Brevard elementary school principal retires amid 'hostile workplace' probe

Jacqueline Feagin steps down from top spot at Golfview Elementary in Rockledge

Published On: May 01 2013 11:28:28 AM EDT
Jacqueline Feagin
ROCKLEDGE, Fla. -

The principal of Golfview Elementary in Rockledge retired this semester after an internal investigation by Brevard Public Schools found what teachers called a hostile workplace and a culture of intimidation so stressful that employees said they were fearful to ask for time off.

The school district investigation also found that Jacqueline Feagin told her secretary to complete personal tasks on school time, such as making paper place mats and table numbers for another organization.

Attempts by Local 6 News partner Florida Today to reach Feagin at her home for comment were unsuccessful.

The investigation by school district staff was triggered by an ethics complaint sent Nov. 30, which Florida Today obtained under state public records law; it was signed “anonymous for fear of retaliation.”

In surveys of teachers and staff, employees recalled what they described as questionable behavior.

One teacher said Feagin threatened three staff members with reprimands for calling the union, something the teacher denied doing. The same teacher told district staff that Feagin “flipped out” when, after the sudden death of the teacher's husband, the teacher asked for two extra days off.

Others recalled the principal undermining teaching or administrative decisions in front of students, parents or colleagues -- telling employees that “it’s not your job to question what I tell you to do. It is your job to do what I tell you to do.”

A school district ethics panel determined that Feagin broke two policies: Not using institutional privileges for personal gain or advantage; and not engaging in harassment or creating a hostile or abusive environment.

She was offered two options: Transfer to an administrative position for the remainder of the school year or retire. She chose the latter, and her last day was March 31.

The 66-year-old had nearly 43 years of experience and earned nearly $88,000.

In a response dated Feb. 19, Feagin disagreed with the panel and the investigation’s findings.

“I do not believe either of your options are in the best interest of students at Golfview or the school in general due to only four months being left in the fiscal year,” she wrote.

For the rest of the school year, Golfview’s assistant principal is serving as the interim principal, with assistance from district administrators, said Debra Pace, Brevard’s associate superintendent for human resources.

It was not the first time district leaders examined Feagin’s treatment of employees.

A conference with the area superintendent in July 2010 discussed the high turnover of assistant principals under Feagin’s leadership and the concern that they were not being treated respectfully.

At the time, Feagin was required to complete mentoring courses by the school district, conduct staff surveys and keep a log of meeting times. Staff had expressed concerns that she was disrespectful of their time.

Feagin’s 2009-10 annual review also showed concerns. She was “performing at a professional level,” the highest rank possible, but comments described the need to deal with “a sense of disconnect and distrust” among staff.

But the review also described her as a hard worker. Prior evaluations also showed high marks.

“Ms. Feagin works many hours and devotes much time to the school,” it said. “She has a strong work ethic and is tireless in her efforts to help the school and its students.”