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Cortines Garners New Contract, Show of Support

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Schools Chancellor Ramon C. Cortines of New York City has quietly transformed Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani's latest effort to remove him into a political thrashing for the Mayor himself.

After a weekslong campaign by Mr. Giuliani to drive Mr. Cortines out of office, the chancellor found himself with a new contract last month and with the support of much of the city's school board and political establishment.

The board voted 5 to 2--with only the Mayor's appointees dissenting--to award Mr. Cortines a two-year extension of his current contract, which was due to expire at the end of June.

"The members agree that the chancellor has shown determined educational and managerial leadership in the face of unprecedented fiscal difficulties," the board said in a joint statement evaluating Mr. Cortines's 16-month tenure.

The chancellor accepted their offer and issued a statement telling the board that its "strongly felt and strongly stated" support was crucial to his decision to stay.

Feuds With the Mayor

As Mr. Cortines was refusing Mr. Giuliani's demands that he resign, the board was rebuffing the Mayor's compromise proposal calling for the chancellor to be granted a one-year contract extension, with certain conditions on his employment.

The board's sole concession to the Mayor appeared to be a request that the chancellor do more to trim the district's administration. Mr. Giuliani often has criticized Mr. Cortines for opposing his budget-cutting proposals and not doing more to trim the school system's administrative costs, which the Mayor has deemed excessive.

As the board voted on Mr. Cortines's contract, dozens of parents marched in support of him outside the board headquarters.

The city's five borough presidents, as well as the speaker of the City Council and many business leaders, also had rallied to Mr. Cortines's side in recent weeks as the Mayor attacked him in the news media in an effort to persuade him to leave.

City Council members also have been feuding with the Mayor on their respective budget powers. The council has resisted many of the Mayor's proposed budget cuts in education and other areas, while the Mayor has threatened to impound city funds to balance the budget.

Mr. Cortines had resigned over a budget-related dispute with the Mayor last spring, only to withdraw his resignation two days later. (See Education Week, 04/20/94.)

The chancellor said last month that he had considered not accepting the contract renewal in light of the Mayor's resistance. After deciding to stay, Mr. Cortines said he hoped to mend their relationship and work together toward goals such as finding more money for school construction and procuring more state aid.

Mr. Giuliani responded by vowing to continue to press his reform agenda.

"To the extent that the chancellor adheres to that agenda, and hopefully does substantially better than he has up to now, and doesn't undercut that agenda of reform, then we'll work with him," Mr. Giuliani said. "To the extent that he doesn't, we'll continue to raise criticisms."

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