DOE Investigating Queens Principal Who Allegedly Made Racist Remarks

By Katie Honan on July 10, 2013 5:30pm 

 John Flanagan, Heather Hightower and Lisa-Erika James say their principal targeted them because of their race.
John Flanagan, Heather Hightower and Lisa-Erika James say their principal targeted them because of their race.
View Full Caption
BK Nation/Kevin Powell

ELMHURST —The Department of Education is investigating complaints against the principal of a Queens high school who allegedly made racists remarks about two teachers before firing them.

A representative from the DOE told DNAinfo New York Wednesday that they are "investigating allegations into alleged racist remarks and unfair evaluations" allegedly made by Minerva Zanca, the principal of Pan American International High School in Elmhurst.

Teachers and an administrator from the school held a protest Monday in front of DOE headquarters to demand an investigation after they filed a complaint in June.

John Flanagan and Heather Hightower said they were denied tenure this past school year by Zanca after facing a year of harassment and unfair observations, according to the discrimination claim filed on June 24.

They were also both given unsatisfactory ratings and fired at the end of the year.

In June, the school’s assistant principal, Anthony Riccardo, gave a written statement to the Office of Equal Opportunity, shared with DNAinfo New York, also claiming Zanca made racist comments about Hightower and Flanagan after observing them in the classroom.

Riccardo alleged Zanca, who became principal last September, said Hightower “looked like a gorilla in a sweater with nappy hair.”

When referencing Flanagan, who has spent five years in the city school system, she allegedly asked, “Did you see his big lips quivering?”

A third employee to file a discrimination claim, theater teacher Lisa-Erika James, said she was targeted through cuts to her program, which had doubled in size since it started and was featured in a national teacher magazine in March.

In addition to the racial allegations, Riccardo’s letter claims that Zanca determined that a teacher would receive an “unsatisfactory” rating before even stepping into the classroom — telling him the “magic number” to get a teacher out is four unsatisfactory ratings, he alleged.

Zanca has no prior cases against her, according to the Department of Education.

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement