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A tentative contract in hand, teachers in the nation's seventh-largest school system ended their month-old strike and returned to work Monday.

Teachers voted overwhelmingly Sunday to end the walkout even before taking a formal ratification vote, after hearing their union president dispute the school district's analysis that the contract would cost some teachers their jobs.Monday was a preparation day for the teachers. For their 168,000 students, classes will begin Tues-day.

Outside Redford High School, smiling teachers exchanged hugs and greetings. Some lugged shopping-carts full of plants and papers.

"Sure, there's going to be questions about the strike," said Redford math teacher Sharon Appling as she reported for work Monday morning. "I'm going to handle this and analyze this as the right to disagree, the right to have an opinion and the right to defend that opinion."

The union will vote next week on whether to ratify the contract, which gives the 10,500 teachers raises of 4 percent in its first year and 3 percent in its second.

The second-year raise is contingent on money collected from delinquent property taxes, and a district spokesman said Saturday the first year's raise probably would be paid for by laying off up to 250 teachers and an undetermined number of administrators and other nonteachers.

Union President John Elliott told more than 1,000 teachers Sunday that he doesn't believe that analysis.

"For the life of me, I don't know why the board made that statement, other than for the sake of a threat," he said. "How can you lay off teachers when you don't have enough of them in the first place?"

Superintendent Deborah McGriff did not return a call Sunday.

On Thursday and Friday, the teachers largely defied a judge's back-to-work order.

Wanda Hogg, an English teacher at Redford High School, said she planned to invite her pupils' parents to "stop by if they have questions. We need to work co-oper-a-tively, because this is going to be a long year."