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.
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.
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