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About 250 Ithaca, N.Y., students spent a day in "alternative classes" last month to protest planned budget cuts that could affect the district's affirmative-action office.

Raymond Davis, one of several parents who organized the April 15 boycott, said it was also a protest against the school district's tracking system, which he said places minority students in the lowest educational tracks.

About 237 of the students participating in the boycott were black, about half of the district's black student population, according to Mr. Davis.

The boycotting students attended alternative classes held at a Cornell University dormitory and two community centers.

"The parents who organized the boycott are members of a task force that has been engaged for a year and a half in bringing about reforms in the education program serving black students," Mr. Davis said.

The school board is expected to hold a final vote on the budget May 8.

The Ithaca superintendent's office could not be reached for comment.

Representatives of the Hartford Board of Education and the Hartford Federation of Teachers will appear in court this week to defend a new teachers' contract that could cost the city $209 million over the next four years.

The City Council, which has ultimate authority over the school budget, filed suit over the agreement last month, claiming it circumvents the council's right of review. The council has asked the court to prevent the defendants from seeking a court order that would force the city to honor the contract.

"This is not an anti-union effort and it is not an anti-teacher effort," said Richard H. Goldstein, corporation counsel for the city. "This is simply an effort to secure what we believe is a right given by the state to the city council: the right to review contracts."

According to Donald Romanik, assistant corporation counsel, the board and the teachers' union entered into binding arbitration earlier this year after failing to reach a negotiated settlement. But before the arbitrators rendered a decision, the two parties came to terms, and the three-member arbitration board then "took that contract and returned it to the parties as their binding-arbitration award."

The city claims that the contract was negotiated, not arbitrated, and as such should be subject to council review.

But Thomas Mooney, the lawyer representing the school board, said the state's arbitration statute encourages parties to "bargain in good faith" throughout the arbitration procedure. He added that once the arbitration panel has jurisdiction in a case "it retains jurisdiction" and that the purpose of the arbitration is to bring the parties together.

An illegal teachers' strike in Quincy, Mass., ended last month when union and school officials reached agreement on a three-year contract providing teachers with a 1.5-percent salary increase in May, another 1.5-percent increase retroactive to September 1984, and 6-percent increases in 1985-86 and 1986-87.

Although the one-day strike violated Massachusetts law, Mary F. Curtin, president of the Quincy Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association, said the teachers felt it was necessary in order to settle the contract dispute.

Salary increases have been a major point of contention between the union and the school district since 1979, when Quincy first felt the effects of the state's tax-cutting law, Proposition 2. "We've had six years of horror here," Ms. Curtin said.

For this school year, the district had offered the teachers a 3-percent increase, retroactive to February, and a 6-percent increase in 1985-86. The teachers were asking for a 6-percent increase this school year and a 7-percent raise the following year, according to Ms. Curtin.


A Fairfield, Conn., mother who hired a professional clown to throw a pie at a junior-high-school dean who had disciplined her daughter has been found guilty of breach of the peace, but not guilty of attempting to bribe and tamper with a witness.

Mary Diorio was charged, along with her husband, James, with hiring Robert Fuller, who performs as "Tickles the Clown," to throw a pie at William Stansfield, dean of students at Tomlinson Junior High School. Ms. Diorio's case was heard last month before the Connecticut Superior Court in Bridgeport; Mr. Diorio, a lawyer, will be tried at a later date.

"The motive appeared to be that [Ms. Diorio's] daughter had been reprimanded and put on probation by this dean about a month earlier," said Scott Murphy, assistant state's attorney and the prosecutor in the case. "This appeared to be a revenge."

Mr. Stansfield, who has refused to comment publicly on the case, testified in the trial that he was "mortified" by the prank, according to press reports. The superintendent of the district complained to police authorities, said Mr. Murphy, and, following an investigation, the Diorios were charged.

Mr. Fuller, who has appeared as Ronald McDonald for the McDonald's restaurant chain and has, according to press reports, been convicted of food-stamp fraud, testified that Ms. Diorio told him the pie-throwing had been approved by school officials.

The Diorios were also charged with offering to pay Mr. Fuller $10,000 in "hush money" and with threatening him. Both Ms. Diorio and her husband pleaded not guilty to all charges.

In sentencing, scheduled for May 17 by Superior Court Judge Robert P. Burns, Ms. Diorio faces up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

The Diorios' lawyer was not available for comment.

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