Words Fly, Officials Walk
Picket lines were formed in front of Beach Channel High School the morning after top education officials stormed out of an emergency PTA meeting at the school.
About 30 parents, PTA members, and community activists gathered on Beach Channel Drive early Thursday morning to further protest the removal of Claude Monereau, a 20-year Beach Channel (BCHS) administrator who was recently booted from the school.
Wednesday night's meeting, where about 150 people gathered, was supposed to be the first time all parties involved publicly discussed Monereau's fate. The AP was sent packing after BCHS Principal Barbara Pleener accused him of threatening her and being insubordinate at a meeting earlier this month, he said.
The PTA board has stood firmly behind Monereau, and called not only for his reinstatement, but for the removal of Pleener as well. They said Pleener boasted that she had the support of higher-ups, and could remove anyone she wished, and that Monereau is just the first of several that she wants to get rid of.
Pleener, Regional Superintendent Kathleen Cashin, and others were long gone when these accusations were repeated. They left the PTA meeting less than ten minutes after it began, marching single file from their front row seats up the auditorium steps and then proceeding behind the stage curtain, avoiding the audience completely. Their exit occurred as local NAACP President Ed Williams told the audience that Pleener had been disciplined for sexual harassment at her old school.
"He didn't threaten to kill anyone, and he has an impeccable record," Williams said, adding that Monereau should benefit from the same "due process" that Pleener did when she faced accusations. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is involved because Monereau is a member, and because he said Pleener told him he was only popular with students because he's black.
"She has a problem with me because she sees me as a threat," Monerau told the audience. "I never, never said, I was going to get [Pleener] out of the school," he continued.
But Monereau has caused problems for principals in the past. Letters to the City Department of Education Chancellor Joel Klein obtained by The Wave show Monereau has complained up the chain of command in the past. Some have speculated that Monereau, who has made it clear that he thinks he's the man to lead BCHS, is still vying for the position. Whether he was attempting to undermine Pleener's efforts at the school is a question that has not been addressed.
Assistant Principal Regine Lifranc, who was at the meeting where Pleener said she was threatened, supports Monereau. Lifranc said she would probably lose her job for backing her former colleague, at a Far Rockaway meeting of the NAACP last week. She reiterated her support for him at the emergency meeting, said Monereau enthusiastically offered his support to Pleener, and that he spoke passionately to the principal about "working together."
Meanwhile, Pleener has been quiet. She declined to comment about any of this, and Cashin would only say that she didn't want news reporters and photographers at the meeting. Several calls to Cashin's office went unreturned.
Wednesday's meeting ended with the PTA and NAACP promising to continue their fight, and City Councilman James Sanders, Jr., urging the students who were there to keep their focus on their studies during class. Although Joseph Addabbo, Jr. is the councilman for the area of Rockaway that includes BCHS, Sanders said he came "to get an understanding." Addabbo, who had representatives at the meeting, told The Wave he plans to meet with the parties involved, so he too has a better understanding.
Despite Sanders' caution to students, hundreds of them walked out of the school mid-morning, on Thursday. There were reports that the fire bell was pulled to justify a mass exodus. BCHS parent Andy Cruz said he picked up his son from the school, which was in "total chaos."
Regular meetings of the BCHS PTA are held on the fourth Monday of every month.