When I shook hands with an assistant superintendent at Eastern Senior High School this summer, I was so excited that I was going to work in Washington. She wrote down the amount of my pay and promised a $1,000 signing bonus. I signed the contract on the spot.

The students of the District need and deserve excellent teachers. I believe I can be that kind of teacher. Recently, I and the others in my department spent three days and two nights away from our families, without pay, to give these city-dwellers a camping experience. So many of them remarked about the beauty of the night sky away from the lights of the city. They learned to be quiet in the woods. They learned to shop for and cook food over camp stoves. They learned how to pitch a tent, sleep in the cold and take the tent down again. They learned to pick up after themselves, to build a fire and keep it going, and not to litter a public park. The parents who picked up their children Sunday afternoon seemed genuinely appreciative.

So I am sorry to report the pay stubs for the first two pay periods of the year were almost incomprehensible. They indicate a gross pay of less than I contracted for. I do not know if I got the signing bonus. The third paycheck was late, and teachers were required to trek downtown to pick them up [Metro, Oct. 16]. The fourth paycheck was on time, but I'm still not sure if it was for the right amount. The fifth paycheck is due today -- we'll see what happens.

When these problems have arisen, I have tried without success to contact the payroll department. Teachers were given a form to fill out and fax to that office. I tried many times unsuccessfully to get through. I tried to call, but there was no answer. It wasn't until Oct. 29 that one helpful employee -- not in the payroll office -- was able to chase down my check. Some of my colleagues still haven't received all their pay.

I fail to understand this situation. I have never worked at a place that did not pay employees -- accurately and on time. I am so disappointed.