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As an active public school teacher with four decades of experience, I have been following the Port school district finances for some years now. The school district administration often touts about soaring student achievement while recent New York State test scores present a less rosy picture. The adjective 'soaring,' while not indicative of current student achievement, is reasonable with regard to PWSD teacher salaries. As a teacher I certainly advocate for just salary increases but not for the excessive percentages we currently have.

Superintendent Gordon stated that the recent teacher contract is responsive to the concerns of Port taxpayers, while Mr. Seiden stated that the contract was fair to our community. How was this contract fair and responsive when the opinions of the community were not entertained before the proposed contract was finalized? The PWSD held a community forum last spring at Schreiber HS where key budgetary issues weren't entertained and where taxpayer's addresses and email accounts were solicited to allow for a distribution of a summary of the evening forum. I, as well as others, have yet to receive any summary as was promised.

Port Washington teachers get a 12.3 percent raise over 4 years in addition to "step" increases for years of service. The steps are 1, 2, 3 ... up to 15 years of service, then at 20 years and 25 years, respectively. These additional increases (beyond the 12.3 percent) range from 2.5 percent to 5.0 percent. There are even more increases for additional coursework (BA, BA+30, BA+60, MA, MA+15, MA+30, MA+45, MA+60, doctorate) ranging from 2.5 percent o 4.5 percent, except for the doctorate which can exceed 7 percent. Keep in mind that only a master's degree is needed for permanent certification. The average overall 4-year salary increase is around a whopping 23 percent. Any clubs, coaching, test scoring, etc. would add additional remuneration beyond the above guaranteed 23 percent average increase.

When one considers that Nassau County homeowners pay the second-highest property taxes in the nation and Port Washington commercial property owners have recently sued the PWSD over their soaring tax burden, it's time for the school board to do a reality check and take a closer look at increasing student achievement and lessening the soaring tax burden. History proves that budgets and bond referendums will be defeated and contingency budgets will continue as long as school boards grant exorbitant salary increases more than double the rate of inflation. And why not!

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