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I write this weekend, diverting my attention from preparing some of the 23 conference forms for my second grade students at Sousa Elementary School. This is an abnormally high number of students for a primary-level class I might add - a result of the defeated budget. I do this to address an attitude that seems pervasive in the town - the general negativity regarding the negotiations of our contract renewal and perhaps an anti-teacher sentiment. Many of the arguments are purely quantitative, not qualitative. We are educated professionals performing a service. Teacher experience and additional education add value - to the students - and thereby should add value to those performing the service.

My husband and I are 30+ year residents of Port Washington. Both our sons went to the Port schools from K-12, receiving an excellent education. As a young, full-time mother, yet a certified, experienced teacher, the reputation of the Port schools drew me to this community. Had my husband been a teacher, it's doubtful we could have settled in Port Washington. It's a shame that more teachers can't afford to live here.

As the boys grew, I returned to my profession. I felt fortunate to be hired by the Port Washington School District. The competition was fierce then, as it still is, but at that time Port schools were looking for and able to attract quality and experience. This should never change. Compromise in teacher quality results in compromise in student education.

We frequently hear that teachers choose their profession because of dedication to education and love of teaching, with an implicit suggestion that they don't need to be well compensated because of the "calling." Well, I am dedicated, and I do love teaching students. My husband is also dedicated, and loves his work. Lawyers and doctors are dedicated and love the law and medicine. Dedication and love of one's work should not dictate renumeration - or lack thereof.

There is the perception that we only work the school days and hours that the children actually attend school. This is an erroneous perception. Similar to icebergs, a large portion of teachers' efforts and time in school is unseen. The reason the Sousa classrooms are ready for the students when they arrive the first day of school is that the teachers have been in for several weeks during the summer recess, preparing them. The reason the books and supplies for the classroom are ready is that as school ends, the teachers have agonized, spending more and more time on their lists to meet ever-declining budgets for such things in times of ever-increasing requirements. A visit to Sousa at 7 a.m. on a school day will find teachers already at work, as will a visit at 5:30 p.m. And just like the conference forms, work comes home regularly. Ask our families. I'm sure this is true throughout the district.

In the Oct. 20, Port News Mr. Robert Schill made reference to how "ridiculous" it would be to pay teachers salaries comparable to stockbrokers. On this I will make no comment. However, if Mr. Schill were to continue the analogy, stockbrokers are supposed to help grow and enhance financial assets, and should be compensated accordingly. Teachers are charged with growing and enhancing the education of another type of asset - our children. We should be given the appropriate consideration.

Lynn Couture


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