Letter from Portsmouth Superintendent Dr. Susan Lusi

This went out on the Portsmouth Superintendent's listserv this afternoon, debunking a letter from School Committee candidate Marilyn King which appeared in both the Newport Daily News and today's Sakonnet Times. I am working on my personal response, but wanted to share what Dr. Lusi had to say:

Dear Members of the Portsmouth Community,

I have had the privilege of serving this community for just over three years. During my tenure in Portsmouth, I have worked to ensure that public debate regarding our school system is factually based.

In this vein, I have read the coverage of political discussions regarding my compensation over the past few weeks with interest, but also with disappointment because some of the information that has been presented regarding the overall amount of my salary increase and how it compares to that of teachers is simply incorrect.

The purpose of this communication is to provide you with the facts as you are forming your own opinions.

Overall Compensation
In my first three years as a new Superintendent, my raises comprised cost of living increases equivalent to the increase in CPI [consumer price index] only. There were, and are, no salary step increases in my contract. As many of you know, there are salary step increases, in addition to COLAs [cost of living adjustments], in our teachers’ contract and in the contract for our school-based administrators. In addition, for my first three years, I was the only certified employee (teacher or administrator) who was not paid a stipend for my higher degree. I was also one of the lowest paid superintendents in Rhode Island.

Informationally, a teacher entering the Portsmouth system in my first year (2005-2006) as a new teacher would have received salary step increases in addition to COLAs, and would have been paid for higher degrees. In addition, teachers at the top step of the salary scale are in the top 10 districts in the state based on salary. It is true, that Portsmouth’s first step was low when compared statewide; the School Committee and NEA Portsmouth agreed to increase step 1 in the most recent contract negotiations in order to assure that Portsmouth continued to attract superior teaching candidates.

Comparing the Numbers
The compensation and increases a new teacher serving the same years I have served, and those that I have received as Superintendent, are outlined below. To summarize, the increases I have received are less than half what teachers have received over the same time period. Let me be clear, I in no way begrudge our teachers their compensation or their increases. They are well deserved, and we are in different jobs with different pay scales which are not entirely comparable. However, since these comparisons are being made in the public discourse, I do want them to be factual.

Finally, for information, my total compensation for this current school year places me in the bottom half of statewide superintendents’ salaries for last year as reported by the Providence Journal in January of 2008.

In Closing
Overseeing a system that educates children is serious and vitally important business, and it is important that we work together to oversee the Portsmouth system starting from a base of factual information. Reasonable people may well disagree after understanding the facts, but I hope that you will hold everyone engaged in the dialogue of how our schools should be run accountable for presenting you with information that is accurate.


Susan F. Lusi, Ph.D.
Portsmouth School Department


Hi Veteran Fellow Bloggers,
While I may miss the whole debacle over school budget, salaries, etc. in my humble opinion the welfare and competence of our children should come first. In my view the current squabbling seems trivial to me in view of what we as a community and nation are facing.
An educated and informed workforce will ensure the future of our Republic, current attacks on our constitution by our own government notwithstanding. When it comes to education, nothing should be spared, even if students have to share books, walk to class, have one instructor teach from memory history, arithmetic and algebra, composition and grammar, health education, music, geography, biology, and literature including reciting poetry and drama plays (I saw it personally during WW II).

Back to the future:
Of late, news articles have focused on autism from only one standpoint: injections. That is fine, but given the current state, I am of the opinion that there is much more to it than flu shots.
For example:
1. Do you know where your food comes from (saying from the ocean is unsat.)?
2. Do you look for labeling prior to your purchase?
3. Do you discriminate among foods containing corn syrup, MSG, fructose, etc., etc.?
4. Do you measure the amount of certain species of fish you consume?
5. So you have your physician order Whole Blood Mercury tests?
6. Do you know what your current mercury level reading is in ug/L?
7. Do you know the dangers of methyl mercury and possible risks to health?
While my research over the last three years turned out negative due to local water, food purchases, menu choices, paint products, amalgam, occupational influence, and the environment, and contacting all the usual data bases, federal and state agencies, I'm at the my end’s wits in identifying the source of the mercury that may accelerate my dementia, Alzheimer, or worse.
So here is my round-about appeal based on one of the web sites offering a forum to be engaged:

“Join the Scorecard Network
Help build the network of organizations using Scorecard and making it available to a wide audience. If you publish a website, integrate Scorecard as a resource for local information about the environment. You can easily incorporate Scorecard's maps and/or data into your site to help people find out about pollution in your community. Banners and buttons that provide attractive links to Scorecard are available for free, including banners that allows users to type in their zip code on your site and go directly to Scorecard's report for their community.”
While PreservePortsmouth.org relied on the generosity of working folks with their time and funds, I hope that John’s mission includes environmentally sensitive topics that could impact the health of our more vulnerable infants, children, and students.
Let’s start the conversation, please.
Werner Loell