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Posted November 16, 2012 | comments 37 Comments

Ex-principal sues Warren County schools

Former Ressie Jeffries Elementary says officials defamed her, breached contract

By Joe Beck

The former principal of Ressie Jeffries Elementary School is accusing Warren County school officials of defamation and breach of contract in a lawsuit filed Nov. 8 in Warren County Circuit Court.

The lawsuit by Antoinette Funk gives her version of the events leading up to her abrupt disappearance from her job as principal at Ressie Jeffries in March.

Funk, who is now teaching fifth grade in Berkeley County, W.Va., is demanding $387,539 in damages. School officials in March offered no explanation for her departure, except to state that she was on leave.

The suit states that Superintendent Pamela McInnis placed Funk on administrative leave with pay March 9 after telling her that she was planning to recommend that the school board approve demoting her to a teaching position.

The board followed through on McInnis's recommendation on April 13, according to the suit. Funk learned on May 18 that she had been demoted to sixth grade English teacher at Warren County Middle School, and she resigned in a July 31 letter to McInnis, according to the suit.

The suit argues Funk endured "embarrassment and humiliation in her community" after being removed from her job.

"The superintendent's explanation for plaintiff's absence from her position as principal ... caused individuals to believe plaintiff was seriously ill, suffering a family crisis or had committed a crime or serious school violation," the suit states.

The suit, which lists McInnis and each of the five members of the Warren County Public Schools Board as defendants, also bears County Attorney Blair Mitchell's name as among those receiving court summons.

Mitchell said Friday he had not seen the suit and could not comment until he had been served with the summons. McInnis was away from her office Friday.

The suit states that Funk met with McInnis, Greg Drescher, assistant superintendent for instruction, on March 9.

They gave her a letter with a list of alleged failings focused on interactions between Funk, teachers and parents, according to the suit. The letter, the suit states, accuses Funk of "inappropriate, inflexible, disrespectful and condescending communications with colleagues and constituents; increased challenges in cases involving students with special needs ... numerous complaints by parents about their interactions with you; numerous complaints by faculty members regarding their interactions with you."

The letter also contained accusations that Funk favored some teachers over others and worries of threats and retaliation among teachers if they complained about her leadership and conduct, according to the suit.

The suit states that Funk met with the school board in a closed session on March 22 to challenge and deny the case McInnis had made against her.

The suit states Funk told the board members that she worked "very hard to promptly and appropriately address all complaints brought to her by parents, teachers and other staff."

Funk admitted committing some mistakes, but she also contended she tried to "learn from the mistakes, apologize if the situation calls for an apology and take measures to prevent the mistake from happening again," according to the suit.

The suit accuses the defendants of breaching their contract with her by failing to follow a handbook's rules governing evaluation and disciplinary procedures for school administrators. They include failure to formally evaluate her during her two-year tenure as principal and not conducting a pre-evaluation conference. The defendants also failed to give Funk improvement and remediation plans to address the complaints they raised against her, according to the suit.

The suit states that Funk is earning $45,788 a year in her current teaching job in West Virginia, $33,539 a year less than her previous job would have paid her this school year.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com


    In any employment " there is favorablity of people under you (teachers) over others.. You can probably ask other past principals of this school that!

    Other than that I have no clue about the firing.

    Maybe you all need to look at some of the favoritism going on in the other schools. Or the way that the principals are acting and caring out their actions with the teachers and the students.

    If they don't fail students who are failing why demote a principal who doesn't meet their expectations. This does not make sense. In Warren County if a student doesn't want to participate in a classroom, they can say, they are bored and walk out and only receive 50% of the grade. What is wrong with this picture? There are many students who cannot read or write and will graduate from our school system. I think McInnis should be the one to go for allowing this type of grading in our school system. Warren County is turning out dummies to exist in life. How is "No Child Left Behind," helping these kids? It isn't! Shame on Warren County and the State of Virginia for this program.

    "No Child Left Behind" is a joke and once again you can thank that leader of leaders, George W. Bush for another brilliant idea. Now no one has the guts to change it.

    Overcrowded, out-of-control classrooms add to this disaster! A teacher has few choices in today's public schools. They blindly follow like a Stepford Wife or out they go!

    The public schools use to work and kids failed when they didn't make the grade. Sadly like so many things in this country, this is on the back burner and will not likely change anytime soon.


      I know you want to blame Bush for every problem in the world but remember, the legislation originates in the CONGRESS! Bush had an idea -- but, one of your heroes, Ted Kennedy (D-MA - the "Lion of the Senate") co-wrote the legislation with Judd Gregg (R-NH), John Boehner (R-OH) and George Miller (D-CA). THAT'S how legislation is done -- not by just one Royal President.

        Three days after taking office in January 2001 as the 43rd President of the United States, George W. Bush announced No Child Left Behind, his framework for bipartisan education reform that he described as "the cornerstone of my Administration." President Bush emphasized his deep belief in our public schools, but an even greater concern that "too many of our neediest children are being left behind," despite the nearly $200 billion in Federal spending since the passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). The President called for bipartisan solutions based on accountability, choice, and flexibility in Federal education programs.

        Bush claimed it as his own, but I understand the role Kennedy and others played in this law. And by the way, Edward Kennedy was no hero of mine, don't assume anything. He was a spoiled, rich kid who turned into a "playboy" with a reputation for "booze & babes" (as they might say) and I think he lived in the shadow of his brothers; however, as he grew older, he finally got his act together (or so it seems) and tried to change his image and legacy.

        Bottom line, NCLB isn't working and I believe most teachers (and students) hate it. Unfortunately too many kids are leaving the school system unable to read & write and clearly are not "educated". Many public schools have lost control of the classroom: student conduct and behavior is a big problem now which adds to the burden of teaching. American schools are doing poorly compared to most developed nations - that's a fact.

        I do not know the situation at Warren County Public Schools and this particular principal but the administrative power plays are too common.

        And yes, I believe George W. Bush (another spoiled, wealthy playboy, failed businessman, and former drunk) will be remembered as the worse president ever! I have no respect for Bush: He and Cheney should have been impeached. President Obama has been given four more years to deal with the Bush Administration's mess!

          Oh Diana, always needing someone to blame. After four years, he owns it. What happens inside the Warren County School system is a disgrace to the educators actually trying to make a difference. It has nothing to do with Bush, Obama, God or anyone else. It's the superintendent and the school board who sets the pace. If you need to place blame, at least put it where the lines of direct responsibility are drawn!

    Warren County schools are a joke and need to be revamped. The first change should be that the parents/students don't run the show! It's akin to the proverbial "inmates running the system." Administrators and school board office run scared of the bullies-parents/students. Education should be what its about and not cow-towing to the bullies. Teachers are graded on whether students pass tests or not, yet they don't have the power to make students do the work and follow the rules. Students receive 50% if they don't turn assignments in and they are NEVER held back to repeat a grade if they fail-it might hurt their fragile egos-obviously that's not the problem! This is a disservice to the students and definitely not preparing them for the real world. Wake up and do your job sbo. Yes, some administrators should be dealt w/ but the "Good-ole-boy" system and nepotism rampant in this system must stop before it will get better. Stop worrying a/b public opinion and start educating students, treating employees fairly and you'll find you have a great school system.

    This isn't about No Child Left Behind or the school system -- it's about this principal. Apparently she had her favorites, she was told to change the behavior, she didn't. Do your job and you don't have a problem, end of story. The teachers need the full support of their principals -- ALL OF the teachers, not just the ones that are the "favorites." She obviously has a glorified view of herself, as it was clear to everyone else that there were issues that she just failed to address and she chose to ignore the warnings when asked to change her ways. Good riddance.

      It may not be about No Child Left Behind, but I see quite a few responses in favor of getting rid of the entire school board and doing something for our children! You say good riddance to Funk, but this was a prime opportunity to mention how the school system in Warren County and statewide is failing our children. If you fail a class you fail, the student should be kept behind, not just passed along to get rid of them. Make the children learn and be accountable and it all starts at home with the parents. Parents should be outraged to learn their children are being passed along. There is no respect for anyone anymore, none for teachers, police or anyone with any type of authority. And in the end the children that are passed along, when they become adults won't even respect themselves when they realize how the system has failed them.

    Maybe the reason she was harder on some teachers was that they were not putting 100% in to their job. She may not have been putting up with the bulling in her school neither. We are not getting the full story.

    Its nice to see that I'm not the only parent that takes issue with the half grades for zero work and getting told its "for his/her own good". I can also attest to the want of holding your failing child back, only to be told by the former Principal in question that it is simply not done anymore.

    I can't say given personal experience I care why she is gone, unless she was actually trying to change the system, but I somehow doubt that.

    As a former administrator and a person who knows the staff, I can tell you anyone who inherited the debacle left by Rudacille had an uphill battle. Funk and I am sure the current principal, dealt with that. The issue seems to be McGinnis obviously did not follow WCPS rules and policy, something she is known for doing. Think about the food regulation and now this,McGinnis does what she wants and how she wants. I wonder how many other staff have not had any evaluation at SBO? It is the good old boys club and it is time for McGinnis to go.

    "The suit accuses the defendants of breaching their contract with her by failing to follow a handbook's rules governing evaluation and disciplinary procedures for school administrators. They include failure to formally evaluate her during her two-year tenure as principal and not conducting a pre-evaluation conference. The defendants also failed to give Funk improvement and remediation plans to address the complaints they raised against her, according to the suit."

    I hope the allegations listed above is not true. If so, Warren County will lose this case. You must have some form of progressive discipline and follow your own regulations before you can terminate someone, especially when there is a contract.

    School systems across this country have become multi-billion dollar businesses. They care for the children as far as it continues to feed their over sized administrations.

    It all is a joke. If you don't teach your child yourself, or their smart enough to learn on their own. They are guaranteed to be an idiot.

    Other Countries like, China, Europe, N. & S. Korea have laughed at the U.S. for its education system for years.

    School Administrations across the U.S. continually want more money to fix the problem. Which works in their favor. They get more money, and use it to pay themselves more to solve a problem. When it doesn't work they ask for more.

    Seldom do I see the extra money requested, used to hire more teachers, or for equipment in the classrooms for the students use.

    These kids are our future as a nation. (THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA). We need to get more involved stop the waste of taxes. Get rid of the three principles, nine assistant principles, and all (usually 12) of their secretaries at one school. When I look at the Admin. Charts there are so many secretaries and assist's. that the one in the original position has nothing to do but walk the halls all day with nothing to do.

    Untill we figure out how to cut the Administration size, stop the good ole boy program, and put that money into teacher positions we'll continue on the road to no where.
    Teachers teach kids. It doesn't make sense to have a 15/1 ratio. Fifteen Admin positions over one teaching position

    Warren County schools are bad. There is no is no discipline at school or at home for the kids. There is no help for them. Teachers give them a packet of work to do on Monday and tell them to bring it back on Friday.

    There is nothing done by the book in this county. The state needs to come in and clean house. I am glad my kids are getting out of this school system.

    The principals don't care what goes on in the schools with the bad kids or the bullies. But don't be a good kids and need to do something because you will be in trouble. Soon they will just have to build a school big enough to house 500 plus for the ones that go to AED program.

      I agree that the school system in Warren County is not good; but to make a generalization that kids don't receive discipline at home is a prejudicial statement. My grandchildren attend Warren Co. schools and I assure they, as many others do, receive discipline at home and do very well in school, in spite of the problems there.

    You mean "they're" and not "their" as in "unless they're smart enough to learn themselves." Are you a product of WCPS?
    Teachers and administrators are busting tail in every county. Don't judge unless you're (you are) willing to be judged.

    I agree with gauntlet, education starts at home.

    I have know idea about the administration; teacher ratio, but if that is true or half way true that is alarming.

    The no student left behind has made some incrediblly great teachers in the last five years retire earlier then what they had thought they would have.

    People used to go into the teacher proffesion with some sort of inspiration. I think the control of "no student left behind" has cut into the teachers ability to be creative and really teach.

    Kimberly, i dont know about your home but there is definitely discipline in my home so to say there is none in the schools or at home and generalize an entire co isn't very smart! And as far as this ex principal goes....she was very condescending and talked down to people! I couldn't stand having to speak to her when my son attended that school! She does carry an air about herself that would make you believe she thinks she is better than everyone else and I can imagine that many parents and teachers complained about her! There are far worse school systems than Warren co! The entire country has to abide by the "no child left behind" law so the entire nation is graduating kids that cannot read or write and will just be a burden on society!

    RJES is quite possibly the dirtiest and worst school in the county. The teachers were out of control and were resistant to change. The teachers then decided to complain to their cousin and have Mrs. Funk removed. Mrs. Funk is lucky to end her association with Warren County.

      I don't know about talking to a cousin but I do know that a teacher's mother is vice-chairman of the School Board so if that does not show favoritism or nepotism than I don't know what does. Agreed, she is lucky to have moved on.

    Gauntlet...your post was full of grammactical errors. So the next time you want to bash the US Public Educational System, why don't you start with proofreading your post? You are way off base with the fifteen administrators to one teacher. You're also way off base with the 12 secretaries comment. You need to get your facts straight.

    I take offense to those comments/generalizations about Warren County Schools being "not good." Momnteach, are you assuming that Gauntlet is a product of WCPS b/c of the many errors in his post? I take offense to that as well. Marilyn, in what ways have you tried to improve the school system? What firsthand knowledge do you have that the schools are not good? I guess you think it's ok to generalize that our schools are "not good," but not that kids aren't disciplined at home, right?

    Marilyn, your post is full of generalizations, and I resent that as well. There are lots of good things going on in WCPS, and you obviously don't want to see that. For instance, Skyline's and WCHS's football teams and one-act plays recently won their district competitions. WCHS's one-act play just won the REGION for the second year in a row and is headed to states. (Those are just the tip of the iceburg.) You seem to be one of those people who is ready to point the finger at everyone, but not offer help to make things better.

    I'm sick and tired of hearing that about WCPS. There are MANY fantastic teachers in the system, as well as dedicated administrators. WCPS has produced many doctors, lawyers, engineers, architects, teachers, administrators, clergy, social workers, business owners, actors, etc. It is not full of idiots, and I resent that implication.

    Every school system has problems. We are a PUBLIC school system, so yes, we have to take students with special needs, including those who may eventually end up in alternative school. We are there to educate every child. There is always room for improvement, certainly. But to simply blame everything on Warren County Public Schools is completely unfair.

    There are plenty of homes in Warren County in which children get no discipline. I can tell you that there are even MORE in our surrounding counties, such as Frederick, Clarke, Shenandoah, and Rappahannock. Many parents blame EVERYTHING on the school system, the teacher, or anyone but their own child. This is the trend in our society; it is not just in Warren County.

    However, there are many extremely supportive parents who are trying to teach their children to become responsible adults, and teaching them that actions have consequences. These are parents who are involved in their kids' schools, and are doing everything they can to partner with the teacher and school to ensure success for the child.

    Denial ain't just a river....

    Wow. As a product of WCHS years ago and now having to deal with this school system with my own son, I can tell you that nothing has changed in 20 years. There IS a good 'ol boy attitude. If your child is in anyway different he/she will not only be ostrisized by the children but also by some of the small minded staff. I have had personal experience with Ms. Funk. I feel like she had no business being in charge of that school but she was no where near as bad as the principal/vice principal duo they have at the Middle School. Warren County needs a complete overhaul from the school board to the lunch ladies.

      Excuse me, but EVERYTHING has changed in the last twenty years. I am sorry that you are not having a good experience with your son, but I know firsthand that students who are "different" are not only accepted, they are embraced by students and staff alike. (By the way, it's ostracized...) You must not have bothered to notice that the WCHS football team created a program where the players are partnered with students with disabilities and launched Disabilities Awareness week. http://www.nvdaily.com/news/2012/10/warren_county_high_holds_first_disabilities_awareness_week-print.html

      Additionally, I have witnessed many students in various WC schools reach out to students who are different in an effort to help them feel accepted. Am I saying no child feels ostracized in a Warren County school? No, of course not. But you are going to find a little of that in any school, sadly. The vast majority of WC students are accepting and kind toward others. The ones who aren't are likely a product of poor parenting. Ostracizing students is certainly not condoned in Warren County Public Schools. No student should have to feel anything but acceptance from his/her teacher. When that happens, it should not be tolerated. But to blame all of WCPS for that is unfair.

      The lunch ladies? You mean the ones who befriend students? The ones who offer a smile and an extra cookie to a child who needs one or both? Again, I'm sure there are some who could/should be replaced but the majority are wonderful to have around students.

      And as for your comments toward the Middle School administration, wow. The majority of parents, students, and teachers, are in support of this administration. Some people are never happy--but then some people/parents think they can come in and tell the administration what to do. This administration always has the best interests of students at heart.

      Again, I am sorry your son is having a bad experience in WCPS. I'm curious as to how you have tried to improve the situation.

        I have lived the hell that is to be a different child in this school system. My child has been called terrible names by children with the teachers, administrators and yes even the lunch ladies turning a blind eye towards the abuse. You are a very naive person to think that everything is peaches and cream in the Warren County School system. BTW, thanks for the grammer correction, I am sure you could not wait to point out that someone has made a mistake. Thanks for calling that out.

    just one more comment. A good sports program does not make a good school. Who cares if the football team wins or the drama club puts on a fine production if Johnny can't read or write?

    Here is what I think is the bottom line on the schools in Shenendoah and Warren counties. The schools take on the personalities of the communities. If the parents are generally uneducated then they do see the value to push their kids to do well in school and they don't support paying taxes to improve the school system. It took Warren County 60 years to start building new schools. Even with that it still ranks below the federal and state average of the number of students taking the SAT tests. The Warren schools have over 40% of its students qualifying for school lunch assistance program. They are trying to do the right thing but without a change in the mindset of the parents in the community they are fighting a uphill battle. Maybe if the elected official started to focus on attracting better living wage jobs it would help people understand the value of a good education. I still recommend everyone read Deer Hunting With Jesus. Tells you why we keep loosing our young people to other places. Soon we will be a place of old people complaining about everything al the time and get nothing done.

    My last comment wasn't posted so I'll keep this brief.

    I'm not in denial; I have said repeatedly that things are not perfect in WCPS. But these sweeping generalizations that the whole school system stinks are unfair and untrue.

    Snappy--I didn't say a good sports program makes a good school. I said there are lots of good things going on in our schools, and gave a couple of examples. I think it's "fair" to say that kids who can not only read, but interpret and act out a Shakespeare play can definitely "read and write." And by the way, schools are classified as Title I based on the amount of low-income students who are enrolled. That's not something WCPS can control.

    You don't want to hear it but WCPS has a high graduation rate, a low drop out rate, and a high rate of students pursuing higher education (college). How is that happening if the school system doesn't do anything right?

    People just love to complain and criticize without offering real solutions or assistance.

    I am sincerely sorry for any child who gets treated poorly by students, teachers, staff, etc. That is wrong, and as an adult, I always stand up for the best interests of children.

    PLG62...you are missing the point. The article was about Mrs. Funk and RJES. This school is below state and national standards. The school board should be focusing on education not extra curricular activites. There are some good teachers at RJES that really care about what they are doing...and there are many really bad teachers. With the exception of a few, most of the teaching assistants are under-educated and completely unqualified for their positions. The school is filthy and there are broken windows and old and outdated equipment. Do you REALLY think this is a productive environment that fosters learning?

      No actually, I'm on point, you're the one who is off base. RJES is fully accredited by the state of Virginia. They won't allow me post links so you'd just have to go to the WCPS website to find the school report card. It is not a perfect school, but they are accredited, based on SOL scores. Yes, there are now AMOs to contend with, that's how the politicians do it. They create standards, the school systems spend tons of resources learning how to jump through hoops, and then they(politicians) create newer (tougher) standards.

      By the way, teaching assistants are not required to have more than a high school diploma in most localities. Instructional assistants start out at a salary of $13,060 in Warren County. That's not much more than minimum wage, and is barely enough to cover their health insurance.

      Where do you get that the School Board is focusing too much on extra-curricular activities? There aren't really extra-curriculars in elementary school. And if you're referring to the secondary level, come on. You don't know what you're talking about. Kids can't play sports if their grades are not up to par. Coaches want their student athletes to be successful in life. There are some kids who come to school only b/c of football, band, drama, etc. They have to BE in school to be successful. But you don't want to hear that, you just want to criticize.

      As for this case, I don't have the facts. Most of the comments here just slammed WCPS in general. I have "heard" lots of things about Ms. Funk. Who knows what really transpired. . .I do know this: Administrators do not have the same evaluation process that teachers do. They are not observed doing their jobs like teachers are. I do not believe there is a "plan of improvement" option in existence for administrators.

      We live in a litigious society, that's a fact. RJES is an old building, that's a fact too. I think you're exaggerating about broken windows and outdated equipment. (Yes I had a child attend there.) Each school gets a "turn" to get upgrades on equipment, and RJES should definitely be next. A new elementary school is in the building plan. I assume you would be in favor of the tax increases that would be needed to pay for these things, right?

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