DA drops drug charges against Hillcrest teacher

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In March Hillcrest High School substitute teacher Jean Coeroli was arrested and charged with cocaine possession. In April, he was cleared of all charges when his case was dismissed from court. Now he wants his job and his reputation back.

“I just want to restore my honor,” Coeroli said. “The Board of Education cleared me, the courts cleared me. I feel better about it.”

On March 16, Coeroli, 45, of Jamaica, said he was walking past a laundromat at 148th Street in Briarwood when he saw an acquaintance pull up in a red Toyota Corolla.

He was offered a ride and got in the car, which traveled about two blocks before the driver was stopped by police, Coeroli said.

Police found cocaine in the driver’s possession and in the car. They confiscated a tinfoil wrapper found in Coeroli’s pocket which was taken to a lab for testing, he said.

Coeroli was arrested on 87th Avenue and 143rd Street and charged with possession of a controlled substance, police said.

“He pleaded guilty and I pleaded not guilty because I was innocent,” Coeroli said of his and his friend’s arrests.

The foil in Coeroli’s pocket turned out to be a gum wrapper. His case was dismissed and sealed by the court on April 10, the Queens district attorney’s office said.

Two weeks later, he received a letter from the Board of Education informing him that he had been taken off the ineligible/inquiry list, meaning he could serve as a substitute teacher again. But when Coeroli called the school to get his job back, he was told to look elsewhere and check back with Hillcrest later.

“For some reason, they are still reluctant to take me back,” Coeroli said. He was told to try other schools and continue to call Hillcrest as well.

The principal’s office at Hillcrest High School referred comment to the Board of Education’s press office, which did not return numerous phone calls by press time.

Coeroli had been teaching Italian, Spanish, French, chemistry and biology at Hillcrest High School at 160-05 Highland Ave. in Jamaica since 1994. On Monday, he worked for Jamaica High School, but other that one day he has not worked since the incident in March.

“I’m very flexible,” Coeroli said. “Students are very comfortable with me, especially foreign students, who like it when I know a little of their language.”

Coeroli, in turn, enjoys teaching, which he said is “double-learning” for him.

“I enjoy showing others information to bring them to their excellence,” he said.

Coeroli would not only like his job back, he would like the students, teachers and administrators at Hillcrest to know the truth because word of his arrest has spread throughout the school.

Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300 Ext. 138.

Posted 7:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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