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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Former Queens Principal Minerva Zanca is the Subject of a Federal Racial Discrimination Lawsuit Filed By US Attorney Preet Bharara

The NYC Department of Education needs to have an internal monitor, a Compliance Officer, who is NOT a prosecutor from 3020-a hearings. (3 DOE attorneys who prosecuted educators at 3020-a and did a terrible job, denying rights, are now "Compliance Officers" in the borroughs).

A sane professional lawyer would be good.

We the public need to know that rotten administrators who discriminate against anyone, of any age, are out of our city schools. period.

Betsy Combier

Racist Queens principal singled out ‘every black teacher’ for insults, poor reviews: U.S. Attorney

Minerva Zanca
NY Daily News

The Department of Education let the principal of a Queens high school “discriminate against every black teacher” and punished an administrator who spoke out against the racism, the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's office alleges in a new bombshell lawsuit Thursday.
Minerva Zanca, who started working as principal of Pan American International High School in August 2012,"purposely targeted" two untenured black teachers by giving them unsatisfactory lesson ratings, according to the lawsuit.
Worse, Zanca did so even before seeing their lessons, the suit charges.
Zanca used slurs to describe these two teachers, John Flanagan and Heather Hightower, saying that Hightower “looked like a gorilla in a sweater” and asked Assistant Principal Anthony Riccardo if he had seen Flanagan's “big lips quivering” in a meeting, the suit says.
Zanca also “complained that she could ‘never’ have 'f---ing nappy hair' like Hightower, and stated that she had difficulty not laughing at Flanagan because he reminded her of a Tropicana commercial where a black man 'with those same lips' danced down a supermarket aisle.”
The principal also discriminated against Lisa-Erika James, a tenured black teacher.
Zanca cut her "highly successful" theater program, claiming there wasn’t money to pay for a student production. There was money to cover overtime related to officials - so the production got canceled.
Riccardo stood up to Zanca, refusing to give Hightower an unsatisfactory rating. In response, Zanca “yelled at Assistant Principal Riccardo, accused him of 'sabotaging her plan,' and called school security to have him removed from the building,” the suit says.
Pan American International High School

She launched two complaints against Riccardo with the DOE - and the department found that her claims didn't merit any charges against him. Zanca gave Riccardo, Flanagan, and Hightower "unsatisfactory" annual performance ratings in June 2013, the suit claims.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office maintains that Superintendent Juan Mendez knew about allegations of discrimination and retaliation but that the department didn't to anything to discipline Zanca.
"Even after the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found reasonable cause to believe that the DOE had discriminated and retaliated against James, Riccardo, and Hightower, Principal Zanca was allowed to remain in charge of Pan American," Bharara's office says.
Hightower, Flanagan, James, and Riccardo left Pan American after the 2012-2013 school year.
Zanca is no longer Pan American's principal, but her employment status in the DOE is unclear.
The DOE did not immediately comment on the allegations.
The city Law Department said: "We are reviewing the complaint."

Feds Sue City Education Department Over 'Racist' Principal

By  Katie Honan and Nicole Bode | June 9, 2016 11:38am

ELMHURST — Federal prosecutors sued the city Department of Education
Thursday on civil rights violations after they say it failed to stop a Queens
principal from systematically harassing and demeaning the school's black

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Thursday the city's DOE stood by and did
nothing while Pan American International High School Principal Minerva
Zanca compared one of the school's
black teachers to "a gorilla in a sweater"
with "f---ing nappy hair" and demeaned another for having “big lips.”

“It is nearly unthinkable that, in this day and age, one of the largest and most
diverse school districts in the United States would allow racial discrimination
and retaliation to flourish.

Yet that is what we allege happened at Pan American International High
School," Bharara said in a statement Thursday.

Pan American International High School, in the Elmhurst neighborhood of Queens, where
a federal lawsuit claims that three teachers suffered a pattern of discrimination. The
school serves students who have recently immigrated from Latin America.
 CreditCaitlin Ochs for The New York Times

In Lawsuit, U.S. Says Queens School 

Discriminated Against 3 Black Teachers

The federal government took the unusual step of filing a 
discrimination lawsuit on Thursday against the New York City Education Department, accusing it of engaging in a pattern 
and practice of discrimination against the three black teachers 
who worked at Pan American International High School in 
The lawsuit, filed by the office of Preet Bharara, the United 
States attorney for the Southern District of New York, makes 
it clear that the government believes that the school’s 
principal, Minerva Zanca, targeted the teachers with 
the goal of having them removed from their jobs.
Ms. Zanca once told the school’s assistant principal, 
Anthony Riccardo, that one of the teachers “looked like 
a gorilla in a sweater”; Ms. Zanca also said that she could 
never have “nappy hair” like the teacher, the lawsuit says.
At another point, the lawsuit said, Ms. Zanca said to Mr. 
Riccardo that she had difficulty not laughing at one of the 
teachers “because he reminded her of a Tropicana 
commercial where a black man ‘with those same lips’ 
danced down a supermarket aisle.”
The lawsuit also claims that Ms. Zanca retaliated against 
Mr. Riccardo for not complying with her goal of getting rid 
of the teachers. Once, when he refused to give an unsatisfactory 
rating to a lesson by one of the teachers, Ms. Zanca yelled at 
Mr. Riccardo, accusing him of “sabotaging her plan” and 
calling school security to remove from the building, the 
lawsuit says.
The school, in the Elmhurst neighborhood, says on its 
website that it serves “374 recently immigrated English 
language learners from Latin America.” The lawsuit claims 
that during the 2012-13 school year, when it says the discrimination occurred, the school had a total of 27 teachers. 
Three of the teachers were black, the suit notes.
Mr. Bharara, in a statement, said, “It is nearly unthinkable 
that, in this day and age, one of the largest and most diverse 
school districts in the United States would allow racial discrimination and retaliation to flourish.”
It was not immediately known whether the United States 
attorney’s office in Manhattan had ever brought a race discrimination claim against a school district. Discrimination lawsuits have been filed by the office in the past but most 
often in housing cases, a federal official said.
The lawsuit by Mr. Bharara’s office on Thursday seeks an 
end to the discrimination and damages for the three teachers 
and Mr. Riccardo.
Ms. Zanca began working in the school system in 1988 and 
served as the principal at Pan American from 2012 through 
2015; she then retired and has since been working as a part-
time guidance counselor at Frederick Douglass Academy IV Secondary School in Brooklyn, the Education Department 
Ms. Zanca, reached by phone, said: “These are false 
allegations, horrible allegations. I deny them. I’m 
outraged that this would even be attributed to me.”
She added that as a minority herself — the Bronx-born 
daughter, she said, of Puerto Rican parents — she “would 
never tolerate this; it’s a social injustice to judge people 
based on their race.”
In 2013, the lawsuit notes, Mr. Riccardo and the three 
teachers — John Flanagan, Heather Hightower and Lisa-
Erika James — filed complaints with the United States 
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Later, Mr. 
Flanagan also sued, at which point the commission 
stopped processing his complaint.
But the commission ultimately found “reasonable cause” 
to believe that the department had engaged in discrimination 
and retaliation against the three others, the government’s 
lawsuit says. 

It adds that after unsuccessfully trying to reach a voluntary resolution of the matters, the commission referred the case 
to the Justice Department.
In describing the environment at the school, the 
government’s lawsuit cites an episode in which Ms. Zanca 
told Mr. Riccardo in fall 2012 that she intended to give Mr. Flanagan and Ms. Hightower, who were both without 
tenure, “unsatisfactory” ratings for lessons she had not 
yet seen.
After one lesson review, Mr. Riccardo said he would meet 
with Ms. Hightower and try “to help her improve,” because 
he had once taught her subject. Ms. Zanca later told him 
that he had better not make her “a better teacher,” the suit 
Devora Kaye, a spokeswoman for the Education 
Department, said: “All employees’ work environments 
must be safe and supportive, and we have zero tolerance 
for any discrimination.” The city’s Law Department said 
the suit was under review.
A lawyer for Mr. Riccardo and Mr. Flanagan did not 
immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
Erica L. Shnayder, a lawyer for Ms. Hightower and 
Ms. James, said her firm would be filing a discrimination 
lawsuit on her clients’ behalf. “These are both highly 
qualified teachers,” Ms. Shnayder said.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

See todays Post page 14 about the teachers treated like dirt in fact according to one of the African American teachers "like monkeys". Another example of inherent racism by the DOE. This principal Caterina Lafergola now takes her show on the road to Baldwin Long Island. Yet a petition with more than 500 signatures was not addressed by the local superintendent. Lafergola at present is principal of Automotive High School that along with Boys and Girls was a school out of time according to the state. In 2011-2012 Lafergola rated 14 staff members of color unsatisfactory, yet not a peep from the DOE nor any investigation of racism. Maybe the Feds should revisit this????