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Sandy, Teacher Evaluations, Bus Strike Among Stories That Mark City School Year

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TWC News: Sandy, Teacher Evaluations, Bus Strike Among Stories That Mark City School Year
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A hurricane, a bus strike, new learning standards, chemicals leaking from lights and a battle over the first new teacher evaluation system in decades were among the story lines that marked a tumultuous school year for the city. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

Hurricane Sandy caused 72 schools to be damaged, 300 buses to be destroyed and 75,000 students to be displaced. All 1,600 city schools closed for a week. There was not enough buses or fuel to move students in the weeks after.

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott predicted a difficult recovery from the storm in its aftermath.

"I'm not going to paint a rosy picture at all. It's going to be very difficult," he said last November.

But most agreed that the Department of Education did well in the face of unprecedented challenges.

"Schools open as quickly as any reasonable person could hope," City Councilman Lewis Fidler of Brooklyn said at a hearing in February.

Then, in January, there were more bus problems, this time after the city put out bids on new contracts and drivers went on strike.

"We had a competitive process for the first time in 33 years," Walcott said about the process in February.

"We don't want a raise. We don't want a penny. All we want is job protection," one bus driver said in February.

After a month, the drivers returned to work without the protections they'd been fighting for.

Another battle, and lawsuit, continued over the city's 10-year plan to remove light fixtures that contain dangerous compounds known as PCBs.

On the first day of school, PCBs dripped onto a Staten Island fifth grader. It continued for the next several months, with lights dripping and smoking at dozens of schools.

The school year ended with the city changing course, agreeing to replace all the light fixtures by 2016, five years earlier than planned.

"The community has won a great victory," Christina Giorgia of the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest said in May.

New, more challenging learning standards were put in place this year, which officials say will get students ready for college. How will it impact test scores?

"We do expect that there'll be a lower percentage of students who perform at the proficient or advanced level," State Education Commissioner John King said in April.

The relationship between the Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the teachers' union went from bad to worse, as the city was the only district in the state that couldn't reach a deal on teacher evaluations.

"The UFT is costing our schools hundreds of millions of dollars," Bloomberg said in January. "But I'm not surprised."

"Just stop it. Just tell everyone the truth," United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said last December. "You didn't want the deal. You blew it up."

The school year ended with the state stepping in and imposing a new evaluation system. Both sides declared victory.

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