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After failing in several attempts to negotiate a 3 percent cost-of-living raise with the Rochester, N.H., city council, the local teachers' union decided that it had had enough.

So the Rochester Federation of Teachers launched an unusual protest. Earlier this summer, union members removed every piece of property that teachers had purchased with their own money for local schools. They filled moving vans with nearly 1,000 boxes of materials: books, pencils, bulletin boards, bookcases, computer equipment, games, and posters.

One small alternative school was even left without a telephone--a teacher had bought the only one it had.

The 4,470-student district is losing new teaching applicants to other districts because of low pay, said Sue Cushman, the union's president. She estimated that a third of the district's staff members are looking for jobs.

Michael L. Hopkins, the district's assistant superintendent, said he hopes the issue can be resolved before school starts.

Mr. Hopkins said the district has not lost more teachers than usual this summer. And while the district has had some trouble filling administrative positions, hiring new teachers has not been difficult, he added.

Teachers, who sometimes have dozens of boisterous students in a single class, often have to use their voices to cut through the din. And that, university researchers have found, may be posing some health problems.

Researchers studied the vocal problems of about 250 teachers in Utah and Nevada during the 1993-94 school year and presented findings in June at a national meeting of voice specialists. About 15 percent of the teachers reported having trouble with their voices; about half of those said they had experienced hoarseness over the year. About one-fifth missed up to a week of work because of voice problems.

Teachers had a much higher incidence of voice disorders than other professionals who were surveyed, according to Dr. Steven D. Gray, an ear, nose, and throat specialist and faculty member at the University of Utah's school of medicine. Dr. Gray and a colleague from the University of Iowa worked on the study.

"Obviously, teachers have to talk too much, too loud--that's their job," added Dr. Gray, who said that voice clinics are treating increasing numbers of teachers.

Speech pathologists also recommend taking breaks from speaking, using microphones or audio-visual aids, and drinking plenty of water. Of course, smaller classes would also help, Dr. Gray said.

--Meg Sommerfeld & Joanna Richardson

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