United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Danville Division
ANGELA L. G. WEINERTH, Plaintiff,
MARTINSVILLE CITY SCHOOL BOARD, Defendant.
Michael F. Urbanski Chief United States District Judge
employment action, plaintiff Angela L. G. Weinerth
("Weinerth") claims that she was removed from her
position as principal of Martinsville High School and
reassigned as assistant principal at Martinsville Middle
School because of her race, sex, and age, in violation of
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title
VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2OOOe et secu, and the Age
Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA"),
29 U.S.C. § 621 et seg. Currently pending before the
court is the Martinsville City School Board's
("School Board") motion for summary judgment. In
that motion, the School Board presents substantial evidence
that Weinerth was reassigned from the high school to the
middle school for legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons. The
matter has been fully briefed, and the court heard oral
argument on March 11, 2019. After review of the entire
record, the court concludes that, in the face of the evidence
of nondiscriminatory motives adduced by the School Board,
Weinerth has wholly failed to present evidence sufficient to
establish a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the
School Board's asserted reasons for reassigning Weinerth
were a pretext for unlawful discrimination. As such, the
School Board's summary judgment motion is
GRANTED and this case dismissed.
following facts taken from the summary, judgment record are
either undisputed or presented in the light most favorable to
Weinerth, the nonmoving party. See Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby. Inc. 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).
is a white female over the age of 60. Weinerth Decl. ¶
3, ECF No. 102-1. She has over 40 years of experience as a
teacher and administrator in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Id. at ¶ 6. Weinerth has worked for the
Martinsville City Public Schools ("School System")
since 2005, when she was hired to teach in the scholars'
program at Martinsville Middle School. Id. at ¶
2012, Weinerth was appointed to the position of assistant
principal at Martinsville High School. Id. at ¶
8. At that time, Pamela Heath ("Heath") was the
superintendent of the School System and Ajamu Dixon
("Dixon") was the principal of the high school. Ld
at ¶¶ 8, 9. Dixon, a black male under the age of
40, had served as principal since 2011. Id. at
¶¶ 4, 9.
to Weinerth's allegations, at the time she started at the
high school, the students there were falling behind
academically and scoring poorly on the state's Standards
of Learning ("SOL") tests. Id. at¶
10. On more than one occasion, Weinerth voiced concerns to
Dixon regarding the students' declining academic
performance. Id. at ¶ 11. Dixon did not respond
favorably to Weinerth's suggestions and instructed her to
"back off." Id. (internal quotation marks
omitted). The high school ultimately lost its
full-accreditation rating from the state.
conclusion of 2012-2013 school year, Heath completed a
"Principal Summative Performance Report" for Dixon,
in which she rated Dixon's performance as
"Unacceptable" in the following six categories:
instructional leadership, school climate, human resources
management, organizational management, professionalism, and
student academic progress. Pl.'s Ex. D, ECF No. 102-4, at
3-10. Heath noted, among other deficiencies, that Dixon
demonstrated "[e]xtreme inconsistencies in modeling
mutual respect, concern, and empathy for students, parents,
and staff; that he did "not inspire an environment of
trust"; that he was "inconsistent in addressing
student and staff discipline"; and that he did not
adequately "planQ for increased student academic
progress." RL at 4, 9. Heath recommended that the School
Board not renew Dixon's contract for the position of
principal. Id. at 10.
record indicates that the School Board followed Heath's
recommendation. By letter dated June 11, 2013, Heath advised
Dixon that his contract for the principal position would not
be renewed by the School Board for the 2013-2014 school year.
Id. at 2. He was subsequently reassigned to an
administrative position within the School System's
central office. Weinerth Decl. ¶ 15.
the approval of the School Board, Heath promoted Weinerth to
the position of principal for the 2013-2014 school year.
Heath Decl. ¶ 8, ECF No. 102-2. Weinerth faced several
challenges upon assuming her new position, including more
rigorous SOL benchmarks imposed by the state, severe budget
cuts, and disciplinary problems. Weinerth Decl. ¶ 17;
Heath Decl. ¶ 11. Weinerth maintains that she made it
her "mission" to address each of these challenges.
Weinerth Decl. ¶ 18.
ultimately served as principal of the high school for three
years. At the conclusion of the 2015-2016 school year, Heath
commended Weinerth's "efforts and advancements in
improving the school," and "congratulated her on
achieving continuing contract status as a principal as of
June 15, 2016." Heath Decl. ¶ 27.
undisputed that standardized test scores improved during
Weinerth's tenure as principal. However, the parties
disagree as to whether Weinerth effectively addressed the
school's disciplinary problems. Although Heath's
declaration indicates that "student behavior improve
[d]" during Weinerth's tenure as principal, Heath
Dec. ¶ 24, the affidavits presented by the School Board
paint a very different picture. See, e.g., Aff. of
Karen Sawyer, ECF No. 100-9, at 1 (describing students as
"rowdy and somewhat out of control" during
Weinerth's tenure as principal); Aff. of Gerald Kidd, ECF
No. 100-12, at 1 (emphasizing that "[t]here were at
least 46 reported fights between students during Mrs.
Weinerth's first year as principal," and that
"[s]tudents were frequently not in class, skipped their
classes completely, or left school early").
suddenly retired from the School System on July 14, 2016.
Weinerth Decl. ¶ 25. Two days later, on July 16, 2016,
Dr. Zebedee Talley, Jr. ("Talley"), a black male,
was named interim superintendent. Talley had served as
principal of Patrick Henry Elementary School ("Patrick
Henry") in the City of Martinsville since July 1, 2012.
Id. At the time of Talley's promotion to
Superintendent in July 2016, none of the schools in the
School System were fully accredited by die state.
23, 2016, the local newspaper published an article tided,
"School board wants a more diverse staff."
Pl.'s Ex. C, ECF No. 102-3, at 2. After noting that more
than 70 percent of the School System's staff members were
white, the article reported that "the superintendent and
the school board . . . believe a more diverse staff could
"improve the district's performance."
Id. at 4. Talley was quoted as saying that
"'[m]inority students do better and do well when
they have people in authority who look like them, "'
and that '"it's good to have a classroom and a
school that represents the demographics of our
[area].'" Id. (alteration in original). The
article attributed similar comments to School Board member
Victor Correa ("Correa"): .
"I think this community has a very large Africa [n]
American community, and there has been a large request from
parents for more African American teachers. In order for the
students to have a more comfortable learning environment, I
think it's important to the students to have a teacher
that looks like them, Correa said. It's not just a
Martinsville thing, it's a nationwide issue."
Specifically, Correa said he'd like to see more black
male teachers in the district, hoping they can serve as
positive role models for students in their classes.
Id. at 5. At the time the statements were made,
"the majority of the Martinsville High School student
population was black and male." Weinerth Decl. ¶
before the article was published, Talley called Weinerth
while she was on vacation and inquired as to how many black
teachers were employed at the high school. Id. at
¶ 32. Weinerth informed Talley that she "was out of
town, on vacation, and did not know the answer to his
question, off the top of [her] head." Id.
Weinerth also advised Talley that "performance was [her]
top consideration" and that she did not recommend hiring
teachers based on race or sex. Id. at ¶ 33.
Talley asked Weinerth to count the number of teachers by race
and report back to him with the information. Id.
Weinerth did as she was instructed. Id.
days later, on July 26, 2016, Talley met with Weinerth and
advised her that he was demoting her to the position of
assistant principal at Martinsville Middle
School. Id. at ¶ 34. When Weinerth
asked why she was being demoted, Talley allegedly
"stated 'the community has spoken"' and
"refused to elaborate." Id. ¶ at 36.
At the time of the decision, Talley had not visited the high
school during the school day or "discussed any aspect of
[the high school's] operations or performance" with
Weinerth. Id. at ¶ 39.
maintains that his decision to remove Weinerth from the
position of principal was motivated by "issues of safety
and discipline at the high school." Talley Aff. at 3. In
his affidavit, Talley acknowledges that the high school
experienced "some academic progress" under
Weinerth's leadership. Id. However, Talley
emphasizes that "other concerns about the environment
for learning ... overshadowed [Weinerth's]
achievements." Id. In particular, Talley
indicates that resource officers at the high school, as well
as parents of high school students, "had expressed
concerns about ...