frank Russo's Oct. 27 letter in the Port Washington News, I experienced conflicting emotions. While appalled by its caustic, sneering tone, I was simultaneously glad that Mr. Russo had dropped the mask of reasonableness, false admiration, respect and understanding for teachers and the work they do that characterized his Sept. 29 "Letter to the Editor." He has, indeed, abandoned this façade and exposed his undeniably virulent anti-teacher agenda first identified in my Oct. 13 letter to this publication.
Mr. Russo spends the majority of his Oct. 27 letter repeating his arguments of Sept. 29 and continues to leave his assertions largely unsupported by logical reasoning and an accurate understanding of tenure and the provisions of the teachers' contract. While teachers are awarded tenure after three years of intensive professional review, this tenure does not provide absolute salary and job protection. According to a section of the current contract entitled "Increment Withholding," teachers may be denied a step increase in their salary for unsatisfactory job performance, and a procedure is in place for the removal of a tenured teacher who has proven himself or herself unfit for his or her position. Mr. Russo's insistence that teachers should be subject to a system of merit pay sounds appealing, but what he doesn't explain is how such a system would be fairly implemented. What would be the criteria used to assess a teacher's worth in the classroom? The opportunities for favoritism and abuse would abound.
But while most concerned community members and educators seek to engage in substantive, carefully researched, respectful dialogue about such issues, Mr. Russo appears to be committed only to making vague references to elusive "insiders" in response to those who would seriously and intelligently question his views. Who are these "insiders" whose comments Mr. Russo cites as proof that "many teachers" in this district received their jobs "because they knew the 'right' person?" If, in fact, this district engages in such questionable hiring practices, why do these "insiders" not seem to have the courage to come forward and expose these abuses, offering documented proof that they occur?
In closing, I would like to observe that Mr. Russo's derisive accusations of "silliness," "greediness," "sheer arrogance" and "selfish nonsense" on the part of the hardworking teachers of the Port Washington School District amount to ad hominem attacks that serve only to close down the open and reasoned debate necessary to provide Port's students with the superior educational system they deserve. How do I know this? My teachers taught me about effective rhetorical strategy, the pitfalls of logical fallacy and the characteristics of true policy debate ... and I listened to their invaluable lessons. Perhaps Mr. Russo might have done well to do the same.
Anne E. Pellett
Paul D. Schreiber High School