2009-02-20 / Top Stories

Teacher Sues FR Principal For Baby Boot Says Monereau Gave Her 'Third Degree'

By Howard Schwach

Middle School 53 in Far Rockaway Middle School 53 in Far Rockaway A Far Rockaway teacher has sued both the city and a Far Rockaway principal for firing her from her job because she was pregnant and unmarried.

According to a lawsuit filed in Queens Supreme Court this week, Cheri Jackson, 40, alleges that Claude Monereau, the principal of Middle School 53, gave her the third degree and then fired her when he learned that she was pregnant.

"Why aren't you married," Monereau allegedly asked her in a meeting in his school office. "When is your child due? Will you be back in time to help with the city math tests in April?"

Days later, Jackson alleges, an assistant principal told her that her position had been eliminated and that she was terminated.

Monereau's tenure in Rockaway schools has been controversial for many years.

As an assistant principal in Beach Channel High School, he demanded that he be named principal of the school.

When a white woman was named instead, the local NAACP picketed the building, demanding Monereau's appointment and pulling many students out of school to join the protest.

A number of fires were set in the school the day of the protest and many local educators blamed Monereau for sparking the incident.

He was removed from Beach Channel High School after the incident and assigned to the District 27 office.

Five years ago, he was assigned to Middle School 53, a school then in transition, and eventually named principal.

Just recently, District 27 Superintendent Michelle Lloyd-Bey announced that the Department of Education was looking for new schools to share the space with Middle School 53 because it is severely underutilized.

She said that the lack of students was influenced by the Peninsula Preparatory School's move to Arverne By The Sea.

The student population has also been decimated by the fact that several of the traditional feeder schools for Middle School 53 have become Kindergarten to Grade 8 schools.

Two years ago, the school was named as one of the worst middle schools in the city.

Teachers at the school, who asked to remain anonymous because they fear for their jobs, recently visited The Wave to charge that Monereau has raised reading scores at the school not by educational means, but by ordering teachers to illegally assist students by giving answers, and by reading passages and cueing students as to the correct answers.

They also charge that Monereau and his administrative staff falsified the surveys that the Department of Eduation uses to provide a school report card grade to each school.

While The Wave could not independently corroborate those charges, they were made by at least four staff members known to the paper.

Both allegations were forwarded to the city's special investigator for schools, but that agency declined to comment about an ongoing investigation.

Neither of those contentions could be verified, however, and the Department of Education declined to comment on the allegations.

Jackson, meanwhile, is seeking $30 million in damages from the city.

Department of Education officials said that they had not yet received the lawsuit and could not comment until they did.

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