Weatherford News

Nothing funky about new WHS principal

Dr. Doug Funk
Dr. Doug Funk Photo courtesy

A conversation with Dr. Doug Funk can whet one's appetite - for both the nearest deli and dealing with the challenges that face students and educators today.

“In public education you just get pecans, cream, eggs, sugar, butter, all the ingredients. They may not be the best ingredients, but you don't have a say in that, you are given those ingredients to work with," Funk said.

"But in the end, you've still got the task of turning it into pecan praline ice cream. What you're able to do with those ingredients determines how tasty that ice cream is."

And Funk does not settle for ice cream that is, well, funky.

"Taking an overall look at education in Texas and nationally in five years is pretty daunting," he said. "I think the one thing I can say for sure that we need to do as a profession is to focus on each student as an individual and try to promote policies within education that reflect that.

"Even well-intended policies often have detrimental effects when they try to throw one blanket over every student. We are a diverse population and our educational policies need to reflect the diverse nature of our learners so that every student is challenged to be their best every day."

There's not much Funk hasn't done in the realm of education. He's taught elementary special education (children with autism and emotional disturbances), physical education, resource language arts, and content mastery. He has also coached - something that has helped him develop a team concept in his approach to education.

"If you want to lose a staff, you stand up and talk about what YOU'RE going to do," he said.

Funk's reason for being an educator is simple, really. He wants to make a difference in the lives of young people as they face a world that often takes little or no mercy on the uneducated.

"Honestly there have been times I thought about a change in career, but I can’t imagine any other job that would be as rewarding as helping young people grow into strong well-rounded adults," he said.

But not adults who have been coddled. Funk loves his students, but he wants them prepared for what they will face once they leave the hallowed halls of WHS.

"What's the only thing that's going to get you out of your parents' house? An education," he said. "And even if you get to be super rich, you'd better be smart also, because if you're not somebody is always going to be there to take your money."

Weatherford Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Hanks said it didn't take long for him to realize he had the right person once he met Funk.

"I am impressed with his commitment to providing world-class experiences for our kids and his desire to build upon the legacy of Weatherford High School," Hanks said. "All you need is one conversation with him and you know he already bleeds Roo blue.”

Funk spent the past three years as principal of Red Oak High School. However, his heart was still in this area. When an opening arose at WHS, he didn't quite leave tire tracks exiting Red Oak, but it would have been understandable.

"Once there was an opening back in Parker County I jumped at it. I loved my time in Parker County and believe the Weatherford High School job to be one of the premier principalships in all of North Texas," he said. "I am fired up to be a Roo."

Funk was previously assistant principal at Aledo from 2007-14 before spending the past three years at Red Oak. He was also an assistant principal at Granbury High from 2002-05.

"Doug's right, at the state level, they're not listening to us," said Aledo Superintendent Derek Citty. "We need people like Doug to keep battling for our kids."

Citty and Hanks, in fact, are friends, so when Funk became a finalist for the job, Hanks went to his old pal for advice.

"I take that recommendation very seriously," Citty said. "I believe in Doug, and I believe he will do a great job. I wouldn't have recommended him otherwise."

Funk said he still hears from students he taught when he first got into the business nearly two decades ago. He recalled a moving story of a young man he once taught at Acton Elementary in the Granbury School District. One day Funk opened his email and there was a note from that student, now about to graduate from Granbury High School and estranged from his family.

But the student knew someone had never forgotten him - and would still be there for him even after all these years.

"He said, 'I didn't send invitations, but would you come to my graduation?'" Funk said, almost misty-eyed. "I remembered him well, and I was proud to be there. His girlfriend and I were the only ones he'd really invited and who were there."

Funk remembers well what it's like to be in the trenches of the classroom daily. His advice for teachers facing the task of adapting to the ever-changing demands of the profession in a time when some would argue public education is under attack: Keep fighting.

"Kids are kids and the challenges there are pretty constant, but the profession just keeps demanding more and more out of teachers," he said. "So working with them to manage those increasing demands and pressures while maintaining our focus on student learning can be a very difficult thing.

"All that is to say I guess the biggest challenge facing our teachers is trying to remain student-focused in the face of ever-increasing demands."

And though he's not in the classroom any more, Funk is very involved in the lives of his students, whether it's giving a little push of encouragement, or just saying hi and wishing a student a nice day. These things are as important for him as it is the students, he said.

"If a principal doesn't take the time to get to know the students I’m not sure how they can make decisions to serve the best interest of those very constituents," he said. "Don't be too proud to reach down and pick up a piece of trash. People see things like that and it makes a difference."