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May 20, 2013
Emotions still raw as Regents visit Sandy-affected city schools
Members of the state Board of Regents took a break from their cloistered policy discussions today to hear directly from families who were heavily affected by Superstorm Sandy last year. "Every time it rains, like last week, the first words my son asks me" is if the house will flood, said Maryrose Spiteri. "He panics." Spiteri was part of a small group of parents and teachers from P.S. 38 on Staten Island who met in the school's library this morning with three Regents: Chancellor Merryl Tisch, Buffalo's Robert Bennett, and Staten Island's Christine Cea. Principal Everlidys Robles estimated that 85 percent of her families "were devastated" by the storm and that 40 students — about 12 percent — had not returned.
April 29, 2013
Sandy and New York City's public schools: An annotated history
When Superstorm Sandy struck New York City six months ago, it hobbled the school system along with the rest of the city. We look back at half a year of physical, psychic, and academic recovery for the city's schools. Landfall: The auditorium at P.S. 195 in Manhattan Beach was flooded during Hurricane Sandy, making the school one of 200 to have its building damaged by the storm. On Oct. 26, as Sandy bore down on the region, school budgets were the big news.
April 26, 2013
Six months after Sandy, a Rockaway school is still struggling
Channel View's college applications celebration was "one of the best days" for the school since Hurricane Sandy, a student said. The school is still recovering from the storm. When a television news crew approached the Channel View School for Research a couple of months ago and asked to do a glowing report on the school's success, the staff was incredulous. "They wanted to do a story about thriving schools,” said Craig Dorsi, a history teacher and the school’s union chapter leader. "We were like, are you freaking crazy? We’re not thriving. The reality is that the world is still upside down." A year ago, the school's impressive graduation, attendance, and college and career readiness rates all made Channel View worth visiting. But that was before Hurricane Sandy, which tore through New York City six months ago this week. In the storm's aftermath, Channel View was displaced from its building for two months and has struggled to recover. Teachers' and students' homes were destroyed, parents lost their jobs, and ongoing work to rebuild the Rockaway Peninsula has made for a bleak backdrop in which to go to school. Even four months after the school returned to its building, students and staff say that something is missing. In interviews, they struggled to identify what they had lost.
December 13, 2012
Staten Island schools affected by Sandy get high-profile visitors
UFT President Michael Mulgrew (left) and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan toured a storm-swept area of Staten Island between school visits today. After Hurricane Sandy devastated Staten Island, New Dorp High School sprang into action. Under the leadership of Principal Deidre DeAngelis, the school turned into a command center for the area, hosting a school displaced by the storm, drumming up donations from alumni, and distributing food, clothing, and blankets to students and staff members who needed them. On Thanksgiving, New Dorp hosted a dinner for 650 families. "Matt cooked until he couldn't cook anymore," DeAngelis said about the school's culinary arts teacher, Matthew Hays. "We were so appreciative that we got help when no one else was helping us," said Amanda Delapena, the student body vice president whose home was heavily damaged. "I thought the story of what this school has done needs to be told," UFT President Michael Mulgrew said during a visit to the school this morning. At his invitation, U.S. Secretary of Education also visited the school, along with Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Ernest Logan, president of the principals union.
November 19, 2012
Officials blanket Sandy-affected schools, where fallout persists
State Education Commissioner John King and City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott talk to a P.S. 47 administrator. At M.S. 53 on the Rockaway Peninsula, one student told Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch he was worried about taking the state tests after all the time he missed in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Up a flight of stairs at Village Academy, Chancellor Dennis Walcott heard from a seventh-grader named Kimberly who lost everything in the storm. In a few weeks, she's relocating permanently to Rochester, said her principal, Doris Lee. And at a third visit at P.S. 47 in Broad Channel, an island that helps connect the Far Rockaway peninsula to the Queens mainland, Walcott asked about 20 fourth-graders if they knew what "FEMA" meant. Every hand went up. Another 12 schools damaged by Sandy reopened on Monday, bringing 5,400 more students back to their original classrooms from temporary relocations in other school buildings. During a visit to another Far Rockaway school, P.S. 43, Mayor Bloomberg celebrated the news and noted that of 65 schools originally rendered "non-operational" because of power outages, damaged boilers, and flooded basements, all but 18 are back up and running.
November 8, 2012
Students in Rockaway schools go elsewhere, or nowhere at all
Just blocks away from P.S./M.S. 114 in Belle Harbor, a hard-hit neighborhood on the Rockaway peninsula, homes were heavily damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Hundreds of students, mostly middle class, have fled their Far Rockaway schools to enroll somewhere else since Hurricane Sandy knocked the peninsula out of commission. But attendance data suggests that many other Far Rockaway students are simply not attending school in the first days that the city has provided schools for them. Attendance dropped slightly citywide today, from 87 percent on Wednesday to 82.6 percent, a decline that officials attributed to the snowstorm. "Attendance from both teachers and students, given the storm, was actually reasonably good," Mayor Bloomberg said during a news conference. The attendance rate fell more dramatically for students in 56 schools relocated because of damage from Hurricane Sandy. Just 30 percent of students in those schools were in class today, while students in relocated schools had a 43 percent attendance rate on Wednesday, their first day back after the storm. Driving the decline was the addition of 13 new relocations that started today, all for Queens schools without power. Most of the schools without power are on the Rockaway peninsula, which still does not have subway service, and the Department of Education has been unable to muster enough buses to transport all students from the peninsula, instead offering to reimburse families who make their own way to school. Some of the schools where relocations began today posted attendance rates below 1 percent. Overall, in District 27 today, which contains several neighborhoods in addition to those on the Rockaway peninsula, 26 schools posted attendance rates below 20 percent.
November 2, 2012
In battered Red Hook, teachers struggle to connect with families
Julie Cavanagh and her husband prepare to pass out supplies to Red Hook residents affected by the storm. City teachers were told to stay home from school this week until today because of damages and disruption wrought by Hurricane Sandy. But staff working in one of the city's worst-hit areas showed up anyway. A group of teachers and aides from P.S. 15 in Red Hook met on Wednesday, just a day after the storm ended, hoping to distribute supplies to residents from the nearby Red Hook Houses, a sprawling campus of public housing where many of the school's students live. "P.S. 15 has always kind of been a hub for the community and in the absence of that hub, we wanted to try and do something," said Julie Cavanagh, a special education teacher who invited families via email to meet at the school on Wednesday afternoon. Cavanagh bought $200 worth of supplies — water, food, batteries, and even som Halloween candy — at Costco that morning, and said her plan was to give it away at the school, which was also badly damaged from the storm that flooded the rest of the neighborhood on Monday night. But few people showed up at the scheduled meeting time on Wednesday. Some families had likely evacuated, and Cavanagh said she knew of some co-workers and families who stayed put but weren't able to receive calls or emails.
July 2, 2012
Few hard details about 24 schools as city prepares legal action
Mayor Bloomberg speaks at a press conference this afternoon in Union Square. The city canceled meetings with the teachers and principals unions today as its lawyers prepare to seek a restraining order against a ruling that reverses thousands of hiring decisions at 24 struggling schools. Both the United Federation of Teachers and the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators planned to meet with city officials this afternoon to figure out what would come next for the schools, which had been slated to undergo an overhaul process called "turnaround." The process involved radically shaking up the schools' staffs, which total more than 3,500 people. But the arbitrator's ruling undid all of the changes. UFT President Michael Mulgrew said the meeting was already on his agenda by Friday afternoon, just hours after the arbitrator ruled that the city's staffing plans for the schools violated its contracts with the unions. A main agenda item would have been figuring out a mechanism for staff members who were not rehired at the schools to reclaim their positions. Another issue, Mulgrew said on Friday, was whether the city and unions might instead try to hash out a teacher evaluation agreement for the 24 schools so they could undergo less aggressive overhaul processes and still qualify for federal funding. But this morning, the city told the unions that the meetings were off. Mayor Bloomberg explained this afternoon that he thinks the city should not have to abide by the arbitrator's ruling until the arbitrator explains his reasoning.
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