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Some Of South Florida's Big Stories In 2015

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) - 2015 was a big year for South Florida. We made history with gay marriage, U.S./Cuba relations, and saw our schools toss hundreds of thousands of grades out.

So let's take a look at the biggest headlines of the year.

In 2015 Florida's Department of Education took a lot of heat, as statewide test results were tossed out. A series of missteps in tabulation to blame. Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho argued it was a long time coming.

"The state has gone too far too fast regarding the accountability and the deployment of this very new assessment. And I think we are seeing the consequences of that." Carvalho said.

Florida's Fish and Wildlife came under fire as well after it opened up the hunting of black bears for the first time in 21 years. In just two days hunters killed nearly 300 bears prompting outrage from environmentalists.

The year had plenty of tragedies including two teenage boys who went fishing and never came home. The Coast Guard would find Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen's boat near Daytona Beach but there was no sign of the 14 year olds.

Even expert sailors were overtaken at sea.

On October 1st, the crew of El Faro sailed directly into the path of Tropical Storm Joaquin. The cargo ship, bound for Puerto Rico suddenly lost power as the tropical storm escalated to a monstrous Category 4 storm.

"When you lose power you are totally at the mercy of the ocean state. And here are between 20-30 foot waves out there." a Coast Guard spokesman said.

On October 31st, a recovery ship using sonar equipment, discovered the ship in 15,000 feet of water, just north of the Bahamas. The 33 crew members were presumed lost at sea.

2015 will go down as a historic year for gay marriage.

Florida became the 36th state to legalize same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court confirming it a short time later. Gay weddings taking place across the state for the first time including a quote big gay wedding on Fort Lauderdale Beach dozens of couples finally saying I do.

"We thought we wouldn't be able to get married in Florida and the fact we get to do where we wanted to with family is just a phenomenal experience and amazing feeling," one bride said during the event.

Another major milestone happened just 90 miles south of us. The American flag raised over the US Embassy in Cuba for the first time in 54 years. The re-opening of Cuba coming after President Obama and Cuba's Raul Castro agreed to reopen the conversation. Secretary John Kerry said in a press conference in Havana that both countries had made a major step "To stop being the prisoners of history and to start focusing on opportunities of today and tomorrow."

It wasn't just the United States returning to Cuba but Pope Francis. The Holy Father making a trip through New York, Washington DC and Pennsylvania. Cuban-American singer Gloria Estefan even sang for the pope in Philadelphia. A few months later the White House would honor her and her husband Emilio with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The recognition for their contributions to Latin music in American culture.

"Today is a big day for Miami as well. Miami was the first to hear us and give us support and believe in our sound." Emilio Estefan said after the ceremony at the White House.

For a little perspective it's been 30 years since Gloria's first hit conga hit the billboard charts.

Take a look at other stories that made headlines in South Florida in 2015.

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